This is just a short posting to alert readers to a couple of recent articles related to our concerns in this blog. The first appeared this past week in Inside Higher Ed and reports on a study published in the journal Educational Policy on the impact of adjunct instructors on retention rates for students moving from their first to their second year of college. Audrey Jaeger of North Carolina State University and M. Kevin Eagan of the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA studied the retention rates at three doctoral universities, two Masters institutions, and one Baccalaureate institution. Since Slippery Rock is a Masters institution, I found the results for those two schools most interesting. “Here a 10 percent increase in use of adjunct instructors resulted in a 7 percent decrease in first-year retention for ‘other’ [part-time instructors, postdoctoral fellows, and others],” said the Inside Higher Ed article, “a 2 percent decline for graduate student instruction and a 3 percent reduction for those taught by full-time adjunct instructors.” These results are reflective of the results for all six institutions studied.
The majority of instructors for our first-year composition courses at Slippery Rock University are tenured or tenure-track English professors, and the department strives to ensure that almost all of our temporary instructors are full-time. We believe, therefore, that it is no coincidence that our first to second-year retention rate is around 81% for this past academic year. That’s seven percent better than the rate for “the typical four-year college,” according to Inside Higher Ed. My own perspective is that students are better off with a mix of both seasoned and newer, but involved instructors for their college writing courses, and that the best way to get that mix is by hiring full-time temporary faculty.
The second article appeared in NCTE’s March, 2009 Council Chronicle and featured profiles of the day-to-day writing of ten people, including a regional sales manager, a marketing major in college, an Air Force aircraft mechanic, a nurse, a carpenter, a land surveyor, a math teacher, a stay-at-home mother, a retiree, and a fast-food restaurant owner. I obviously believe that the study of such writing should be of considerable interest to educators in both high schools and colleges. I would provide a link for the article, but NCTE still hasn’t placed it in its on-line Chronicle. So here’s a citation for it, with the hope that it will be posted in the archive very soon.
Collier, Lorna. “Everyday Writing: Words Matter More Than Ever in 21st Century Workplace.”
The Council Chronicle. (March, 2009): 6-10.