Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Novel Faculty Model Key to Serving Students

It may be upside down, but when it comes to serving students, Rio Salado College’s adjunct faculty model is the key to student success.

 To serve its nearly 70,000 students each year, Rio Salado employs 23 faculty chairs and more than 1,400 adjunct faculty members as part of its “one course, many sections” model.

 The “one course, many section” model creates an environment where students have the flexibility and access to classes they may need with numerous sections and start dates almost every week. This freedom and availability for students in a distance learning format is possible because of Rio Salado College’s large pool of qualified adjunct faculty members.

Faculty President Angela Felix explains how the process works.
“We have more than 1400 Adjunct Faculty Members across all academic disciplines, and they are vitally important to the teaching and learning process. The Adjuncts teach in departments managed by Faculty Chairs utilizing approved curricula that follow District-wide course competencies,” said Felix. “We utilize a systems approach, which means that there are support structures in place that free Adjuncts and Chairs from time-consuming administrative duties so we can focus our attention on quality teaching designed to increase student learning."
Benefits of the unique teaching model include sustainable learning systems, consistent course content and instructor diversity.

 “Classes can be staffed based on a teacher’s' strengths,” said Sheri Skousen, an adjunct faculty member in the Languages department. “For example, in language classes, one instructor may be better at teaching a conversation course, while another excels in grammar and written content.”
The need for the “one course, many section” model developed over time. Established in 1978, the college initially held classes throughout Maricopa County in neighborhood schools, churches and strip malls.  Later on, the college became a pioneer in online learning and began to offer online classes to its students in 1996.

The college is always looking for new adjunct faculty members.

 “Due to Rio’s reputation as a great place to work, we continuously receive online applications from qualified individuals that are interested in teaching for us. “Teach for Rio” is a link on our public website and Chairs can review the pool of applicants to interview for available teaching opportunities,” Said Felix.  “Chairs can reach out to their community advisory councils to recruit potential adjunct faculty members, and Faculty Services will also advertise for adjunct openings in print and online publications.”

Once an adjunct instructor is hired, the college makes a concerted effort to offer support, flexibility and a number of services for its adjunct faculty.

 “Rio Salado offers a variety of online and in-person training and development courses for adjuncts,” said faculty member Sheri Skousen.

In addition, adjunct faculty members have access to stipends to attend workshops and trainings to help develop teaching skills and expand subject matter knowledge.
Skousen has gotten the most out of her time as an adjunct faculty member.
“I have taught a variety of courses for Rio Salado for 13 years,” Skousen said. “During that time, I have also been involved in course development.  Being an adjunct faculty at Rio Salado has allowed me to pursue my career goals in an atmosphere that promotes growth and professionalism.”

Rio Salado will be celebrating  the efforts of 36 of its adjunct instructors at a reception for Outstanding Adjunct Faculty on August 29.
Written by  Ryan Bawek, Rio Salado College PR Intern
Published in the Tempe Republic August, 25, 2012