Academic journal article Competition Forum

Contexts for the Professional Development of Part-Timers

Academic journal article Competition Forum

Contexts for the Professional Development of Part-Timers

Article excerpt

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

This paper seeks to explore the contexts in which part-time academics pursue their professional development practices at one Lebanese higher education institution. It is part of a larger research concerned with the study of part-timers and their professional presence. For the purpose of the research, a case study was carried out at the American Oriental University (AOU) (a pseudonym) where 23 part-timers and three full-timers (ex-part-timers) were interviewed. To triangulate the data, four of the participants were asked to participate in diary writing. In addition, document checking was carried out. The part-timers were chosen to represent the wider population of part-timers at the University. Thus, they were chosen to illustrate particular factors characterizing part-timers, such as gender, seniority, educational standing, number of work sites, and type of part-time choice. Thematic and discourse analysis were used to analyze the data and investigate the contexts and their impacts on the professional development practices carried out by the participants under study. Analysis revealed that professional development efforts are greatly curtailed by the unfortunate circumstances of part-time work in general coupled with the more specific country situation and particular university practices. Professional development practices which are essential for securing 'lifetime employability' of the participants seem, as a result, to be seriously abridged making them insecure both in the short and long run.

Keywords: Professional development, Part-timers, Contexts.

INTRODUCTION

This paper is part of a much bigger study that sheds light on the professional identities and professional development practices of part-time Higher Education (HE) instructors teaching at one Lebanese university. This paper simply highlights the impact of contexts, both at a country and a university level, on the professional development practices of the part-timers under study. The numbers of part-timers joining the workplace, particularly in Higher Education has been increasing (Kimber, 2003, p 41). However, the topic of part-timers is generally under researched: Much of the literature focuses explicitly or implicitly on the interests of full-time tenured academic staff only. Yet around these core staff are large numbers of fixed-term contract staff and part-time teachers engaged in activities critical to core functions. (Blackwell & Blackmore, 2003, p 9).

Professional development remains an area of high interest in the education field, not only for its own sake, but rather for its many implied consequences. It contributes to the self-esteem, self-worth, motivation, dedication, and contentment of teachers (Day et al., 2003). In turn, these qualities may lead to better teaching and learning practices in colleges (Bathmaker & Avis, 2005). Learning, in turn, is perceived to be an essential input to economic growth and stability, social equity, and fine citizenship (DES, 2002).

It is argued that the professional development of individuals greatly enhances their =lifetime employability', in an era when lifetime employment is no longer sustainable (Friedman, 2005). However, these professional development practices remain limited if not embedded in the right contexts and without the support of employers (Mujis et al., 2004). This is especially the case with respect to part-timers who are worried about the deterioration of their skills due to time and financial constraints (Mallon, 2000).

The 'American Oriental University' (AOU) (a pseudonym) was chosen to conduct the research at. It is a private, non-profit institution that applies the American system which is credit-based. The AOU, with its mission statement, academic systems, programs, size, student body, personnel mix, recruitment, and professional development practices, is typical of many other universities in Lebanon and the region (Abouchedid & Nasser, 2002). …

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