How Connected Are You? Using Faculty Feedback to Increase Engagement of Part-Time Faculty

Concurrent Session 2

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Brief Abstract

Ensuring part-time faculty are engaged and feel connected to their institution can be challenging. In this session, we will discuss strategies for increasing part-time faculty engagement centered on support, development, and collaboration, as well as the importance of using faculty feedback to further enhance engagement opportunities.

Presenters

Dr. Mindi Mull is the Associate Director of Faculty Support and Development for the School of Social and Behavioral Sciences at Northcentral University (NCU). In her role, Mindi guides and supports faculty in effective online teaching practices. She received her PhD in Developmental Psychology from the University of Toledo and has been teaching since 2001.

Extended Abstract

Part-time faculty are key stakeholders in higher education. Within online universities, part-time faculty make up the majority of faculty. The literature focusing on the online part-time faculty experience tends to emphasize isolation and disconnectedness, which in turn, can negatively impact student learning and lead to increased faculty turnover. Therefore, it is important for academic leaders to implement strategies to actively engage part-time faculty.

At Northcentral University (NCU), we have implemented faculty engagement strategies designed to increase connectedness among part-time faculty. Some of these strategies include, but are not limited to: training/orientation, ongoing faculty development opportunities, and regular feedback on work performance (with the aim to establish teaching competence); consistent e-mail communication, prompt responses to faculty concerns, and regular faculty meetings that are recorded for later viewing (with the aim to promote effective communication); involvement in curriculum development, faculty development, and governance (with the aim to create intentional collaboration); quarterly faculty newsletters, faculty mentoring program, and peer support network (with the aim to foster sustained collegiality). A survey of NCU part-time faculty in 2018 asked faculty about their experiences related to these engagement strategies and revealed a high level of engagement among part-time faculty.

During this session these survey results will be discussed briefly. However, the primary focus of this session will be on how these survey results were used to refine and expand engagement opportunities for part-time faculty at NCU. This will be a forum for meaningful exchange about how to best engage part-time faculty. After briefly summarizing NCU’s engagement strategies, and the survey findings and resulting changes, the presenter will facilitate a conversation among participants about which engagement strategies may be more effective and why, methods of collecting feedback on engagement from part-time faculty, brainstorm additional strategies for increasing engagement of part-time faculty, and participants will be asked to share what is being done at their home institution to increase faculty engagement. A handout summarizing NCU’s strategies for engaging part-time faculty will be distributed. Whether you are an educator or administrator, this session is intended to help you identify new ways to engage part-time faculty. You will leave this conversation armed with immediately applicable examples of effective strategies to support and engage part-time faculty.

It should be noted that NCU is an online institution so all efforts to engage part-time faculty are done virtually. However, our strategies and suggestions can be useful for both online and brick-and-mortar institutions. Whether part-time faculty teach in an online or in-person setting, the part-time experience tends to be “remote.” That is, part-time faculty often have little communication with colleagues and administrators because they are either working from home or only come to campus to teach their classes. Because faculty bridge the connection of students with the institution and retention is enhanced by a strong connection, it is critical that all institutions work to ensure that part-time faculty are supported and feel a strong connection with the institution/program.