Academic journal article Academy of Educational Leadership Journal

A Comparison of the Achievement of Students Taught by Full-Time versus Adjunct Faculty in Business Courses

Academic journal article Academy of Educational Leadership Journal

A Comparison of the Achievement of Students Taught by Full-Time versus Adjunct Faculty in Business Courses

Article excerpt


Educators strive to understand how students learn from a number of perspectives. Faculty seek technology and nurturing environments to facilitate student achievement in course work which will support future learning and eventual career success. College administrators share these goals, reinforced by academic standards of accrediting bodies, but are fiscally constrained by limited budgets. The shortage of qualified business faculty, especially in accounting, has resulted in competition for scarce academic and professionally qualified faculty. Accounting salaries are soaring past the means of some schools to compete. One solution to the problems of faculty shortages and rising salaries has been to increase the number of part-time (adjunct) faculty.

The increase in the numbers of part-time faculty is not just occurring in business schools; it is happening across all academic fields. The U.S. Department of Education reports that the number of part-time faculty in degree-granting institutions has grown from 22% of instructional faculty in 1970 to 48% in 2005. Although some observers note that part-time faculty tend to be currently practicing professionals who enhance the classroom environment with their up-to-date, real-world examples and expertise, others ponder the possible drawbacks of this shift toward a part-time college faculty. Since adjunct instructors are typically less-experienced teachers not involved in scholarly research, faculty governance or student advisement, some educators speculate that the change in faculty characteristics is adversely affecting the academic environment and students' educational experiences. In addition, it has been speculated that the job insecurity of nontenuretrack, part-time instructors could prompt them to reduce academic rigor and/or to ease student grades in order to protect student evaluations of their teaching which impact their employment opportunities.

In this study we address two issues related to adjunct faculty instruction in business courses. First, we address the issue of grading policies to determine if part-time faculty assign higher grades than full-time faculty. Second, we examine the achievement of students of adjunct faculty in higher level course work to see if students taught by adjunct faculty are receiving the same quality of instruction as students of full-time faculty members.


The increase in the numbers of adjunct faculty has not gone unnoticed in the academic literature or in the popular press. Much has been written addressing the influx of part-time instructors, but there have been few published empirical papers which have looked at the effects of adjunct teaching. Van Ness, Van Ness and Kamery (1999) analyzed the effect of adjunct instruction on grades assigned in the first principles of finance class. They found that students in classes taught by adjunct faculty received significantly higher grades than students taught by full-time faculty. Kezim, Pariseau and Quinn (2005) similarly found that average grades given by adjunct faculty were higher than those assigned by full-time faculty. Leverett, Zurita and Kamery (2005) also found this same result as did Bonner (2000).

In this paper, we compare grades assigned by adjunct faculty versus full-time faculty in introductory accounting classes and in the first course in finance. Secondly, we extend this line of research to look at the impact of adjunct instruction on student learning. In this paper, we examine the achievement of students in introductory accounting classes taught by adjunct faculty versus the achievement of students taught by fulltime faculty by comparing grades earned by these students subsequently in intermediate accounting classes and in corporate finance classes. We have not found any previously published empirical work addressing the effects of adjunct teaching on achievement in subsequent course work. …

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