Delphi Project on the Changing Faculty and Student Success
Representatives of national higher education organizations, accreditation agencies, administrators, faculty, and unions convene to create strategies for responding to trends in academic workforce.
LOS ANGELES – June 1, 2012 – Changes in the composition of the American professoriate toward a mostly contingent workforce are raising important questions about poor working conditions and connections between these conditions and student learning outcomes. The Delphi Project on the Changing Faculty and Student Success (Delphi project) was initiated to support a better understanding of the factors that have led to a majority of faculty being hired off the tenure track and the impact of these current circumstances on teaching and learning. This project is a partnership between the University of Southern California and the Association of American Colleges and Universities and was funded by the Teagle, Spencer, and Carnegie foundations. As Susan Albertine, Vice President of AAC&U’s Office of Engagement, Inclusion, and Success notes: “The Delphi project makes a strong and direct connection to AAC&U’s mission, focused on student learning and supporting the highest quality education through high-impact practices.” The project has also worked toward the development of innovative solutions that appeal to a broad range of decision makers and stakeholders.
The project employed a modified Delphi study approach, which calls for convening issue experts, administering surveys, and facilitating working meetings to build consensus around an understanding of a problem and potential solutions. Dr. Adrianna Kezar, the Delphi project’s director, has brought together more than 40 key experts representing a cross section of the academy over the past year. Participants – including academic leaders and system heads, leaders from higher education organizations and academic unions, disciplinary associations, and accrediting agencies, as well as education researchers, economists, and organizations representing non-tenure-track faculty – completed surveys addressing the current status of the academic workforce and connections to student learning. Summaries of the survey responses and resources drawing upon existing research were used to highlight areas of consensus and promote convergence around strategies.
On May 18, 2012, more than 30 participants convened outside Washington, D.C. to discuss the issues that were surfaced through the earlier round of surveys and to formulate strategies to respond to these challenges in new ways. A primary focus of the project is the impact of overreliance on non-tenure-track faculty on student learning and success. Dan Maxey described some outcomes of the process: “The survey data we collected from participants ahead of the meeting allowed us to communicate our points of consensus more effectively and establish the common ground needed to change. The result was a rich discussion around strategies in the meeting and a lot of enthusiasm about continuing to work together toward solutions.” Two sets of strategies emerged from the meeting. The first set will lead to the creation of data and resource toolkits for use by campus stakeholders including faculty task forces, administrators, and governing boards, as well as accrediting agencies. The toolkits will draw upon existing data and examples of positive practices, but will also provide a blueprint for facilitating greater awareness of non-tenure-track faculty issues and supporting policy implementation among different types of institutions. A second set of strategies will engage higher education organizations and stakeholders in re-conceptualizing the professoriate, including redefined faculty roles (beyond existing tenure or non-tenure-track faculty), rewards, and professional standards. Dr. Kezar registered her enthusiasm for the strategies: “The changing faculty has remained a vexing issue for higher education that no stakeholders have effectively addressed. Working jointly across members of the entire higher education system, the project was able to not only determine strategies to move forward but develop collective buy-in.” Participants from the Delphi Project will continue to refine these strategies in the coming months.
More information about the project is online at http://www.uscrossier.org/pullias/research/projects/changingfacultyandstudentsuccess/