Teasing Out the Complex Relationship Between Part-Time Faculty and Quality: A Qualitative Case Study Comparing Departments at a Large, Public University
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CitationOtt, Maya Weilundemo. 2016. Teasing Out the Complex Relationship Between Part-Time Faculty and Quality: A Qualitative Case Study Comparing Departments at a Large, Public University. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard Graduate School of Education.
AbstractDuring the last 40 years, institutions of higher education in the United States have dramatically increased their reliance on part-time faculty. Today, fully half of all faculty members hold part-time appointments. How, if at all, has the rise of part-time faculty affected the quality of higher education? This qualitative case study explores variation in the relationship between part-time faculty and quality at “Cardinal State University,” a large, public institution. Through semi-structured interviews with 20 academic department chairs, the study examines how these chairs make sense of the relationship between part-time faculty and quality, given their experience supervising part-time faculty in their departments. This study also analyzes institutional and departmental documents to understand how chairs’ perspectives on the relationship between part-time faculty and quality interact with their unique departmental contexts and the broader institutional context of Cardinal State. This study finds that the relationship between part-time faculty and quality varies across Cardinal State’s departments, and identifies three department-level variables that account for this variation: departments’ levels of reliance on part-time faculty, academic disciplines, and levels of responsibility to Cardinal State’s general education curriculum. These department-level variables matter because they influence chairs’ quality control practices, including their practices for hiring part-time faculty, for evaluating their performance, and for making decisions about whether to renew their contracts. Chairs leading arts and sciences departments with high levels of reliance on part-time faculty and high levels of responsibility to the general education curriculum described a constellation of challenges that interfere with their ability to implement quality control practices effectively. The patterns described by this study may be specific to Cardinal State, but its broader conclusion—that the relationship between part-time faculty and quality is mediated by important contextual factors—warrants further research.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:27112701