Thursday, January 29, 2015

Avoiding Adjunct Hell

Brandy Robinson writes about "Adjunct Hell: Getting Unstuck"(facultyclub, 2015). "Adjunct hell" has a good description of the problems of being a part time university teacher. But I am not so sure of the solutions offered. The obvious one not mentioned is "don't do it". Universities produce far more graduates than there are academic jobs for. Adjuncts will always have a status (and pay) about the same as the people who pack shelves at supermarkets during the middle of the night. Two methods I found to cope with being an adjunct are to get yourself trained in how to teach (even if you have to pay for the training yourself) and teach whole courses, not bits of courses other people are running.

One tendency I have noticed with full time tenured staff, as well as adjuncts, is to complain about not having time for teaching, while engaging in unproductive approaches to it. An example is providing voluminous comments when marking assignments. There is plenty of research to show students don't read these comments (the longer the comments, the less they read). It is a particularly pointless activities with a final assessment item. I suspect that this is done for the ego of the teacher, not the education of the student: so they can get in the last word.

A professional teacher has an obligation to teach within the resource constraints set for them. If only 30 minutes is allocated per assessment item, a teacher who spends an hour on each is not doing their institution, or the student a favor, they are wasting everyone's time and acting unprofessionally. If the teaching activity can't be done within the resources, then redesign it. If it still can't be done then ask for more resources. If the resources are not provided, then don't "make do" and end up doing a bad job, do something else instead which is feasible (or don't teach the course at all).

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