Organizing, Advocacy, and Knowledge Work

Adjuncts in “gatekeeper courses”

Posted by sethkahn on March 28, 2008

Not an issue that generally effects comp/rhet folks, but a distressing set of findings all the same.  Posted by Nick Carbone on the WPA listserv March 27.

From the Chronicle of Higher Ed:
(subscription required)

‘Gatekeeper’ Courses Should Not Be Assigned to Part-Time Instructors,
Research Suggests

First-year college students are significantly more likely to drop out
if their large introductory courses are taught by part-time adjuncts
rather than full-time faculty members, according to the results of a
study presented during a meeting of the American Educational Research


Working with transcripts of roughly 30,000 students who enrolled in
the four universities between 2002 and 2005, Ms. Jaeger and Mr. Eagan
looked closely at the role of first-year “gatekeeper” courses. Like
other scholars, Ms. Jaeger and Mr. Eagan define a gatekeeper as any
large introductory class (enrolling 90 or more students) that must be
passed in order to move forward in a course sequence. Biology 101 and
Chemistry 101 are the classic models, but the study also included, for
example, English classes that count toward general-education

They found an unhappy pattern: If students’ gatekeeper courses were
taught by part-time adjuncts, lecturers, or postdoctoral fellows
(which occurred from 8 percent to 22 percent of the time, depending on
the institution), the students were significantly less likely to
return for their sophomore year. That pattern was consistent across
all four universities.

It’ll be interesting to see Jaeger and Eagan’s paper when it comes out
later this year in  the journal _New Directions for Teaching and

I wondered if their methodology will be something institutions apply
internally to see if the trends hold for given campuses.


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