Friday, March 1, 2013

Committee work and...student success?

I've always thought that faculty engagement was one of the primary keys to student success, and a sufficient cadre of full-time faculty seems necessary to that effort. That’s not a criticism of part-time faculty—many of whom are contributing members of our campus community and excellent teachers too. Yet, on balance, part-time faculty members are often pushed for economic reasons to cobble together employment from multiple institutions and they aren’t generally expected (or compensated) to do more than classroom teaching. Full-time faculty, however, are expected to be more thoroughly engaged with the students and the institution; their job descriptions typically involve maintaining the curriculum as well as providing service to the broader campus community. However, as a result of budget cuts, there tend to be fewer full-time faculty members to shoulder this work.  This issue recently surfaced on my campus and I think it’s telling. In one of our academic divisions, there was no full-time faculty member willing to step forward to serve as the chair.  To be sure, engagement in administrative and governance activities may not be the kind of engagement that leads directly to student success. I wouldn’t argue that all engagement is equal, after all, and as this brief article from the Community College Times suggests, a healthy faculty culture focused on student learning and success has significant impact on student success rates (see Valencia CC in Florida). One could argue whether serving as a department chair, on the faculty senate, or on some other campus-wide committee is related to student success. Intuitively though, I think service to the campus is connected to the quality of learning that is provided to the students. A faculty who is deeply invested in the institution and takes ownership of it helps to create a broader culture of engagement. This sounds right to me in theory anyway, although I’d be curious if anyone is familiar with any studies or evidence to support it. If you’re aware of any scholarship along these lines, drop me a line at

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