Date: Mon, 29 Jul 2013 14:25:30 -0400
From: Scott Barker <[log in to unmask]>
To: Open Lib/Info Sci Education Forum <[log in to unmask]>
I strongly disagree with your assertion that:
"[Students]are being asked to do (and learn) less and less because they
are being taught by graduate students and adjuncts who are judged in their
student evaluations by how well they are liked. Not challenged to broaden
their thinking, challenged to consider new ideas, or challenged to do work
that they did not know that they could do, but discover that they can."
Quite frankly, not only do I disagree, but I believe it is insulting to
suggest that as a group adjunct instructors are delivering a lesser
experience to students. I also think it is problematic that you seem to
have such little respect for student evaluations.
My experience with "adjuncts" is that just like with full-time tenure
track faculty, some are great teachers and some less so. The best
"adjuncts" bring years of industry experience (that some tenure track
faculty lack) into their classrooms, they have a high degree of passion
and knowledge, they incorporate research as well as practice, they are
challenging, they care deeply about their students, and they continually
work to improve their teaching so they can deliver a strong student
Those are the adjuncts that we seek to hire here at the University of
Washington and those are the adjuncts that students like best.
There are amazing professionals working in companies like Microsoft,
Google, Amazon, Boeing as well as the many excellent libraries here in
Seattle who teach for us. To suggest they can't deliver a high-quality
course because they are "only" an adjunct or a PhD student (who typically
was working as one of these same professionals before joining us) is
Obviously not all "adjuncts" or "visiting faculty" are perfect, but
tenure-track faculty aren't either. Those adjuncts that aren't good we
don't invite back, it is as simple as that.
Secondly, your assertion that students like and give high evaluations to
instructors that are easy is similarly problematic.
I chair our undergraduate program in Informatics. Our students are highly
demanding and I get frequent complaints from students when they feel they
are not being challenged enough. Generally speaking students are here to
learn, not to waste time in class. They want to be successful and they
are applying to be in our very competitive major rather than other
top-ranked programs in Computer Science, Business, or Design that are
available on our campus. These students perform best when they are
challenged, and the vast majority want to be challenged. They have to
take classes in those other programs and they compare what they learn in
the iSchool to what they learn elsewhere. To suggest that they give high
evaluations to the "easy" courses and poorer evaluations to the "hard"
courses couldn't be further from the truth.
Every quarter we read course evaluations that say things like "this was
the hardest class I've ever taken", or "I couldn't believe how many
readings there were, and at first I hated them, but I learned so much in
the end". Faculty (adjuncts and tenure-track) that teach such courses
tend to do very well.
Now that said, there are faculty that are "hard" that also get poor
evaluations. But I observe many classes, and generally speaking those
classes that get poor evaluations get them for lots of reasons. The
instructor may not be a strong speaker, they may be bad at managing the
logistics of the class, or they may not provide timely feedback. All
those types of issues can be present whether the class is easy or hard.
In general, I've found that students evaluations are typically on the
mark. The faculty that get the best evaluations do tend to teach the
"best" classes overall. Classes that are challenging, classes with great
content, classes where students learn a ton. To dismiss what the students
are saying, and to suggest we are just lowering standards to make things
easy on them so they will give high evaluations is simply not true.
I care a lot about what students say because more often than not, they are
Information School, University of Washington
From: Open Lib/Info Sci Education Forum [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Gretchen Whitney
Sent: Sunday, July 28, 2013 5:16 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Adjuncts and higher education
In addition to the note appended, please note the AAUP report on the use of adjuncts in general in higher education at
Or at tiny url
I mix into these articles the assertion that undergraduates and graduate students are paying more and more for their education. Granted. Given.
I assert that the other half of the equation ", but students are getting less and less for what they pay" is being given little attention.
In other words, students are going to college and paying more and more, but they are being asked to do (and learn) less and less.
They are being asked to do (and learn) less and less because they are being taught by graduate students and adjuncts who are judged in their student evaluations by how well they are liked. Not challenged to broaden their thinking, challenged to consider new ideas, or challenged to do work that they did not know that they could do, but discover that they can.
Of course, if you want to be liked you are more likely to assign 2 two-page essays and a multiple choice final exam for your course, rather than a big term paper and other assignments and a comprehensive written exam.
Just some more things to think about, and pulling diverse comments together talking about the same thing.
Here is a really ugly question. I don't want or expect answers. But it is something to think about. As a faculty member, is your primary goal to be liked or respected?
And does your administration support you in that goal?
The above two sets of evidence suggest the first.
Gretchen Whitney, PhD, Retired
School of Information Sciences
University of Tennessee, Knoxville TN 37996 USA [log in to unmask]
---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Sun, 23 Jun 2013 15:38:29 -0400
From: Lorna Peterson <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To: [log in to unmask]
To: [log in to unmask], aliseadjunct <[log in to unmask]>
Subject: [ALISEadjunct] Adjuncts use noted in July 2013 Harper's Index
The below message was forwarded to a list I subscribe to and I though it might be of interest to readers on this list. The original post references this "Portion of university teaching positions that are filled by graduate
students or adjunct faculty = 3/4" You can see the original list here:
Below is a copy of the message:
Date: Sun, 23 Jun 2013 09:20:49 -0400
From: David H Slavin <[log in to unmask]>
To: Contingent Academics Mailing List <[log in to unmask]>
Subject: [adj-l] adjuncts in Harper's Index July 2013
The first six lines of Harper's Index for July 2013 issue
Number of US retail jobs Doritos Locos tacos created in the past year, according to Taco Bell = 15,000 Number of retail jobs created worldwide by Apple in that same period = 400 Portion of US factory workers who have college degrees - 1/4 Portion of university teaching positions that are filled by graduate students or adjunct faculty = 3/4 Percentage of college professors teaching online courses who do not believe students should receive credit for them = 72 Number of US states whose highest-paid public employee is a sports coach = 37
Perhaps the word is getting out?
Slavin, Decatur GA