As Adjunct Professors Unionize

Discussion in 'Online & DL Teaching' started by major56, Mar 21, 2016.

  1. Neuhaus

    Neuhaus Well-Known Member

    I had at professor at Scranton who was teaching in the counseling and psych departments. She was a probation officer who had a Masters in Psych. And we thoroughly enjoyed her many stories. But I also noticed that it depended largely upon what she was teaching whether those stories actually gave us any meaningful information in the context of the course.

    There were times when her stories absolutely furthered our understanding of the information being presented. But there were other times when the stories, while interesting and enjoyable to listen to, didn't actually relate to course objectives.

    So, student enjoyment is good. But it doesn't mean that students are learning "better." And, to sanantone's point, did anything we learn actually provide us skills or even relevant and actionable knowledge for our careers? Not really. At least, not in that context for the courses being taught.

    I did have a psych professor, who maintained a private practice, who used to tell us about treatment modalities she had used, some of the limitations she faced and some success stories. That was really helpful. Because when you're studying psych you sometimes latch onto a particular theory and think it can be applied to all situations. In that case, her dose of reality was incredibly relevant.

    At CTU, I appreciated that my HR professor was an HR professional. My Operations Management professor was some sort of regional logistics manager at Amazon. You only really benefitted from that experience during the live lectures but that's true of an in-person class as well. I also saw that experience come through when it came to grading. I had one professor, who had no work experience and was a career academic, who once told me my paper was way off base even though my premise was supported by various SHRM sources. Her response was that SHRM wasn't an academic journal and, therefore, had nothing relevant to say about HR. I'd wager she would have been a bad prof even if she had worked outside of a university.

    I say this because, in many ways, both of you are right. And what we have here is this competing set of anecdotes that illustrate that the situation is more nuanced than a blanket statement that part-time adjuncts with work experience are ALWAYS good or have no impact on education entirely.

    The person matters because they are the ones teaching. The course matters because the context in which they are teaching will largely determine whether the information is relevant and useful or simply "amusing." Some of the best professors I ever studied with never had a non-academic job. Some of the worst professors I ever studied with had plenty of experience outside of the university. And vice versa.

    I think we also need to remember that not all adjuncts are people who can have relevant skills and experience. An adjunct in the Classics department, for example, is not going to have any real "dose of reality" experience to bring to the students aside from the reality that they are buried in debt and struggling to cobble together a living as an adjunct.
  2. sanantone

    sanantone Well-Known Member

    I have experience as a security supervisor, law enforcement dispatcher, corrections officer, and I'm currently a counselor in a correctional facility. I can tell some interesting stories and how I've applied theory on the job, but the students are not going to come out much more prepared than graduates of other social science majors. What I learned in corrections classes did not prepare me all that much for a job as a corrections officer. Outside of anecdotes, there's not any evidence that CJ programs, whether practical/vocational or academic, are good preparation for CJ jobs. Most police officers I've talked to recommend that aspiring officers not major in CJ.
  3. Bruce

    Bruce Moderator

    So, you've never been a police officer. The defense rests.

    On what do you base that assertion, your personal experience, meaning the experience of one person? As I said, it sounds like you had crappy teachers in community college. I base my assertion on the feedback of many, many former students, including currently serving police officers who were in my classes.

    I've heard the same thing, and the people who say that almost never have a degree, in anything, themselves.
  4. sanantone

    sanantone Well-Known Member

    Why does it matter if I've never been a police officer? That is not the only CJ job that exists. CJ programs are not designed only for students who want to become police officers. No offense, but it comes off as arrogant to think that being a police officer is the only CJ job that matters.

    It also does not matter how long you've been teaching. You are also just one person. How would your work experience help me with the jobs I've had since you think that being a police officer is the only experience that matters? I've looked at the research. There is no evidence to support your assertions. Again, you are just one person.

    You're making assumptions about the educational backgrounds of the people I've talked to. Some of those police officers are in my PhD program. One of them was my professor.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 1, 2016
  5. sanantone

    sanantone Well-Known Member

    Actually, the assistant DA who taught court systems and practices and criminal law was really good, but I didn't come out of that class ready to be a court clerk or paralegal. These classes are also not designed to teach the specific laws of a jurisdiction, so CJ majors just come out with a very basic and general understanding of law that can be taught to anyone in an academy. If you would like, I could link you to the articles (if they're available for free) that talk about how CJ majors do not perform better in the academy than other majors. If they learned so much applicable stuff in their courses, they would be way ahead of everyone academically.
  6. sanantone

    sanantone Well-Known Member

    You know what? I'm still looking for a dissertation topic. It might be interesting to look at the performance evaluations of criminal justice majors vs other majors. When you talk to CJ majors, you're only getting how they feel about their education. They more than likely do not know how they are performing in comparison to their colleagues. All I know is that corrections officers in my department (including a corporal) who happened to have experience working as police officers had low opinions of CJ majors on the job despite them also having degrees in CJ or related fields.
  7. sanantone

    sanantone Well-Known Member

    I don't have access to this article through my school, and I'm not paying $32 for it unless I'm going to use it. Here is a summary of the findings. The study was done in the UK.

  8. Bruce

    Bruce Moderator

    I'll give you but one example, since I don't really care enough to give it more thought than that.

    A course I teach includes a section on law enforcement response to the mentally disturbed. I deal with mentally disturbed people, often violent, almost every shift, whereas a traditional professor who spent his/her first 10 years or so out of high school earning a B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. doesn't have the first clue what to do, other than what they read in books or journal articles, which often fails miserably in the real world.
  9. sanantone

    sanantone Well-Known Member

    I think people overestimate the number of professors in certain fields who have never worked outside of academia. The more I get to know my professors in my PhD program, the more I learn about their past work experiences. Even those who seem to be sociologists and went straight from a BA to PhD had jobs. While many of them did not work directly in criminal justice, a lot of them worked in social services and mental health. I'm sure the professors with master's degrees in psychology who have spent time working in mental health facilities are pretty good people to listen to in the area of mental illness. What is taught in mental health officer certification courses comes from...well...research. Police officers who have not been trained in this area make many mistakes. I've seen it with my own eyes when I worked at a homeless shelter.

    It takes years of trial and error to learn would could have just been learned in a mental health officer course. An English professor who became a police officer figured this out when he came up with the Five Universal Truths of Human Interaction and Verbal Judo. He noticed that the officers with many years of experience knew how to communicate with the public more effectively than less experienced officers. He used his research skills to gather what those officers learned after decades on the job and turned them into courses for less experienced police officers so they wouldn't have to learn through years of trial and error (and possibly deadly errors).

    Also, many bad practices can be passed down from generation to generation. A good example of this is arson investigation where they have passed down pseudoscience techniques for decades. The mistakes a chemist found in the botched Cameron Todd Willingham case that possibly led to an innocent man being executed illuminated the training problem. The Texas Commission on Fire Protection released a long report on how arson investigation training needed to be improved. So, there is still a lot of value in research. Police departments in Central Texas regularly contact professors at my school for help. I did a research project with a law enforcement communications department on their high turnover rate that led to a huge pay increase for their dispatchers because they were underpaid compared to other departments in the region.

    Also, as a corrections officer, I had to deal with the mentally disturbed for much longer periods than a police officer. We had people who had to be locked up in seg 24/7. They were offered rec, but they usually refused. We also had a suicide attempt. Your experience as a police officer wouldn't have been as applicable to my job as someone who actually worked in corrections, but my education in psychology and counseling did give me an advantage over those with no college education or just a criminal justice/criminology education. You can't have experience in everything, but as a professor in any field, you will be expected to teach just about everything. Law enforcement classes don't even make up the majority of the criminal justice curriculum. Plus, many schools have concentrations in corrections and other fields that aren't policing. A full-time (and often part-time) instructor often can't pick and choose courses that he or she is going to teach based on work experience.
  10. Bruce

    Bruce Moderator

    Are you related to Neuhaus by any chance? I realize you're trying to justify yourself, but who has the time to type out all that to essentially say that you disagree with me?

    I've been on both sides of the desk/computer as both a CJ student and teacher. As a student, it irked me that almost none of my teachers had actual experience in the CJ field, while as a teacher, I get consistently good reviews from students who appreciate having a CJ practitioner as the instructor.

    Like it or not, the majority of CJ students would rather have a teacher who lives the material and say "This is what really happens out in the world" than a traditional Ph.D. who says "Well, the literature shows....."
  11. sanantone

    sanantone Well-Known Member

    I've also been on both sides as a student and teacher at traditional and non-traditional schools teaching in the classroom. It doesn't matter what most CJ students want because most of them are clueless, and they graduate clueless. With the lowest LSAT and GRE scores and lowest law school admissions rates, they aren't exactly the brightest bunch. At the end of the day, someone working in the CJ field with a degree in basketweaving is just as happy as someone with a CJ degree with how his or her education has helped him or her on the job.
  12. Kizmet

    Kizmet Moderator

  13. Bruce

    Bruce Moderator

    Would you care to back up those assertions, or are you just making it up as you go along?
  14. Neuhaus

    Neuhaus Well-Known Member

    Don't try to drag me into your pissing contest.
  15. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

    This um-debate illustrates the need in academia for scholar-practitioners, people who not only are experienced in their fields but are also well-educated in its scholarly structures.

    It is difficult for people who have had academic careers to get the practical experience necessary to be scholar-practitioners.

    It is easier for practitioners to get scholarly credentials, more so than ever before, and in a much wider array of fields. But....

    It is normal--and well-documented--for scholars to leave academia and enter practice. But it seems much harder for practitioners to enter academia even with the proper credentials. It's like you're not a member of the club from way back, so we won't let you in now. Sure, there are lots of individual exceptions, but those seem to arise on a case-by-case basis where some enlightened university wants to hire someone like that.

    There are lots of books on how to enter practice from academia. There are none for going the other way. And the few articles available on this subject (thank you, major56) almost all deal with narrow areas and cultures other than the U.S. No one's written the "how-to" book on it that I'm aware of.

    In my field of HRD, the gulf between scholarship and practice is huge. Practitioners don't know theoretical dynamics of their work and lack the skills necessary to advance practice. (And, thus, are relegated to chasing "best practices," a closed loop.) Scholars seem to know almost nothing about actual training and instructional systems design and write very little about it, much less how it might be applied in areas like leadership development. Sure, there are exceptions, but they're not enough to disprove the rule.

    I wouldn't necessarily put practice above scholarship when teaching applied subjects like CJ. It tends to turn university degree programs into technical training schools. But the universities have set this expectation--that graduates will be better prepared to perform in their professions/occupations, so they set up the students for disappointment if they through one scholar after another at them without sufficient practical applications.

    It's not practice. It's not scholarship. It's a polarity (see Barry Johnson's work) involving both.
  16. SteveFoerster

    SteveFoerster Resident Gadfly Staff Member

    The visual on that is not appealing....
  17. Bruce

    Bruce Moderator

    Thank you, that's my point in summary. If universities do away with adjuncts, then I believe that students will lose the dose of reality and practicality that adjuncts bring to the classroom. I've never advocated (nor would I) that pure academics be excluded, that's silly, I just think that having a balance is better for all involved.
  18. Bruce

    Bruce Moderator

    It was a joke, lighten up Francis. :tongue2:
  19. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

    Sgt Hulka? Is that you? It's me, Cruiser!
  20. Neuhaus

    Neuhaus Well-Known Member

    Hey, joke or not, I don't want anywhere near this one.

    I enjoy a good controversy. I even enjoy a good argument. But I'm good.

    Since I ended up here anyway (and, as an adjunct myself) let me just say that I think it's possible for professional experience to be an excellent teaching tool. There's a reason why I know of a few state universities that have hired CPAs who didn't have masters degrees to teach in their accounting program as adjuncts.

    That CPA, and the work experience they have, is valuable to teaching students how to do something. I was speaking with one such person the other day who was recalling the cost accounting course he was teaching and how the students were begging for credit on an exam for something he marked wrong. They found it incredibly unfair that he was refusing to accept their differing viewpoint. His response?

    "When you graduate and are working with this then this is the answer. There are no differing viewpoints. If you want to argue for an alternate answer then become a tax attorney. But if you can't follow the methodology and arrive at this answer every time then you might want to reconsider a career in accounting."

    That's a dose of reality that goes beyond war stories. That's the sort of practical learning that could very well help you in the work world. Maybe you won't develop a "skill" but it might just be what adjusts your attitude in a favorable manner. And that's a very good thing for developing young minds who are about to embark on a new career.

    Some adjuncts, however, use their work experience to blow a lot of hot air without improving the quality of education. They may be amusing but they aren't better teachers than someone else.

    But dont' worry, Bruce. I can take a joke. Hell, I want to party with you, Cowboy.

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