Non-Full-Time College Professors: a Narrative Inquiry Into the Non-Full-Time Faculty Role
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The rate of non-full-time faculty members has increased rapidly over the last decade (Louis, 2009; MacKay, 2014; Meranze & Newfield, 2013), as the post-secondary landscape of fluctuating enrolment, fiscal and operational challenges, and the requirement to hire specialized skill sets have required institutions to rely heavily on this demographic. In the Ontario Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology (CAATs) system, institutions have tried to preserve and enhance educational quality with fewer resources through greater reliance on non-full-time faculty. The purpose of this study was to explore the perceptions and experiences of teaching and support of non-full-time faculty at one Eastern Ontario college. Employing a narrative inquiry methodology, data were collected from four participants through their writing three individual letters at the end of each month and participating in one interview at the end of the contract period. The data were analyzed and coded. This analysis revealed five themes: motivation, connection and engagement, compensation, teaching and development, and performance evaluation. Differences in the participants’ perceptions tended to reflect divergences across career stage: retired versus early career. The compensation package provided to non-full-time faculty was considered inadequate for those in the early career stage, especially comparing it to that of full-time faculty. In addition, the amount of previous teaching experience was an important indicator for the appropriate level of teaching resources and support provided by the institution. The newer faculty members required a higher level of support to combat feelings of role isolation. The temporary nature of the role made it difficult to establish a feeling of a strong connection to the institution and subsequently opportunities to engage further to deepen the relationship. Despite these differences across participants, autonomous motivators were consistent across all narratives, as participants expressed their desire to teach and share their knowledge to help students achieve their goals. Participants concluded their narratives by sharing future advice for faculty interested in pursuing the role. The narratives provided areas for improvement that would help increase the level of job satisfaction for non-full-time college faculty members: (a) establishing a more thorough performance evaluation process to align with institutional supports, (b) offering more diverse teaching resources to better prepare faculty and enhance teaching practices, (c) overhauling the compensation package to better recognize the amount of time and effort spent in the role and aligning with the compensation provided to full-time faculty, and (d) including rewards and incentives as part of the compensation package to enhance the level of commitment and availability for the role. These changes might well increase the job satisfaction and improve the retention of non-full-time faculty members.