Noted American scholar William Arthur Ward once said, “The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” In my years here, I have had all kinds of teachers, from the mediocre to the truly great.
Many students at Temple have probably come across an adjunct at some point or another in one their classes. For those of you who don’t know, an adjunct is like a teacher who isn’t really a teacher at all. They are usually professionals in the subject that they teach who work part time and are intended to support the regular university faculty.
In theory, this sounds like a pretty good idea. Who knows about a subject better than someone who has based his or her career on it? That way, you get to learn about something from people who have dealt with such things firsthand and can use their years of experience to benefit students. In many cases, I would prefer this to a professor who has done nothing other than teach.
However, the good thing about professors is that they have made a career out of teaching and know to do it effectively. They know the ins and outs of creating tests and assignments, grading fairly and working with students.
My experiences with adjuncts have left me a little irritated. They routinely give out assignments and fail to explain how to do them. Later on, I turn in this assignment, only to have it returned with a low grade, and the teacher fails to clearly explain why. Readings sometimes seem pointless, and tests either are a waste of time or impossibly hard. Sometimes, the teacher will even miss almost half of the classes to attend to their other job.
To be fair, I’ve also had some good experiences with classes instructed by adjunct teachers. Some have been incredibly helpful, shown me the importance of their subject and offered me helpful knowledge. They’ve also helped to prepare me for a career in my field by explaining what they have gone through so that I don’t make the same mistakes.
The only thing Temple really requires of adjuncts at this point is that they have a master’s degree. Teaching credentials or experience are not required. As much as I like the idea of adjuncts, I sometimes get the feeling that they don’t really know what they’re doing.
This is not a personal attack on the credibility of adjuncts as teachers. I honestly do like the idea of being taught by an expert in the field. But most adjuncts would benefit from at least a crash course in teaching from the university and a formal commitment to show up to the classes they teach. Adjuncts would learn Teaching 101 and students would get the pleasure of learning from an expert who is better equipped to educate.
Torin Sweeney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.