Integrating Adjunct Faculty

As part of the  conference, Appreciating our Legacy and Engaging the Future, at Pepperdine School of Law’s Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution, Ava Abramowitz (Moderator), Tracy Allen, Dwight Golann, and Brian Pappas presented a breakout session on “Integrating Adjunct Faculty.”  With a mixture of full time, adjunct faculty members, and Deans attending the session, everyone chipped in and a highly interactive discussion ensued.  The questions were simple to ask, difficult to answer:

  • How can we better integrate adjunct faculty members into the fabric of the law school?
  • How can we provide them the pedagogical tools they need to meet and surpass ABA and School standards?
  • How can we shift the mindset of tenured and tenured-track faculty members to view adjunct professors as “value added” instructors and involve them accordingly?

As to be expected the answers differed some depending on speaker academic “status.” By and large though it appeared that all attendees found merit in these suggestions:

  • In schools with ADR programs, adjuncts feel, by and large, very much a part of the faculty because they are viewed and deployed as such. Adjuncts feel the need for more support at schools without ADR programs.
  • Adjuncts would appreciate learning more about what to teach, how to teach, how to measure teaching effectiveness and student learning, and how to handle difficult situations and the people who cause them – problems that seasoned faculty encountered when they started out. Ava pointed out that most schools have a “unit” on teaching excellence charged with helping any teacher who asks for help with these questions.  Brian encouraged full-time faculty to serve as a one-one-one champion for and mentor to each new adjunct.  Dwight urged all to check out the Suffolk Law School resources for adjuncts, including its video libraries and teaching resource materials. They contain roleplays, videos, teaching notes, powerpoints, etc., all available for downloading and use at no charge.
  • In those schools with a soft support mechanism, adjuncts have been busy creating their own support system. Tracy has her students fill out a short form after every class, detailing what they learned, what they liked best about the class, what concerned them, and what they really appreciated that day.  In Washington DC, a group of adjuncts / mediators have formed a Reflective Practitioner Group whose purview has expanded to include teaching issues.
  • Adjuncts figured they should speak up more in support of themselves. To find these teachers, the school used practitioner expertise as a screening mechanism.  Tenured faculty should make use of that “working expertise.”  Because they live the law, most adjuncts know not just today’s issues, but tomorrow’s too.  They have contacts and can use them to help the school find speakers and the students find jobs.  And most of them make great speakers and could be used by schools as luncheon speakers whether for students or alumni.
  • Last we – the panel — thank Tom Stipanowich, Nancy Welsh, and Sukhsimranjit Singh for setting the panel up. It was a needed contribution and we are glad to have been selected to serve.

With thanks to both Kimberly B. Schulist and Shellee Warnes for contributing to this summary.

2 thoughts on “Integrating Adjunct Faculty”

  1. One issue I wonder if the panel addressed is limited or no funding for adjunct professional development. For instance, I wonder how many adjuncts could actually attend the excellent Appreciating our Legacy conference. Without a school-provided fund for travel, they likely couldn’t otherwise afford a private-pay multi-day trip, even though this kind of community would have been incredibly valuable for them. Perhaps I am wrong about this, and there is more funding for adjuncts than I assume?

    1. Heather,

      You are spot on. I wish all tenured faculty reading this would lobby their Dean for $X every Y years for adjuncts to cover at least their admission expense for targeted events that would clearly enhance their teaching.


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