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Community College Adjunct Faculty Perceptions of Departmental Cultures


Years of hiring practices have resulted in adjunct professors comprising the majority of college faculty (Gappa, Austin, & Trice, 2007; Schuster & Finkelstein, 2006). Today, adjunct faculty provide almost half of all instruction at the California community colleges (Student Success Initiative, 2018). It is essential to increase adjunct faculty participation in student success activities, such as Student Learning Outcomes (SLO) assessment. A large number of courses may not be taught as effectively if adjunct faculty do not assess SLOs (Danley-Scott & Topsett-Makin, 2013). This study sought to identify how adjunct faculty perceive their department cultures across the state. It also strived to understand what, if any, influence departmental cultures have on adjunct faculty contributing to SLO assessment. This mixed methods sequential explanatory study yielded findings emerged that indicate adjunct faculty at iii both sites primarily experience inclusive and learning cultures. Specific areas for improvement include communication, collaboration, and input in the design of curriculum and learning goals. Emergent findings included the role of the department chair as the progenitor and maintainer of a department’s culture. Adjunct faculty were found to be driven primarily by a sense of service to students and refining the curriculum to serve transfer and career goals. Lack of communication and collaboration were found to have adverse effects on these intrinsic motivations. Departments and institutions seeking to transform cultures of compliance around student learning outcomes assessment into cultures of inquiry may do well to begin with communication, collaboration, and other low cost change strategies in order to cultivate inclusive and learning cultures that increase adjunct faculty participation in SLO assessment.

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