Part-time faculty are a vital part of most academic programs. They bring specialized knowledge and practical experience that may not be possessed by full-time faculty. Many are generous in their desire to share what they have learned with others (the so-called “giving back”). Students enjoy part-time faculty because of their specialized knowledge and practical experience, and ability to give additional insight into the subject matter.
Yet being part-time means they do not share in the same experience as full-time faculty (I started my career in academia as a part-time faculty member). It’s quite frustrating not being able to have the kind of conversations you would like to have due to divergent schedules. As a result, there can be myriad of problems related to communication, understanding university policies and department procedures, evaluation, etc., as well as important issues related to pay and benefits.
Some of these problems are within our control as full-time faculty (communication, understanding university policies and department procedures, etc.), while others are not. The university (and perhaps union) are responsible for setting pay, benefits, etc. Either way, part-time faculty are not respected nor treated well as they should be.
Focusing on what is in our control, we can do things such as document the basic administrative and academic requirements for the job to eliminate errors, confusion, and re-work. We can specify which activities outside of the classroom that part-time faculty are expected to participate in. We can also establish expectations for response time to students’ queries, incorporating student feedback into courses, expectations for continuous improvement, and the use of real-wold examples in teaching.
Part-time faculty can help by trying to engage the full-time faculty by seeing advice or by asking questions about teaching or speaking, student evaluation, homework assignments, team assignments, plagiarism, etc. Together, we can improve courses, academic programs, and student’s learning experience.