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Students reap greater benefits from classes taught by adjunct professors

Thursday, September 12, 2013

During the college search process, many students look at the graduation rates of their prospective schools as one factor in gauging whether a specific school will meet their needs. However, it can be much harder to assess the learning outcomes of students enrolled in a particular school. According to a recent study, students taught by adjunct professors achieve greater academic success than those learning in classes taught by tenured faculty members, The Chronicle of Higher Education reported.

Persuasive findings
Researchers at Northwestern University in Illinois studied the academic performance of eight cohorts of undergraduate freshmen, a control group totaling more than 15,000 students, over a seven-year period between 2001 and 2008. In virtually all circumstances, the authors of the study found that students achieved significantly better learning outcomes when taught by non-tenured professors. This was particularly evident in classes in which it was traditionally difficult to attain high grades.

In addition, students who had experienced academic difficulties in the past benefited substantially from being taught by adjunct professors, and individuals who enrolled in an introductory class lead by a non-tenured professor were much more likely to take a second course in a specific discipline than those who studied under a tenured professor in their introductory class.

A difference in focus
Inside Higher Ed reported that although similar studies have been conducted in the past, these papers tended to focus on the benefits of tenure for academics rather than the potential to improve student learning outcomes.

According to the news source, "the study may provide evidence that research universities benefit from more teaching by those who don't have research obligations."

The authors of the study, David Figlio, Morton O. Schapiro, and Kevin B. Soter, suggested that "perhaps the growing practice of hiring a combination of research-intensive tenure track faculty members and teaching-intensive lecturers may be an efficient and educationally positive solution to a research university's multi-tasking problem."

Adjunct professors are often hired by universities on a contract or temporary basis to cover a specific class or teach a certain subject. While many adjuncts often hold the same credentials as their tenured counterparts they are not required to engage in research or to publish their findings. Therefore adjunct faculty tend to have more time to devote to their undergraduate students.

The results of the study could be welcome news to adjunct professors, However, potential college students may have difficulty determining whether classes are taught primarily by tenured professors or adjunct faculty. As such, college-bound freshmen may want to visit their prospective schools during the college search process and speak with current students. College fairs and campus tours are invaluable opportunities to ask questions, particularly about how current students find their professors' lectures. It is important for students to use every tool at their disposal when searching for a school. - helping you find colleges and universities that offer the accredited programs that most interest you.

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Students reap greater benefits from classes taught by adjunct professors
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