Urban community college adjunct instructor perceptions and experiences of participation in diversity and inclusion professional development

Date

2021-12

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Abstract

Adjunct faculty members are a vital resource in higher education systems. The part-time status of adjunct faculty provides several challenges for higher education institutions in providing professional development opportunities to this particular group of faculty. The purpose of this qualitative collective case study was to explore the perceptions and experiences of adjunct faculty at a large, urban, multi-campus community college district who had participated in professional development focused on diversity and inclusion. This study was conducted through the lens of the constructivist paradigm. The settings for this study were five community colleges within the multi-campus district located in North Texas. Participants included 10 purposefully selected adjunct faculty members who had participated in a diversity and inclusion professional development. Data collection for this study occurred via semi-structured interviews, field notes, institutional documents, and the researcher’s reflexive journal. The data were analyzed using the constant comparative method of data analysis as well as open and axial coding. Trustworthiness of the study was addressed by the use of credibility, transferability, dependability, and confirmability strategies. The results of the study indicated that adjunct faculty participants perceived that professional development opportunities need to be engaging; participants need to be receptive, self-aware and have interpersonal competence with an understanding of the broad identifiers of diversity. Diversity and inclusion professional development was also perceived to assist in adjunct faculty retention as they learn and understand cultural humility, and can provide strategies to help diffuse situations in the classroom. The results also showed that adjunct instructors are disconnected from the institution citing time, varied administrative support, and a shift in institutional momentum with diversity and inclusion practices. Several implications and recommendations for higher education practice emerged from the results of this study. Implications include the need for higher education institutions to demonstrate institutional support in the advancement of diversity and inclusion professional development, purposively include and accommodate the adjunct instructor when creating professional development and departmental opportunities, and the need for practices and policies that provide adjunct faculty with the skills necessary to address issues of diversity and inclusion while forming connections with students. Another implication for higher education practice is that multiple professional development opportunities are necessary for adjunct faculty to be able to apply the relevant skills that were learned as diversity and inclusion topics can require additional coaching. Higher education practice recommendations based on the results of the study include the need for community colleges to emphasize the importance of diversity and inclusion professional development, design professional development in diversity and inclusion for adjunct faculty, maximize the potential of adjunct faculty, and involve administrators at all levels with advocating for adjuncts as valued faculty. Future research recommendations are a qualitative study examining the perceptions of individuals who provide diversity and inclusion training to adjunct instructors in community colleges. Other recommendations are a quantitative study analyzing student performance and course satisfaction data of students who enroll in a course taught by an adjunct instructor that participated in diversity and inclusion professional development; similar studies at rural colleges; and a comparative study examining differences between adjunct faculty’s and professional development trainers’ perspectives about what the most beneficial of the diversity and inclusion concepts are.

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Keywords

Adjunct Faculty, Diversity, Inclusion, Community College, Professional Development

Citation