7 Considerations for Potential Faculty
Posted on March 31, 2017 by
It’s not all about the pedigree; faculty behaviors are the key.
We are very fortunate that the College of Online and Continuing Education receives more than 100 adjunct faculty applications a day. Determining the exemplar candidates is my department’s mission. So what are we looking for? Here are our top considerations when reviewing faculty applicants:
1. “What will you talk with students about?”
Many years ago a full-time faculty member from campus encouraged me to think about a faculty applicant’s graduate degree as a base requirement. He asked me, “This person has the educational base, but what are they going to talk with students about?” That question gave me the guidance I needed to bring forth well-qualified candidates for consideration.
Applicants are required to have a graduate degree for consideration, but how they’ve applied their education in their careers is key. It’s critical for students to understand the theory or concept, but how those theories are illustrated to show students its practical application is where the magic happens in the classroom. Faculty refer to this as the lightbulb moment, connecting the dots and contextualizing material for their students.
2. Do you express passion for teaching and improving student’s lives?
Recall a time you talked with someone about something they truly loved. They probably spoke passionately, exuded a true admiration, and you could genuinely hear a connection in their voice. That’s what we look for in our adjunct faculty – a passion for teaching, connecting with students and giving them the foundation they need for the next class.
Faculty understand that learning the mechanics of a paragraph isn’t scintillating, but they want their students to master it so they can go on to write exceptional paragraphs for the remainder of their academic careers and beyond. A student may disregard a required reading assignment as outdated literature, but the faculty member that modernizes the context and enables the student to see the relevance of the assignment more holistically as it relates to today’s society gets it.
3. Do you know who our students are and the challenges they face?
If adjunct faculty applicants have the preconceived notion that our students are fresh out of high school, between the ages of 18-22 with their tuition fully paid by mom and dad, we know we’re off to a rocky start. Non-traditional students may face a multitude of challenges during their academic careers. Nothing they can’t overcome, but challenges that faculty should have compassion for:
- It’s easy to give a student a zero for not turning in an assignment, but more difficult to ask why they didn’t do the work, and then, “how can I help?”
- It’s easy to give someone a low mark, but more difficult to see that a student’s foundational skill might be lacking in a certain area and be willing to work with them on improving it.
- It’s easy to write feedback in a straightforward, factual way, but more difficult to thank a student for their work, tell them what they did well and where you’d like them to focus next time, and provide resources on how to do that — all while considering tone and the fact that your feedback could be easily misperceived as criticism to a student’s sensitive ear.
4. The classroom door is always open.
Our online classrooms are different, and on a much larger scale. The classroom “door” is always open and we can see how faculty interact with their students; we can also provide support throughout the term. We seek those faculty who come from a place of support, not criticism; who guide, not tell; who inspire, not demotivate. Are you okay with having the door open?
Envision a school, a hallway and a classroom. You may see brick buildings and gleaming tiled halls with closed classroom doors, behind which sit students rapt with attention. Faculty have traditionally closed the classroom door and started class — what happens in that classroom is between students and teacher. Administrators might infrequently poke their heads in for an evaluation and to provide some scant feedback.
5. Do you cry “Academic Freedom!”?
We have very dedicated professionals on the academic team who work with subject-matter experts, including faculty, and put a tremendous amount of work into developing a course that aligns with program outcomes, rubrics for each assignment, and textbooks and/or learning resources. For some faculty teaching a pre-developed course, this may seem confining, while for others it is freeing.
We believe faculty bring life to the course. Their disciplinary expertise enables them to infuse their personalities, resources and life experiences in a very unique way. We know that as adjunct instructors, your time is limited. Being able to spend your time with your students, providing feedback and enriching the learning experience is what we want for you, rather than having you exclusively spending your time writing an exam or searching for an assignment that is scaffolded to the one previous. Be free: Teach!
6. An academic partnership based on trust and integrity.
The Faculty Recruitment team takes our role seriously. We seek out what the deans are looking for from a content and behavioral perspective and put forward only those who meet or exceed their expectations. We know that any candidate we submit for consideration may ultimately teach SNHU’s students, and we want that experience to be transformative.
7. This isn’t for everyone, and that’s okay!
As an applicant for any position, you should be shopping your employer as much as they are shopping you. Do you like their mission, support systems, customer base, product and services? Can you see yourself working for them and, more importantly, being valued for who you are and what you bring to the table?
We’re aware (and thankful) SNHU is a desirable place to work and to teach, but this might not be the best environment for everyone’s skill set and expectations. As recruiters we focus a lot on a candidate’s past experiences and how those might relate to SNHU. Do their expectations align with what we offer and with SNHU’s teaching philosophy? For those with whom we don’t move forward, it may be us, not you, so please don’t be offended.
What we’ve learned is that what you know is excellent, but your behavior with students is really where it counts. A passion for teaching coupled with a compassion for the experiences students bring to the classroom and what they deal with every day helps make teaching more meaningful for faculty and students. If this resonates with you, we hope you will consider teaching for SNHU.