National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment |

National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment

Occasional Paper 21 - Student Outcomes Assessment Among the New Non-Tenure-Track Faculty Majority


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Kezar, A., & Maxey, D. (2014, July). Student outcomes assessment among the new non-tenure-track faculty majority (Occasional Paper No. 21). Urbana, IL: University of Illinois and Indiana University, National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment.


In NILOA's twenty-first occasional paper, authors Adrianna Kezar and Daniel Maxey discuss the ways in which non-tenure-track faculty can meaningfully contribute to student learning outcomes assessment.

Paper Abstract

The faculty today is dramatically different from 30 years ago.  It is largely non-tenure-track; faculty work has been unbundled into teaching-, research-, or service-only roles, and faculty may be provided little institutional support and have minimal connection to the institution and enterprise.  While this change has been occurring over several decades, leaders on many college campuses have not responded to this shift by modifying policies and practices so that faculty can effectively execute their work.  The absence of policies and practices aligned with the realities faced by this new majority faculty has significant implications for how faculty can be involved in student learning outcomes assessment.  This paper explores the potential for non-tenure-track faculty to meaningfully contribute to student learning outcomes assessment and outlines policies and practices that can facilitate such contributions.  Three potential courses of action are presented for campus leaders to consider to better support assessment work by today’s faculty.  Although these efforts are intended to improve conditions and support the work of non-tenure-track faculty, a significant rethinking of faculty models is needed to foster robust assessment efforts on campuses in the future.

Biography of the Authors

Adrianna Kezar, Professor for Higher Education, University of Southern California and Co-director of the Pullias Center for Higher Education. Dr. Kezar is a national expert of faculty, change, governance and leadership in higher education and her research agenda explores the change process in higher education institutions and the role of leadership in creating change. Kezar is well published with 15 books, over 75 journal articles, and over a hundred book chapters and reports. Her books include: Embracing non-tenure-track faculty (Routledge, 2012); Understanding the new majority of non-tenure-track faculty (Jossey Bass, 2010) and Enhancing Campus Capacity for Leadership (Stanford Press, 2011).

Daniel Maxey is a Ph.D. candidate and Dean’s Fellow in Urban Education Policy in the University of Southern California’s Rossier School of Education. He is also research assistant to Dr. Kezar in the Earl and Pauline Pullias Center for Higher Education. He earned a B.A. in Government from The College of William and Mary in Virginia and M.Ed. in Higher and Postsecondary Education from Arizona State University. He is interested in bringing his experience in policy analysis, politics, and public affairs to research on issues related to the public roles and responsibilities of colleges and universities, as well as change movements in higher education. Specifically, he is interested in examining the politics of higher education institutions and organizations, public roles and responsibilities of colleges and universities, civic engagement, and change movements in higher education.

About the Delphi Project

The Delphi Project was initiated to support a better understanding of factors that led to a majority of faculty being hired off the tenure track, the impact of these circumstances on teaching and learning; and potential strategies for addressing issues of rising contingency together. It is a project of the Earl and Pauline Pullias Center for Higher Education at the University of Southern California in partnership with the Association of American College and Universities (AAC&U) and includes more than 30 representatives from across higher education. The project has received generous funding from The Spencer Foundation, The Teagle Foundation, and The Carnegie Corporation of New York.

The original study utilized a modified Delphi method approach, in which a group of experts is consulted and then brought together to develop solutions to complex national problems. Key experts representing a broad cross-section of institutional sectors, unions, professional and disciplinary organizations, as well as other perspectives and interests from higher education participated in the study. These participants completed surveys addressing key issues related to the changing composition of the professoriate, reliance on non-tenure-track faculty, and potential solutions all within the context of challenges facing higher education including declining state budgets, rapid changes within fields of study, changing student interests and demographics, and other issues that are attributed to the rise of non-tenure-track faculty. The participants were convened in May 2012 to discuss alternative approaches, to question underlying assumptions, and to contribute to the creation of solutions to change the nature of the professoriate. The findings were prepared and disseminated as a policy report.

More recently, the project has been guided by two meta-strategies developed by the original working group: 1) Creating a vision for new, future faculty models for improving student success and 2) Building a broad base of stakeholder support for improving conditions facing non-tenure-track faculty. The Delphi Project continues to develop partnerships with a wide range of higher education organizations and institutions in our efforts to achieve these goals.


Click the image below to learn more about The Delphi Project.