Academic journal article Community College Review

A Comparison of Grading Patterns between Full- and Part-Time Humanities Faculty: A Preliminary Study

Academic journal article Community College Review

A Comparison of Grading Patterns between Full- and Part-Time Humanities Faculty: A Preliminary Study

Article excerpt

The author analyzed grades submitted over three consecutive spring semesters by 6 full-time and 12 part-time humanities faculty at a community college in New Jersey to determine if differences could be distinguished based on faculty status, gender, age, or course time (day or evening). Part-time faculty consistently graded higher than full-time faculty, whereas grading patterns could not be distinguished based on age, gender, or class time. The author notes the study's preliminary nature and defines considerations for future research.

The use of adjunct faculty is a growing phenomenon in the community college setting. One study (Bethke & Nelson, 1994) states that 53.4% of the course sections taught at public two-year colleges are taught by adjuncts. Another researcher indicates that the number is much higher and is in the range of 63% (Cohen, 1992). Although California passed AB1725 mandating that 75% of all class hours in community colleges be taught by full-time faculty, theft goal has never been met. In 1994 the number stood around 60% of community college classes taught by full-time faculty (Academic Senate for California Community Colleges, 1996). Despite California's attempt to limit the use of part-time faculty, it seems that this trend is unlikely to be abated in the near future. In light of this controversy in the academy, a serious study of the ramifications of this dependence is clearly warranted.

A review of the literature concerning the use of part-time faculty generally focused on the questions of quality control and the impact of adjuncts on the integrity of the disciplines they were teaching. Much of the negative opinions were from full-time faculty who saw adjuncts as a threat to the quality of instruction. One author stated that part-time instructors were found to have less teaching experience, hold lower academic credentials, assign fewer pages to read, and place less emphasis on written assignments in determining student grades (Friedlander, 1979). Kekke (1983) reported that part-time faculty are often viewed as a source of cheap labor, rather than as a valuable resource, because institutions are not required to provide fringe benefits or long-range financial commitments.

According to another report (Academic Senate for California Community Colleges, 1996), institutions are getting a bargain, but they are not getting equal output from part-timers. Students are unlikely to get the same quality of instruction from teachers only tenuously linked to the institution. Often part-time faculty members are not given the professional recognition to have adequate preparation time for a course, or to participate in the curriculum and pedagogical decisions of the courses they teach. In addition, faculty in some academic areas have expressed concern over the lack of continuity in their department. This is the result of using many different individuals teaching only a fraction of a full load, and even a smaller fraction of the courses that constitute a program of study. One report refers to them as "gypsy scholars" and the "academic underclass" (Banachowski, 1996).

At the Hayward campus of California State University some faculty have raised concerns about part-timers, referring to them as the "invisible faculty." Professors have indicated that the increasing reliance on low-paid instructors is creating what they call "faceless departments" (Leatherman, 1997).

On the other hand, observers such as McGuire (1993) present a much more positive response to the use of adjuncts. He states that they bring "breadth, depth, and relevance" to the curriculum and allow the school to offer courses that might otherwise be unavailable. He also implies that they can be a strong link to the community and to the workplace, thus making them a key institutional asset (McGuire, 1993). Other observers point to the fiscal benefit to the college because of increased flexibility by matching course offerings with student demands. …

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