Our Adjunct Faculty: Integral and Indispensable!

A Report by:
Heng Cheng Suang (Information Systems and Analytics) and Susan Ang Wan Ling (English Language and Literature)
Report condensed by Ng Cheng Cheng

Above: A/Prof Heng Cheng Suang leading the TLC session on “Our Adjunct Faculty: Integral and Indispensable!”

Above: Dr Susan Ang, co-facilitating the session

The Teaching and Learning Club’s discussion “Our Adjunct Faculty: Integral and Indispensable!” was mooted and chaired by Academy Fellows – Associate Prof Heng Cheng Suang and Dr Susan Ang. Held on 23rd March 2017, the TLC sought to ascertain how adjunct faculty presence could be ‘optimised’ to provide an enriching experience for all – departments, students and themselves. It was met with delight by many adjunct faculty who expressed appreciation for the opportunity to engage in such dialogue.

Before the TLC discussion, a preliminary survey was sent to almost all adjunct faculty from all NUS faculties/schools, and the results of the survey were compiled and shared with the participants in the TLC. As the Academy’s main function in this TLC was to serve as facilitator and conduit for adjunct faculty members’ perspectives and concerns, we have recorded all the major concerns raised – i) Teaching, ii) Research, iii) HR and iv) other general issues. However, as all non-teaching-related issues e.g. HR-related, have been conveyed to the relevant entities in NUS, this article will focus on the Teaching.

The pre-discussion online survey and the discussion itself made salient the following:

  • To optimize utilization of adjunct faculty expertise, a significant minority felt that departments could give more consideration to modules/topics of interest suggested by adjunct faculty. In particular, those adjunct faculty who are also working professionals might be able to offer current perspectives on the basic knowledge or adequate foundation required of young graduates in their professions (i.e. they could contribute to curriculum design). There were also opportunities for the cross-fertilisation of departmental curricula or the development of cross-faculty curricula;
  • To support adjunct faculty better in teaching, resources such as (i) dedicated mentors to help orientate them to departmental practices/guidelines; (ii) library resources and access know-how; (iii) designated work space/ computing/wifi access; (iv) funding; (v) updates on new pedagogies & teaching technologies; (vi) more varied feedback on their teaching, could be made more easily accessible.
  • To boost adjunct faculty morale (and hence indirectly enhance quality of teaching), there could also be consideration of (i) more dedicated recognition such as teaching awards for adjunct faculty; (ii) more standardisation of adjunct-related practices across faculties, and (iii) more opportunities for adjuncts to engage in dialogue with adjunct faculty peers and university administration. In addition, as it was the adjunct faculty who are semi-retired or former members of the department that derived the most satisfaction and the strongest sense of social and professional integration from their adjunct arrangements, other adjunct faculty could likely benefit more from conscientious integration efforts by NUS and departments.

Following the TLC, the results of both the survey and discussion have been presented to the Teaching Academy, the Academy Executive Committee, Provost’s Office and other relevant entities in NUS. We appreciate the constructive inputs by all adjuncts who have participated and believe that appropriate follow-up actions will be taken to address concerns raised. We hope that through the sharing of concerns and best practices, this TLC will indeed bring about improvements to the optimization of adjunct faculty expertise and teaching.

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