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FIPSE Comprehensive Program Application

Fiscal Year 2000

 

Faculty Development

California Community Colleges, organized into 71 districts and serving more than 1.4 million students, represent the largest system of higher education in the world. These colleges employed 19,168 full time and approximately 30,000 adjunct (part-time) instructors in 1998-1999. The California Community College Chancellor's Office predicts that during the next decade enrollment will climb by at least 3.3% per year. If these projections are correct and the ratio of faculty to students remains the same, more than 5,000 new adjunct positions will open in the next five years. Adjunct instructors educate more than 40% of the system’s students. This dependence on adjunct faculty members makes it essential that they are prepared to create a positive learning environment and use effective teaching strategies from the start of their first class.

The eleven inland Southern California community college districts, which by fall 1998 served 125,327 and employed 7,611 adjuncts, predict higher growth rates and continued high rates of dependence on adjuncts. Many adjuncts teach at two or more area colleges. At Riverside Community College, growth in the last three years has resulted in a significant demand for new faculty. During the three-year period, 1996-1999, the number of full time faculty grew 33% from 196 to 262. During that same period, adjunct faculty increased 77% from 590 to 1,048.

As college enrollments surge and full time faculty hiring increases, the pool of experienced adjunct instructors will decrease. For the next few years, capital (technology) for labor substitution efforts in the state will not mitigate the need for large numbers of new faculty. Furthermore, cost saving is key to continued access to education for California's booming population. It is reasonable to assume, therefore, that the largest increase in new hiring will be among adjunct faculty. Experienced adjunct faculty members, as the California legislature points out, enrich the curriculum and strengthen the "tie between the college and its community." Most new instructors, however, come to their first teaching position with little or no background in classroom presentation and student learning. We need to help them prepare to succeed from day one.

It has been widely recognized that adjunct faculty needs are often left unmet, as FIPSE itself notes in its call to "involve adjunct faculty more intensely in campus communities, and to offer them meaningful opportunities for professional development." Little is being done to address the faculty development needs of new adjunct faculty. One notable exception is the FIPSE funded effort at Santa Fe Community College where a detailed web site provides information about the college and many teaching topics.

Our plan goes beyond the work done at Santa Fe. We seek to improve the quality of first time faculty teaching, particularly adjunct faculty teaching, and to involve new adjunct faculty quickly and more fully in their campus communities by providing a detailed online course in teaching, state education code issues, and college policies. This effort will translate into improved first impressions, enhanced teaching, higher retention rates, and greater student success.

Our unique web based faculty development plan, available the moment a new faculty member is hired, will provide assistance and support as first lessons are planned, sometimes weeks or even months before their first class begins. We seek funding to develop, pilot test, assess, and disseminate a web based faculty development course. The course will mirror the process of teaching and lead new faculty through the maze of issues they will address: how to establish learning objectives, create informative syllabi, make a positive first impression, address various learning styles, use technology effectively, and how to deal with the heterogeneous student bodies of the California system, various state education code requirements, and unique district policies. The course and follow-up face-to-face workshops will employ the interactive, learner-centered techniques faculty need to use. It will also demonstrate the effective use of technology, including streaming video, thereby helping to reduce the "digital divide" among faculty members who understand the value of technology and those who do not. Issues will be addressed in the order faculty typically confront them; the course will be more than a relational website with links.

Riverside Community College will develop the course in collaboration with experts in faculty development and college policies from inland southern California community colleges. It will also include technical and pedagogical advice, links to helpful websites organized by topic and rated for value, campus specific information about ongoing faculty development programs, where to locate supplies and information, grading procedures, and an introduction to administration, staff, and faculty leaders.

During the second and third week of classes, the orientation will include a series of face-to-face workshops providing adjunct faculty with an opportunity to meet faculty development personnel and other faculty and administrators. The workshops will offer opportunities to discuss problems and concerns, as well as provide a forum for social interaction, creating a human lifeline of support.

The website will be designed using WebCT’s course development tools, widely used for the creation of online college courses. The course lessons will illustrate important teaching concepts. Using Riverside Community College's successful ICARE system, lessons will "introduce" concepts, "connect" learners through written materials and streaming video, help them "apply" what they have learned, "reflect" upon that learning, and provide opportunities for "evaluation." Faculty will be linked to helpful websites and guided through procedures and policies of the individual campuses. Faculty will have opportunities to interact on an asynchronous discussion board and via a real time chat function.

Designed for use by several districts, all California Community Colleges can easily adapt the model as they face the same problems and state education code. Outside California, the web based components can be used as models, saving other districts time and avoiding the need to "reinvent the wheel."

Assessment of the program will measure both the efficacy of implementation and the impact of the project. For purposes of assessment, newly hired adjunct faculty will be divided into two groups of two:

 

· Adjunct faculty hired the semester prior to implementation of the course, divided into two groups: those with and those without prior teaching experience.

· Adjunct faculty who participate in the course during their first semester of service, divided into two groups: those with and those without prior teaching experience.

All four groups will then be measured according to the following criteria:

 

Implementation of the project will be measured by

 

· Survey questionnaires from adjunct faculty evaluating the efficacy of the program, including their assessment of enhanced self-confidence, connectedness to the college, and participation in other faculty development and department activities;

· The findings of focus group meetings following both the pilot at Riverside Community College and subsequent implementations.

The impact of the project on instruction will be measured by

 

· Student satisfaction surveys given during the second week of the course and near the conclusion of the course;

· A post project survey of new faculty given one year after participation in the project to assess their perception of the impact of the project on their teaching and student learning.

The impact of the project on student learning will be measured by

 

· A comparison of satisfactory progress and student matriculation data (the large number of faculty and students for whom statistical data can be gathered will reduce the margin of error resulting from differences in student characteristics);

· A comparison of the failure rate, based on D and F scores of students.

This plan should involve adjunct faculty more intensely in the campus communities of the eleven California community colleges participating in the project and serve as an effective model for professional development throughout the state. Teaching quality will be enhanced. New faculty will be more likely to continue in the profession. Most importantly, thousands of students will have a more positive educational experience within the next year and for decades to come.