KINGSTON, ONT.—When a St. Lawrence College professor asked her MPP for his support to end the current labour dispute between college faculty and their employer, here is how he responded:
“I do not view the use of contract or sessional teachers in a negative light, nor do I accept the premise that full time teachers are better or more proficient educators than part time teachers. I have searched for objective research on this topic, however the evidence to support this premise is absent.”
Challenge accepted. Our team dove into the academic literature and found the evidence. Here are the highlights:
- The more courses students take with contract faculty versus full-time, the less likely they are to return for a second term.
- A 14% drop in retention (i.e., students dropping out) occurs between first and second year for students who have more than 75% of classroom hours taught by contract faculty.
- Students who start programs with contract faculty don’t perform as well in second year as those who start with full-time faculty.
Despite this readily-available, peer-reviewed research, colleges have allowed the percentage of classes taught by contract faculty to balloon to an incredible 81%.
It is crucial to note that these effects are not the fault of the instructors themselves. Instead, a lack of time, various institutional factors, and job insecurity work against them.
The above-mentioned studies show that these effects occur for the following reasons:
- Unavailability of faculty—Full-time faculty are generally more available and form stronger relationships with students. These relationships are crucial to student retention.
- Lower standards of evaluation—Contract faculty tend to use less rigorous methods of assessment, and the grades they give are much higher than those given by full-timers. This means students may pass courses without having gained the knowledge and skills needed to complete higher-level courses. They do this for multiple reasons, including a fear that giving low grades will affect their performance evaluations and reduce the chances of them being rehired.
- Lack of time—Quality suffers because contract faculty are less available and the institution fails to support them outside the classroom (i.e., they have limited access to phones, email, and office space and they are paid only for classroom hours) even though many contract faculty put forth remarkable effort to engage with students despite these challenges.
University of Washington Professor Dan Jacoby, a leading authority on the correlation between part-time/full-time faculty ratios and student success, suggests there is no excuse for the current 19/81 full-time faculty to contract ratios.
“There now appear to be few real defenses that can justify maintaining a system of employment that evidence increasingly suggests has adverse results for students as well as for faculty,” Jacoby writes in The Journal of Higher Education, one of the world’s most respected scholarly journals on the institution of higher education.
Please see the attached report researched and written by Ontario Public Service Employees’ Union, Local 417, for further details and source documentation.
For further information, contact Grant Currie, President OPSEU Local 417 at (613) 893-2505 or firstname.lastname@example.org