Study Finds Adjuncts Are Better Instructors Than Tenured Faculty

by Marie Herb

On September 9, an article was published that described a study performed at Northwestern University from 2001 to 2008. In the study, over 15,000 students were analyzed for performance during classes. They found that when students took an introductory course they were likelier to perform better when an adjunct – a part-time teacher – was teaching the class over a tenured professor. In addition, the students were also more likely to take the follow-up course the next semester and perform better when taught by an adjunct. However, this study has some restraining factors. These factors include that Northwestern University is a very prestigious school, Northwestern was the only school used in the experiment, most of the adjuncts at the school have some connection with the university, and most of the adjuncts have been teaching at the school for an extended amount of time.

While this study is very limited in some respects, it is at least an interesting thought that is not commonly presented. Usually, a student would want a renowned professor teaching his class rather than someone else. Colleges and universities should look at the way their tenure system works and think about how it can be better improved. The topic of teacher-effectiveness is one that should be pursued, especially within the upcoming years as the view of higher education is changing.

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