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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Connection Matters: A New Cultural Anchor for Mediating Part-Time Faculty Value

  • Author(s): Pastrana, Leticia Maria
  • Advisor(s): Levin, John S
  • et al.

Nationally, the major faculty corps in community college is contingent part-time (PT) as only 17% of faculty are tenured or on the tenure track. A negative researcher bias exists in scholarly literature on this faculty majority due to an unquestioned assumption that contingent employment leads workers to reduce their performance in order to minimize the inequality of their employment. This deficit view has resulted in scholarship that under-theorizes this PT faculty corps as passive objects of management peripheral to the institution, who are useful only for fiscal efficiency, institutional productivity, and who have a negative effect on student learning outcomes and the academic profession. This view has limited scholarly knowledge as to the nature of faculty work and the working lives of PT community college faculty.

This qualitative investigation uses an alternate theoretical approach to identify and explain the extent to which professional activity and experiences shape the development of a professional identity for PT faculty. An interpretive approach and ethnographic fieldwork methods were employed. This investigation was regional in nature and undertaken at a California community college region with 8 colleges. Data in this investigation comprise individual semi-structured interviews of 18 PT faculty members, 2 focus group interviews, and 10 months of participant observation. A cultural analysis was an overarching analytical framework that guided analysis, coding, and categorization of the data.

PT faculty are able to develop a professional identity outside of the institutionally defined positions of the workplace, although identity development is initially institutionally oriented. Alternate locations for professional identity development are situated by the student-faculty relationship and engendered by the values of narrative, usefulness, and craftsmanship. Characteristics of the temporary employer-employee relationship mediate development of a professional identity based on the intensity of the experienced employment stressors. The findings indicate that PT faculty who author a professional identity through an occupationally defined figured world of work legitimize professional identity through discourse (Discourse identity) and shared social practices (Affinity identity). Participation in shared social practices constitutes membership in an educator affinity group that is not bound by geography or a higher education institutional type.

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