Certifying Adjuncts

On the face of it, certifying adjuncts makes all kinds of sense.

Adjuncts want a brand, something that will allow us to rise above the teeming masses of adjuncts, what Bob Seger called “a little something against the wind”.

Universities want to control wild-adjunct risk.  They want to be able to say the university equivalent of “all our adjuncts are bonded.”

Students want a good deal: great education at a bargain price.   Certifying adjuncts is a bit like tranche-ing subprime mortgages: it seems to miraculously produce slices of quality out of a sausage mix of mediocrity.

But there are some nagging details, like:

  • How are you going to do it?
  • Who will pay?

I guess there are two schools of thought about how you would do it:

  1. In the same way we train and certify teachers, we would certify adjuncts as possessing a body of knowledge about how to teach rather than expertise in a particular discipline.  With teachers, this has contributed to the saying that “those who can’t do, teach”, but it does have the virtue that defining the body of instructional art that adjuncts must have is a circumscribed process.
  2. You might, as we do with “Tenures” (if they’re going to call us “Adjuncts”, we should call them “Tenures”), certify based on expertise in a subject-area rather than instructional chops.  I have more sympathy that certifying adjuncts in this way would produce better adjuncts, but what a nightmare!  We would have essentially a Tier 2 tenure system.

And who would pay for it?

The only attempt I know of to certify adjuncts is the SoCAFE organization (“Society of Certified Adjunct Faculty Educators”)  (Are there others?  Let me know.)  From the looks of the website, it’s Approach #1:

Our student-centered approach
is divided into 10 modules.
Each module focuses on one of the 10 Core Competencies necessary to become an effective educator.

“10 Core Competencies” (particularly when the phrase is capitalized) sounds like instructional chops.

And SoCAFE wants adjuncts to pay for the certificate.  $395 for the initial cert; $75/year to say current.  See the Inside Higher Ed article here.

The SoCAFE site is kind of a zombie though: the last Press link is from August, 2009.

So, if it makes so much sense, why aren’t more people working on it?

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