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ADJUNCT ADVANCEMENT - A Journey Through Professional Development


Callihan, Kristy M. Associate Dean of Communication, Humanities and Technical Studies Summerson, Karen A. Associate Professor of Mathematics; Director of the Center for Teaching & Learning



In the spring of 2014 a state task force report provided the Pikes Peak Community College Center for Excellence in Teaching & Learning the motivation to develop an adjunct advancement program. The program includes an application process and allows for two additional tiers in pay related to a process of professional development, reflection, assessment, and presentation. This paper shares the development and implementation of this program.


One of the most challenging jobs for a director of a Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL) is creating inclusive programming that meets the needs of all participants, including full-time faculty, part-time faculty, staff members, and the leadership team. There is not one format of programming that works for all, yet that is the goal. How do you make this all happen? It is a difficult task and one that was posed to the PPCC CETL Team by leadership when in 2014 a state Adjunct Taskforce reported (CCCS, 2014) the need for customized professional development, recognition, and opportunities to increase pay for part-time adjunct instructors (Lyons, 1996). In this paper, we will share the creation of PPCC Adjunct Advancement Program, its announcement to the college, ongoing continuous improvement, and where the program exists today. It is a journey.

Creating the PPCC Adjunct Advancement Program

As a member of a system of 13 community colleges, we began our research with uncovering programs that the other colleges were already doing. We discovered that less than half of the colleges had a program for adjuncts to advance in pay based on professional development. Further, the programming that was offered included elements of attendance-based and/or paid professional development with little or no mention of implementation in the classroom. Some colleges requested a letter to be sent to the department chair upon completion of the program. We wanted more than attendance in our program. Our team believed in inspiring the adjunct faculty to continuously improve their instruction. We wanted to see implementation of new pedagogy in the classroom as well as assessment on the effectiveness of that new pedagogy. Even more than that, we wanted to capture the spirit of ongoing professional development rather than a “one and done” approach. Last, but not least, we wanted to be inclusive and build a culture that included a sense of belonging and recognition at the college (Rowh, 2014).

We began with the name of the program. With simplicity in mind, we called it the Adjunct Advancement Program (AAP). We designed a "choose your own journey" idea. One size does not fit all when it comes to professional development (Flaherty, 2015). Being cognizant of the multiple disciplines within our college whose classroom instruction can vary greatly - from a CTE welding class to a transfer philosophy class - was important, along with our desire to allow an instructor freedom to choose her/his own professional development. This taps into building intrinsic motivation (Pink, 2009).

The logistics of the program are simple. The professional development journey begins with an application that we named the “Intent Form” to capture an intent to learn new teaching techniques with the purpose of incorporating the pedagogy into the PPCC classroom. Upon entering the program, the adjunct instructor chooses professional development (PD) events to attend (both inside and outside of the college) to earn professional development units. A unique aspect of our program is the method of earning this professional development credit; it is earned with a one-page Reflection and Tracking Form that is uploaded to an AAP online class shell.We determined additional requirements with the help of our CFO and college president. For example, adjunct instructors must meet minimum expectations as reported by his or her department chair to be able to enter the program, and adjunct instructors are not eligible for a pay increase until they have been at the college a minimum length of time. The pay structure includes three tiers of pay. Every adjunct begins at tier 1 pay. In the AAP program, the adjunct instructor can earn tier 2 pay, which is a 5% increase to all courses connected to a CRN (course numbering system). Tier 3 pay is an additional 5% increase to all courses connected to a CRN. Finally, to add the inclusive sense of belonging, we created a May Institute. The May Institute is application-based and can be completed when the adjunct instructor has met all of the conditions for each tier. It is offered once a year in May and uses a cohort model of reporting and sharing new teaching pedagogy learned, implemented, and assessed in the college classroom.

Announcing the Adjunct Advancement Program to the College

The Adjunct Advancement Program was announced via email to our college in May of 2014 and presented to the adjuncts in a forum that August. The CETL Team invited all adjunct instructors to attend an evening kickoff event. The presentation outlined the logistics of the program with specifics including samples of individualized professional journeys using our college mascot, Aarnie the Aardvark. While some instructors were thrilled at the idea of earning more pay through professional development and implementation in the PPCC classroom, many were not. As with any new program, this one was met with much opposition that ranged from loud verbal disagreement to disgruntled emails because many felt the pay should be given due to seniority alone. Our team developed a thick skin throughout that academic year. Surprisingly, there were 74 applications to the program in the fall of 2015, with additional applications in the spring of 2016. Our first May Institute included 40 participants who moved to tier 2 pay. Anecdotally, the CETL Director was approached by a participant after the event who stated “I was so angry coming to May Institute this morning. I thought it was another bureaucratic hoop to jump through when I am already a good instructor. But look! (She showed several pages of hand written notes.) I got all these new ideas to do after hearing what some of my colleagues are doing in their classrooms. And four of us in my presentation cohort are going out to lunch now. Thank you.”

Assessing to Provide Continuous Improvement

Our college president believes in data-driven programming. After each academic year, we consistently edited and upgraded the program based on formal assessment at the May Institute event, feedback from participants throughout the academic year, and ideas generated from our college leadership. Our biggest improvements always revolved around transparency. For example, initially, we tracked PD units with an excel spreadsheet. Not only did this prove cumbersome, it was not readily accessible; our participants had to contact our office to view their earned units. We also discovered human error in the record keeping so we modeled our program after online best practices and built the online course. All new participants are added to the course shell after receiving and verifying their Intent Form.

The course shell includes an announcement of where to begin, content about the program, and information about reflecting upon and tracking professional development. The best advancement was developing the online gradebook, used to track professional development units. It is a wonderful, transparent tool that allows both CETL and the participant to know the progress of each participant. We strive to model good instruction in all that we do at CETL so we made all of our content accessible and used online course features to offer timely feedback to participants as well as gentle reminders, which is much like we would expect instructors to do in their courses. With the help of a reference librarian, the Adjunct Advancement Program is easily accessed through a LIB Guide. We have a CETL page which includes a tab for the Adjunct Advancement Program. On this page, a new participant can find a quick overview of the program along with the Intent Form and a short video explanation of the journey they can take with this program. As of Jan 30th, 2018, the CETL LIB Guide has had 1067 views this year.

We also believe in verbal recognition and therefore implemented venues to recognize our graduates (Fox and Powers, 2017). One such venue is our college president’s address at the beginning of the academic year, and another is within each instructional division (Mech, 2017). This verbal recognition's specific intent is to honor those going above and beyond to finesse and continuously improve their craft, but also to highlight the instructors who offer quality instruction to others. We have secondary hopes that, on a grassroots level, instructor discussions around good teaching will happen more often and be inspired by those who are already doing the good work. In the end, it is a win/win scenario. Our instructors gain inclusion and recognition, but it is our students who receive the most impressive impact. This supports our college vision in that all “students succeed at PPCC.”

Operating the Adjunct Advancement Program 2018

The Adjunct Advancement Program now boasts 237 participants in the program. We have graduated 35 participants to tier 3. On average, 30-40 participants enroll in the program in an academic year and 20 participate in May Institute. In May 2017, our tier 3 graduates approached CETL and asked for more, an unexpected bright note at the end of the first tier 3 graduation. They would like to continue their professional development journey. We are creating a taskforce of program graduates to determine next steps. It is an unexpected and exciting development that we could not have anticipated as we reflect upon the memory of the initial program announcement. We believe it highlights the need for our adjunct instructors to feel included, to grow in their teaching techniques, and to be recognized both monetarily and via public praise.


Colorado Community College System. (2014). Colorado community college system adjunctinstructor task force. Denver, CO: Dr. Linda S. Bowman, Task Force Chair.

Fox, S., & Powers, M. "Half a loaf? Hard lessons when promoting adjunct faculty."Forum: Issues about Part-Time and Contingent Faculty 21.1 (2017): A3-A11. Web. 14 Sept.2017.

Flaherty, C. (2015). Developing Adjuncts –- Non-tenure-track faculty members say they wantmore convenient, compensated professional development.

Lyons, R. E. (1996). “A study of the effects of a mentoring initiative on the performance of new adjunct community college faculty.” Retrospective Theses and Dissertations. 3001.Lyons, R. E., & Burnstad, H. (2007). Best practices for supporting adjunct faculty.

Mech, A. (2017). "Adjunct faculty on the fringes: The quest for recognition and support incommunity colleges." Education Doctoral. Paper 302.

Pink, D. H. (2009). Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us. New York, NY: Riverhead Books. Rowh, M. (2014). Optimizing adjuncts. University Business, 17(12), 74-77.

Severs, E. (2017). Fostering professional growth: Models to support developmental educators.Journal Of Developmental Education, 40(3), 29-31.

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