THE IMPORTANCE OF PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT OPPORTUNITIES FOR ADJUNCT INSTRUCTORS
While many new college faculty have little or no formal training in teaching college courses, adjuncts face more, well documented barriers to developing optimum learning environments. Many adjuncts are hired, or do not know what courses they are teaching, until days before the semester; inherit no curricula, testing materials, lecture materials, or syllabi; receive little or no guidance in departmental expectations or orientation to campus resources; and teach more classes, often at multiple institutions. Most adjuncts are unaware of new pedagogies or how to implement them. Coupled with low salaries and little or no monetary support from their institutions, professional development remains out of reach for many. Given these constraints, we can expect adjuncts to teach the way they’ve been taught: lectures.
Professional development activities can greatly help adjuncts. From the first author’s perspective, the curriculum and mentoring received through MSI-REaCH was invaluable for modifying, developing and implementing active learning about climate change using actual data. Along with mentoring, MSI-REaCH provided participants with smear slide samples, course materials, and modeled how to teach using the course materials. From this experience, she developed a new introductory geology lab where students identified sediments in smear slides, remotely studied sediment cores, and predicted paleoclimates using foraminifera images. She perceived greater student engagement with the new curriculum. Students made connections between updated curricula and observed and predicted climate impacts in Hawai‘i .
In addition to providing more professional development activities and orientations, geoscience departments should provide mentoring for adjuncts. Professional societies and conferences can also help adjuncts by creating mentorship programs and lists of professional development opportunities, such as those we have participated in (MSI-REACH, School of Ice, and The Climate Studies Diversity Project).