Adjunct professors make up 76 percent of the country’s higher education faculties, according to an April 2013 report by "The New York Times." Adjuncts are hired on a contractual or part-time basis -- unlike traditional professors, who are full-time employees with benefits. In addition, they are not always required to have a Ph.D. Plus, adjuncts have fewer professional responsibilities, devoting practically all of their time to teaching specific courses. Individuals with the right skills, who are fine with less job stability, will view an adjunct professor position as a rewarding prospect.
An important skill is developing courses. Adjunct professors often teach specialized courses that are not on the roster for regular professors. Many times, adjuncts therefore build courses from the ground up. Syllabi are both comprehensive and detailed -- including learning objectives, course requirements, grading policies and weekly topics and assignments. Adjuncts also identify required reading and organize other supporting materials. They are adept at creating different types of courses from formal lectures to seminars.
A critical skill is teaching courses in an informed and imaginative way. Instruction draws from an adjunct professor's knowledge of theory, practice and research methods. At the same time, adjuncts use their creative and analytical abilities to promote interactive learning by students. They encourage classroom discussions, hands-on training and independent study by enrollees. Adjunct professors may teach introductory or advanced courses to undergraduate or graduate students, requiring different knowledge levels and teaching strengths. They sometimes advise or mentor students -- helping them to identify academic and career goals.
Grading students is a very desirable skill. According to a 2011 article by "The Chronicle of Higher Education," 300 adjunct professors were hired by Western Governors University solely to grade student work -- with no direct form of student contact. In general, adjunct professors develop sound techniques to monitor student attendance and performance. Adjuncts also adhere to submission and reporting policies from the institution’s registrar or provost. In many settings, adjunct professors will not receive a final paycheck until they submit official grade reports.
While adjunct professors' work focuses heavily on teaching, some institutions require additional responsibilities -- which they fulfill with strong organizational and interpersonal skills. For example, adjuncts may participate in department trainings, meetings and special events. Another expectation may be attending orientations and closing ceremonies. Whether they receive a request or not, it is wise for adjuncts to engage in continuing education -- such as workshops or conferences that advance their substantive knowledge or teaching skills. In addition, adjuncts should take advantage of service opportunities like joining a governing board or professional association.
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