Thanks for the responses to my last blog and especially to people who shouted out commentary including “Crisis in Legal Education: Dabbling in Disaster Planning,” at 46 University of Michigan Journal of Law Reform page 1 by McEntee, Lynch and Tokaz.
In this blog I will muse about the support a school should provide in order to increase the benefit of the use of adjuncts. First a suggestion for reshaping the relationships among adjuncts and full time faculty to make meaningful institutional and strategic reform and then a suggestion or two on traditional issues such as hiring, training and evaluation.
The law school that successfully integrates its adjuncts into its faculty will be taking a giant step toward effectively bridging the pedagogical chasm between theory and practice. Here are three simple examples of how that might be done. Full time faculty members regularly make presentations of drafts of articles and other types of work to the faculty. It would be simple enough to invite adjuncts who teach in the subject area of those presentations to participate. The result would be not only the improvement of the articles, but an interchange across full time- adjunct lines which might build mutual respect and enhanced understanding.
Another example is the work of the curriculum committee. Whenever that committee is considering issues in a particular subject matter area it would be an easy matter to invite adjuncts who teach in that or related subject matter areas. Once again the interchange would not only improve the decision making but would also increase the respect in both directions.
A third possibility is including the adjuncts in the vetting of new faculty who would be teaching in an area related to that of the adjunct.
None of these suggestions takes much time so it is likely that some adjuncts would be interested.
The following quote from the 2011 Best Practices Report on the Use of Adjunct Faculty of the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar stated:
“In addition to the teaching contributions of adjunct faculty, however, there exists another and slightly different kind of contribution that adjuncts may make. There is a largely untapped potential for collaboration where full-time faculty and adjunct faculty could work together in ways that truly enhance the students’ experience while at the same time maximizing the contributions that the full-time and adjunct faculty may make to the study and improvement of the law. “
Perhaps the current crises in cost of legal education and in enrollment and revenue provide the opportunity for such innovation. There are lots of other practical opportunities for such collaboration.
Now for some small suggestions on mundane topics.
Selection of Adjuncts:
It is hard to judge a person’s teaching skills and potential without watching her teach, yet few schools indicated that they require one or more guest classes before hiring. Best to have a potential adjunct participate first as a guest so that a full time faculty member can see how she does in that setting.
Crucial to impart a few key points without overloading the new teacher. Key points will be grading, attendance, preparation and rules such as diversity and disability and treatment of students. Most school hand out a manual for adjuncts and have at least one orientation session.
Availability outside of class:
Barriers to accessibility to adjuncts need to be reduced or eliminated. The school must provide a place in which the adjunct may meet with students and require office hours mostly by phone but at least twice a semester in person.
Evaluations; student evaluations are necessary but often not sufficient. Many schools have someone visit the class of each new adjunct once or twice a semester.
For first time adjuncts, someone should review their syllabus and the preparation and grading of their exams and go over their evaluations with them.