Date of Award

2012

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

School

School of Education

Program

Leadership PhD

First Advisor

Erich W. Baumgartner

Second Advisor

Isadore Newman

Third Advisor

Sylvia Gonzalez

Abstract

Problem. The most recent data from the U.S. Department of Educational Statistics estimate that part-time faculty now comprises almost half of the faculty labor force; many believe this statistic has been gravely underestimated. Powerful unions like the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) and the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AACU) believe that universities are relying too heavily on part-time faculty members and that this over-reliance threatens the quality of higher education today. The debate surrounding the use of part-time faculty seems to focus on issues of instructor confidence, loyalty, and student satisfaction. Many question whether a part-time faculty member can deliver quality instruction and contribute to the community of learners as well as their full-time tenured counterparts. This dissertation explores whether peer mentoring is an effective means to increase confidence, loyalty to the organization, and student satisfaction scores among part-time faculty members.

Method. An ex post facto research design was used to explore the quality of a previous peer-mentoring experience and its relationship to several dependent variables. The sample was comprised of the eligible 600 part-time faculty who taught in the School of Business at a large, private, Christian, mid-western university. Data were collected using an online survey instrument, comprised of four subscales. After the data were collected, descriptive statistics were generated and a Pearson r was calculated and correlational matrixes generated to initially determine what, if any, significant relationships existed between the independent and dependent variables. Linear regression models were generated to answer the research hypotheses.

Results. One of the study’s major findings was the significant relationship that exists between mentoring and instructor confidence. Independent variables, such as age and gender, did not significantly affect these results. However, part-time faculty who taught for other universities tended to score higher in the measure of instructor confidence than those with experience teaching only for the University. While the fidelity or the quality of the mentoring program was not significantly related to instructor confidence, it was significantly related to institutional loyalty. This finding was independent of the type of mentor and the other demographic variables, including teaching at other universities. This was a surprising find, particularly in light of the way teaching at multiple institutions is portrayed negatively in the literature. Finally, the research asked whether part-time faculty members who received mentoring have students with higher means on end-of-course survey forms, which are used to measure student satisfaction. The data analysis revealed that no significant relationship exists between mentoring and student satisfaction scores. The research design and response rate (25%) limit the ability to generalize from these findings.

Conclusions. The research re-affirmed that mentoring is an effective management strategy. Part-time faculty members who receive mentoring tended to score significantly higher on measures of instructor confidence. The quality of the peer-mentoring experience did not appear to be as important as the fact that mentoring, in some form or another, occurred. In addition, teaching at other universities did not negatively influence the significant relationship between mentoring, instructor confidence, and institutional loyalty. Secondly, the quality or fidelity of the mentoring program seems to be important as it relates to institutional loyalty. While any type of mentoring could result in increased confidence, if the goal of the University is to develop a sense of institutional loyalty, then developing a quality mentoring program and fostering quality mentoring relationships would seem to be important. This study found no significant relationship between a faculty member’s self-reported perception of a peer-mentoring experience and the level of student satisfaction. That no relationship was found in the course of this study does not mean that a relationship does not exist. It could be that the instrument used to measure student satisfaction was not valid or that the “halo effect” influenced the student ratings. Finally, I developed subscales created to measure instructor confidence and the fidelity of the mentoring program, which have the potential to aid further research and administrators in the development of both professional development activities and organizational mentoring programs. Further research can use alternative strategies for improving the estimates of reliability and validity of these two instruments.

Subject Area

Mentoring in education--Research, College teachers, Part-time, Teachers, Part-time.

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