Adjuncts, lecturers and professors, oh my!: Who's best at teaching?

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  • worf Mcallen, TX
    Sept. 24, 2013 11:20 a.m.

    Who are the best teachers?---IMO--the student.

    Learning comes from research, than organized into a presentable fashion.

    Teachers, books, and schools, are a resource.

    Teachers learn more than students, because of this method.

    Rather than learning testing skills,--student need to learn how to research, and present their data with an opinion on there subject.

  • Baron Scarpia Logan, UT
    Sept. 24, 2013 6:37 a.m.

    Higher ed is a sinking ship. To see the comments on this thread -- some valid, some exaggerations -- suggests that society increasingly views colleges and their contributions to society (education, research) as a waste of tax dollars and resources.

    Tenured faculty have multiple responsibilities, from teaching to conducting research to procuring outside funding (given that state legislatures have cut higher ed significantly over the past two decades) and endless committee work (figuring out ways to improve curriculum, finding students jobs, evaluating tenure-track faculty, face time with the public). Adjuncts do NOT have these responsibilities, and their status and salaries typically reflect this.

    HOWEVER, salary inversions impact faculty who have been loyal and remained at institutions for 20 years or more. They make significantly less than new faculty and sometimes even less than new full-time adjuncts. Many faculty are leaving the profession for the private sector, simply because they're not valued, and it is a sad loss as the universities then have to replace these experienced faculty with new ones at significantly higher salaries.

    In truth, tenured faculty have to engage in endless committee work, much of it contributing little to society. Higher ed must change.

  • procuradorfiscal Tooele, UT
    Sept. 23, 2013 8:42 p.m.

    Re: ". . . tenured professors generally have a MUCH deeper understanding of their subject matter . . . ."

    That's not just laughably false, it's dangerously so.

    The image being sold by the highest-paid employees of most states -- "higher" ed bureaucrats -- is of hard-working profs directing platoons of dedicated, but callow researchers, steering their halting, stumbling efforts, inexorably toward truth, because of the great depth of their knowledge and understanding.

    But, it's bogus.

    Principal investigators are quite often the greatest obstacles to relevant and innovative research. Lost in their past victories, their "gut feelings" as to the data they expect often torques and bends actual observations.

    The whole global warming alarmist industry, for example, is built on the shaky foundation of feeding tenured research directors' counterintuitive expectations with massaged, "normed," "smoothed" data, that is spun to support hidebound models and hypotheses that have a long history of predicting the exact opposite of what is actually observed.

    We simply can no longer afford to insulate tenured profs from either their actual duties, or from reality.

  • Howard Beal Provo, UT
    Sept. 23, 2013 5:27 p.m.

    To answer the question, adjunct professors without a doubt, not even close. I will stay say that the best class I ever had in college was taught by a graduate assistant. But some college professors can bring it but it seems like the adjuncts actually are the best at teaching generally and actually enjoy it.

  • Chemist SALT LAKE CITY, UT
    Sept. 23, 2013 5:01 p.m.

    It is incorrect to say that adjuncts are better or worse teachers than tenured professors. This varies so much with the individual, it is hard to make a general comparison. I've known adjuncts who did a terrible job in their teaching, and adjuncts who were among the best. Likewise for tenured professors. One thing for certain, however, is that the tenured professors generally have a MUCH deeper understanding of their subject matter, and they have a better ability to relate the simple concepts learned in introductory courses to current research topics than do the adjunct professors, at least in my experience.

    If a student is thinking about entering a particular profession (such as chemistry, for example), it is certainly better to take courses that are taught by a person who actually does research in the subject, and who can offer an opportunity for the student to do research in his laboratory. This is the great advantage of a university setting, in which the faculty also do research - it provides a much better way for the student to learn the discipline than can be obtained in an institution where there is nothing but "book learning".

  • Hamath Omaha, NE
    Sept. 23, 2013 3:42 p.m.

    Saying that first year students have better outcomes if they are taught by adjunct or nontenured faculty than by full time tenured faculty does not say much about most tenured professors. Tenured professors work with upperclassman (juniors and seniors) and graduate students during most of their time. Many if not most of the tenured faculty who teach freshman classes are the less qualified and less able faculty. They are stuck in the "general ed" courses instead of the more intellectually rewarding courses in the junior and senior years of programs.

    What this study might be saying is that the outcasts of tenured professors do a worse job than adjuncts and nontenured (most of which have Masters degrees, not Ph.Ds).

  • John Armstrong Buena Vista, VA
    Sept. 23, 2013 2:04 p.m.

    "While tenured professors pull down six-figure salaries for teaching the same classes, Bauman earns less than $20,000 per year." Really? I believe that Bauman makes that little. I find it hard to believe, however, that ALL tenured English professors who teach the same introductory writing courses make more than $100,000. Or did the reporter mean "SOME tenured professors"?

  • oldasdirt Grantsville, UT
    Sept. 23, 2013 1:13 p.m.

    Let us not destroy the higher ed system. I am an adjunct who teaches concurrent courses at the high schools. I have a masters and 30 plus years working in the private sector, in the field in which I teach. That being said, the benefit I see, from this, is getting the high school students an associate degree after their senior year and getting their group fillers done before going to college. It also seems to me that if the class room instruction is going part...adjunct etc then the same should be applied to the administration functions. Salaries are higher in these admin jobs, so a part time director, department head and above could be filled in a lower cost part time manner.

  • procuradorfiscal Tooele, UT
    Sept. 23, 2013 12:58 p.m.

    Re: "Who's best at teaching?"

    Many college students couldn't even tell you. They've never actually seen the whites of a tenured professor's eyes.

    Fact is, most college classes, at least in large colleges, are taught by instructors, postdocs, and TAs. Adjuncts are the backbone of many business and technical curricula, primarily because they have more knowledge, currency, and proficiency than the tenured crowd.

    It's probably not fair to blame tenured "professors" for their famous inability to actually profess -- "higher" ed institutes don't really expect them to.

    They're way too busy with their bureaucratic duties as deans and deanlets, chairs and chairlets, fundraisers, grant procurers, legislative advisors, society managers, squishy, touchy-feely program managers, and research "directors" to do any actual teaching.

    Even though most tax and tuition payers actually still believe the fairy tale that that's what we pay them to do.

  • Oatmeal Woods Cross, UT
    Sept. 23, 2013 12:32 p.m.

    The article should have articulated what another great institution is doing with innovative scheduling and learning. Which institution you ask? BYU-Idaho

  • Irony Guy Bountiful, Utah
    Sept. 23, 2013 11:56 a.m.

    There's nothing bad about temps in the classroom. Keep them underpaid, overworked, no benefits. Destroy the research function of the tenured professor by getting rid of tenured professors. Pretty soon the "university" is an online experience taught by robots -- after all, you don't have to pay a robot anything.