Breaking Invisibility: Transforming Working Conditions of Adjunct Faculty in Technical Colleges through Critical Advocacy Inquiry
Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Educational Leadership - Higher Education
Dr. Pamela A. Havice, Committee Co-Chair
Dr. Leslie D. Gonzales, Committee Co-Chair
Dr. Russell Marion
Dr. Cassie F. Quigley
Known as "invisible faculty," (Gappa & Leslie, 1993), adjunct or part-time, contingent instructors play a vital role in meeting the needs of two-year colleges. Adjunct faculty members teach over half of the United States' historically underserved college students (Center for Community College Student Engagement [CCCSE], 2014), and are therefore vital to student and college success. Moreover, 58% of all South Carolinian undergraduates attend one of the 16 technical colleges in the South Carolina Technical College System (South Carolina Technical College System [SCTCS], 2016). Additionally, 60% of the faculty members in the SCTCS are adjunct instructors (SCTCS, 2017). Researchers claim adjunct faculty members have a negative impact on student success, such as retention and graduation rates (Jacoby, 2006; Kezar & Maxey, 2012; Ehrenberg & Zhang, 2005). However, studies do not take into account the kind of working conditions colleges provide for adjuncts, nor do studies provide a localized picture of how technical colleges can support adjuncts. (Baldwin & Wawrynski, 2011; Benjamin, 2002; Eagan & Jaegar, 2008, 2009; Eagan, Jaegar, & Grantham, 2015; Ehrenberg & Zhang, 2005; Jacoby, 2006; Jaegar & Eagan, 2011a, 2011b; Maxey & Kezar, 2015; Umbach, 2007b). As such, the purpose of this qualitative study was to explore the working conditions of adjunct faculty. I explored these working conditions from a Human Relations perspective. Thus, I looked to Kanter's Structural Empowerment theory (1977, 1993) as a guide to understand how technical colleges support adjunct faculty and their work. Using critical advocacy methodology (Pasque & Carducci, 2015), a critical approach to action research, I interviewed 10 adjunct instructors who teach English in South Carolina technical colleges. I specifically invited adjuncts teaching English because English is a required, gateway course for most majors in South Carolina technical colleges and is transferable to four-year colleges in the state. Additionally, the majority of adjuncts across the nation teach English courses; as such, adjuncts from this discipline area teach a large population of two-year college students (Charlier & Williams, 2011; Lydic, 2011). This study confirmed Kanter's argument that access to opportunity, resources, information, and support empowers employees, or adjunct faculty. However, findings indicated the type and quality of empowerment components provided by colleges did not always meet needs of adjuncts. Adjuncts noted that not only did they feel invisible at their colleges, but also felt their oppressive treatment remained invisible. Findings also indicated colleges could support adjunct faculty through quality access to resources and support on campus, by integrating adjunct faculty into the campus culture, and treating adjuncts with dignity in the workplace. Finally, this work offered a revised version of Kanter's workplace model in which technical colleges and adjunct faculty could improve policies and practices related to adjunct working conditions.
Taylor, Jacqueline Y., "Breaking Invisibility: Transforming Working Conditions of Adjunct Faculty in Technical Colleges through Critical Advocacy Inquiry" (2017). All Dissertations. 2047.