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Education Statistics Quarterly
Vol 2, Issue 2, Topic: Postsecondary Education
Instructional Faculty and Staff in Public 2-Year Colleges
By: James C. Palmer
 
This article was originally published as the Executive Summary of the Statistical Analysis Report of the same name. The sample survey data are from the NCES National Study of Postsecondary Faculty (NSOPF).
 
 

Results from the 1993 National Study of Postsecondary Faculty (NSOPF:1993) reveal that there were approximately 275,000 instructional faculty and staff members at the nation's public 2-year colleges during the fall of 1992. This group represents 30 percent of the total instructional faculty and staff employed by colleges and universities nationwide. Teaching was the primary responsibility of most instructional faculty and staff in public 2-year colleges. Of the 255,000 instructional faculty and staff in public 2-year colleges whose primary responsibility was teaching for credit during the fall of 1992, 38 percent were employed full time and 62 percent were employed part time (figure A).

Previous NSOPF analyses have compared faculty and staff in the public 2-year sector with faculty and staff in other sectors. This report, however, uses selected findings from NSOPF:1993 to examine differences between subgroups of faculty and staff within the public 2-year sector. It compares the backgrounds, teaching methods, and career lives of instructional faculty and staff who vary in terms of age, years of experience in their current jobs, and primary teaching discipline. These comparisons show how those who are relatively new entrants to the teaching ranks at public 2-year colleges may differ from their older and more experienced colleagues. They also describe the instructional faculty and staff at public 2-year colleges as members of disciplinary subcultures.

Primary teaching discipline was included as a key point of comparison, because prior studies have occasionally revealed differences across disciplines in the academic work of community college faculty members. The decision to examine differences by age reflects contemporary concern about the impending turnover of a gradually aging faculty. As for institutional impact on faculty work, few published studies have examined differences between community college faculty members with varying years of experience on the job. Yet the question of institutional influence on instructional faculty and staff is a contentious one. Many community college leaders have long asserted that strong faculty ties to the discipline must be discouraged in deference to the institution's student-focused mission. This report provides a first national look at diversity within the public 2-year sector, offering baseline data that may be used as points of comparison with data from future cycles of NSOPF.

In recognition of the different professional ties that full- and part-time faculty may have with the community college enterprise, separate profiles are developed for full- and part-time instructional faculty and staff for whom teaching in credit classes was the primary responsibility during the fall of 1992. Each profile looks at several characteristics of instructional faculty and staff in public 2-year colleges, including their demographic characteristics, their education and employment histories, the percentages holding jobs outside of their colleges, and the type of work those outside jobs entail. The profiles include measures of instructional workload and insights into the approaches instructional faculty and staff use to teach classes and assess student work. (Of particular interest here is the extent to which instructional faculty and staff involve students in classroom activities, as opposed to primarily lecturing, and the extent to which they require written assignments.) Selected attitudes about the profession also are examined, as are self-perceptions about the likelihood of accepting another job.1 Some of the findings are listed below.

Figure A.—Percentage distribution of instructional faculty and staff whose primary responsibility was teaching for credit, by employment status in public 2-year colleges: Fall 1992
Figure A.- Percentage distribution of instructional faculty and staff whose primary responsibility was teaching for credit, by employment status in public 2-year colleges: Fall 1992

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 1993 National Study of Postsecondary Faculty (NSOPF:1993).

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On average, the full-time instructional faculty or staff members2 at public community colleges worked just under 47 hours per week; taught 4.5 credit classes, for a total of 13 classroom credit hours; spent 17 hours per week teaching credit classes; and instructed a total of 103 students in credit classes.

Twenty-eight percent of full-time instructional faculty and staff reported at least some type of employment outside of their colleges. Of those who had outside employment, 26 percent reported that teaching was the primary activity in those jobs, and 18 percent indicated that they were employed at other postsecondary institutions. Surprisingly, 13 percent of those with outside employment characterized their second jobs as full time.

On average, the part-time instructional faculty and staff members at public community colleges worked a total of 33 hours per week, of which 11 were for paid activities at the college. In addition, part-time instructional faculty and staff at public 2-year colleges taught an average of 2.1 credit classes, for a total of 5.8 classroom credit hours; spent 8 hours per week teaching credit classes; and instructed a total of 42 students in credit classes.

Most of the part-time instructional faculty and staff (79 percent) held other jobs outside of their colleges. When asked about the primary responsibility of their outside work, 38 percent reported that their outside job entailed teaching. Eighteen percent of those with outside employment indicated that they worked at another postsecondary institution. Others were self-employed (18 percent); or worked in hospitals, foundations, or government agencies (22 percent); for-profit businesses (16 percent); or "other" agencies (26 percent). About two-thirds of those with outside employment indicated that their other employment entailed full-time work.

Characteristics of instructional faculty and staff in this report were looked at by age (those under 35 vs. those between the ages of 55 and 64), by years of experience in current teaching position (under 10 years vs. 20 or more years), and by primary teaching field. Seven disciplinary groups were used to compare instructional faculty and staff by primary teaching field: (1) business, law, and communications; (2) health sciences; (3) humanities; (4) natural sciences and engineering; (5) social sciences and education; (6) vocational training; and (7) all other areas. Figure B shows the percentage distribution of instructional faculty and staff by each of these three characteristics.

Differences by age

There were two major differences between instructional faculty and staff at public 2-year colleges who were under the age of 35 and those who were between the ages of 55 and 64 in the fall of 1992. The first is clear: the two groups represent individuals who were at different stages of their careers. Younger teachers are still developing careers that their older colleagues have long since established. This emerges in the findings that, regardless of employment status (full time or part time), younger teachers were more likely to hold only a baccalaureate or less as the highest earned credential and more likely to accept the possibility of moving on to another full-time job.

The second major difference lies in the employment histories of the two groups. For example, among full-time faculty, the younger teachers were more likely than their older colleagues to indicate that they had held other jobs since earning their highest credential (figure C). Among part-time faculty, younger teachers were more likely to indicate that they accepted part-time work because full-time work was unavailable.

The proportion of women among full-time instructional faculty and staff under the age of 35 was greater than the proportion of women among those between the ages of 55 and 64 (48 vs. 31 percent). But this was not the case for part-time instructional faculty and staff. And, regardless of employment status (full time vs. part time), instructional faculty and staff in the two age groups did not differ in terms of race/ethnicity, workload, instructional methods used, engagement in nonteaching professional activities, perceptions of career opportunities for junior faculty, and willingness to choose an academic career were they to "do it all over again."

Figure B.—Percentage distribution of instructional faculty and staff in public 2-year colleges, by years of experience on current job, age, and primary teaching field: Fall 1992
Figure B.- Percentage distribution of instructional faculty and staff in public 2-year colleges, by years of experience on current job, age, and primary teaching field: Fall 1992

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 1993 National Study of Postsecondary Faculty (NSOPF:1993).


Differences by years in current job

Some of the differences between those who had held their current jobs for less than 10 years and those who had held their jobs for 20 or more years mirror the differences between younger and older colleagues. For example, instructional faculty and staff who had held their jobs for 10 or fewer years were less likely than those who had been on the job for 20 or more years to hold a postbaccalaureate degree (table A). In addition, they were more likely to accept the possibility of seeking other employment. These differences apply to both full- and part-time faculty.

Analyses of responses from the full-time instructional faculty and staff revealed differences that did not emerge in the age comparisons. In contrast to full-time faculty who had held their jobs for less than 10 years, those with 20 or more years of experience in the same full-time job worked fewer hours per week but taught, on average, greater numbers of students. Full-time teachers who were in the same job for 20 or more years were also less likely to have required student presentations, to have used computer-assisted instruction, or to have required students to evaluate each other's work.

Differences by primary teaching field

Comparisons by primary teaching field suggest the presence of disciplinary subcultures within the community college professoriate. One contrast can be seen in the differing educational and employment backgrounds of instructional faculty and staff in the vocational training category and in the humanities. Regardless of employment status (full time vs. part time), vocational teachers were less likely than their colleagues in the humanities to hold a graduate degree or to report that their most recent previous jobs entailed teaching at a postsecondary institution. These two groups, then, appear to represent opposite ends of a disciplinary continuum ranging from those with relatively strong professional ties to academe to those whose professional orientations are often forged in employment arenas outside of academe.

Figure C.—Percentage of full-time instructional faculty and staff in public 2-year colleges who have held other jobs since earning their highest credential, by age: Fall 1992
Figure C.- Percentage of full-time instructional faculty and staff in public 2-year colleges who have held other jobs since earning their highest credential, by age: Fall 1992

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 1993 National Study of Postsecondary Faculty (NSOPF:1993).

Table A.—Number and percentage distribution of instructional faculty and staff at public 2-year colleges, by highest educational credential attained, employment status, and years of experience on current job: Fall 1992
Table A.- Number and percentage distribution of instructional faculty and staff at public 2-year colleges, by highest educational credential attained, employment status, and years of experience on current job: Fall 1992

*Includes only instructional faculty and staff who held a postsecondary credential.

NOTE: Percentages may not add to 100 because of rounding.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 1993 National Study of Postsecondary Faculty (NSOPF:1993).

Table B.—Number and percentage of instructional faculty and staff who taught credit classes at public 2-year colleges, by their use of various instructional methods in their classes, employment status, and primary teaching field: Fall 1992
Table B.- Number and percentage of instructional faculty and staff who taught credit classes at public 2-year colleges, by their use of various instructional methods in their classes, employment status, and primary teaching field: Fall 1992

*Includes only instructional faculty and staff who taught credit classes.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 1993 National Study of Postsecondary Faculty (NSOPF:1993).

Teachers in the humanities also stood out in terms of approaches to instruction. Regardless of employment status, they were more likely than teachers in the other instructional groups to have used essay examinations, to have assigned term papers,3 or to have required students to evaluate each other's work (table B). They also were more likely to have employed the seminar method or to have used discussion, role-playing, group projects, or cooperative learning techniques as the primary instructional method.

In contrast, instructional faculty and staff in the natural sciences were more likely than colleagues in the other disciplinary categories to have employed lecture as the primary instructional technique. Full-time instructional faculty and staff teaching the natural sciences were less likely than their full-time colleagues in any of the other categories (except vocational training) to have used student presentations in all classes and more likely to have reported that they used student presentations in no classes. They also were more likely than full-time faculty in any of the other categories to indicate that they never ask students to evaluate each other's work.

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The survey data reported here point to the slowly chang- ing nature of the community college enterprise.4 The emergence of a new generation of teachers replacing those who began their careers in the 1960s and early 1970s portends no watershed change in teaching method. In contrast to comparisons between instructional faculty and staff teaching different subject areas, relatively few relationships emerged between length of time in the current job and instructional method. It was the discipline that appeared to be related to instructional method, especially in terms of literacy (as reflected in the assignment of term papers or the use of written examinations) and student involvement in classroom instruction (as reflected in the use of teacher lectures).


Footnotes

1 The specific variables used are described in the Technical Notes to the complete report. Each variable should be considered a proxy measure for the larger construct it represents.

2 The terms "faculty," "instructional faculty and staff," and "instructional faculty and staff whose primary responsibility was teaching" are used interchangeably in this report.

3 Among part-time teachers, those in social sciences and education were as likely as those in the humanities to have assigned term papers.

4 Time series data would offer much more reliable assessments of the changing nature of the community college enterprise. Absent those data, however, years of experience on the job and age can serve as proxies. In addition, the data presented in this report will serve as a base of comparison for data collected in NSOPF:1999.

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Data source: The NCES 1993 National Study of Postsecondary Faculty (NSOPF:1993).

For technical information, see

Selfa, L.A., Suter, N., Myers, S., Koch, S., Johnson, R.A., Zahs, D.A., Kuhr, B.D, and Abraham, S.Y. (1997). 1993 National Study of Postsecondary Faculty (NSOPF:1993) Methodology Report (NCES 97-467).

Author affiliation: J.C. Palmer, Illinois State University

For questions about content, contact Linda J. Zimbler (linda.zimbler@ed.gov).

To obtain the complete report (NCES 2000-192), call the toll-free ED Pubs number (877-433-7827), visit the NCES Web Site (http://nces.ed.gov), or contact GPO (202-512-1800).

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