From police officer to part-time professor: making the leap into the college classroom.
Obtaining a part-time position as an adjunct faculty member at a local college offers not only prestige but a variety of benefits. Teaching enhances personal development and knowledge, reflects well on the employing police agency, provides intellectual enjoyment and stimulation, gives extra compensation, boosts the resume of an individual applying for promotion or retiring, opens doors to further career opportunities, and helps improve law enforcement by molding future personnel and leaders.
While they chose the allure of a job in law enforcement, veteran officers also can find opportunities to seek a teaching career. The quality and cost savings of adjuncts have colleges and universities turning to part-time personnel in growing numbers. And, reports have surfaced that current popular crime-related television shows have resulted in an explosion of undergraduate majors in the criminal justice field. (1) Clearly, a demand exists for knowledgeable, competent law enforcement practitioners.
Interested officers who can afford the commitment of time and energy required of part-time professors should investigate opportunities to teach. Information for these individuals to consider includes the history and effectiveness of adjuncts, how to find and apply for a job as a part-time professor, the basics of getting started prior to the first day of class, and how to grow and improve as an educator.
Part-time adjunct instructors have taught on college campuses since the 1960s. Unequal supply and demand in the community college market sparked this trend; the public's need for evening courses quickly outgrew the available faculty. (2) Administrators then turned to the professional workforce to fill the gaps.
Critical budget shortages in the 1980s coupled with increased college enrollment further boosted the use of part-time professors. Currently, adjunct faculty members provide 40 percent of the instruction at the college and university level in the United States. (3) Although the largest number of adjuncts teach primarily at 2-year and state-supported colleges, Ivy League institutions, such as Harvard University, also have employed part-time instructors to supplement their teaching staff. (4)
Compensation policies differ by school, and adjunct pay, typically on a per-course basis, varies from approximately $400 to around $4,000. (5) Also, generally, part-time professors receive little to no benefits. Further, they do not always enjoy a guarantee of continued employment and, perhaps, work on a semester-by-semester basis.
In many cases, adjuncts are considered outside the college system and typically have little say in curricular development, textbook selection, or governance of the institution. (6) Usually, full-time and tenured faculty handle these details.
Once thought of as secondary teachers, today's adjuncts have dispelled old assumptions that part-time faculty have less commitment, effectiveness, and credentials. (7) Some people argue that although adjuncts are less likely than full-time faculty to hold Ph.D.s, often they are better teachers because they have fewer concerns with curriculum planning and research. (8) Adjuncts also have proven prolific in publishing. (9) And, not only do students directly benefit from the rich real-life experiences of adjuncts but they also enjoy the cost savings realized by institutions through the judicious use of part-time instructors--the money saved on salaries can free funds for academic and capital programs. (10)
FINDING AND APPLYING FOR A POSITION
The Internet serves as an invaluable source for finding a position. For instance, colleges and universities post job announcements for open and upcoming part-time positions on their home pages. Frequently, community colleges accept resumes continually to fill projected and unanticipated openings. Other employment Web sites advertise jobs and allow users to search by major, position, or location.
Depending upon background, training, and professional experience, aspiring professors will have several fields of study to choose from and should not limit their search to criminal justice. Other areas worthy of consideration include homeland security, forensic science, legal studies, security management, communications, and public administration.
Institutions commonly require a master's degree in a related field for an adjunct position. However, some will substitute this requirement for a bachelor's degree attendant with sufficient progressively responsible police experience culminating at a middle management or administrative rank. Although highly desired, teaching is not always a prerequisite. Schools hiring law enforcement officers as adjuncts typically accept them as content experts with professional experience and skills, not necessarily specialists in pedagogy--in other words, highly trained teachers.
Prospective professors should remember that teaching experience can encompass a variety of on-the-job duties, such as public speaking (e.g., at community associations or Rotary Clubs), teaching at DARE functions and in-services, or earning credentials as a state-certified instructor. Those lacking any such experience may have to build skills prior to seeking an adjunct position. Visiting the criminal justice department at a local college is an excellent way to meet contacts in the teaching field, and many professors are eager to have current law enforcement practitioners in the classroom to guest lecture or assist with lessons. Not only do these avenues provide the needed teaching experience but they also build rapport that may eventually help an individual get started in the field.
When applying for part-time teaching positions, officers will find preparing a well-organized and thorough curriculum vitae (CV)--simply a longer resume than the usual 1- or 2-page summary of work experience, education, and skills--essential. A CV provides a more detailed synopsis, including the applicant's educational and academic background, teaching and research experience, publications, presentations, awards, honors, affiliations, and other pertinent details. A CV may exceed several pages. Many law enforcement professionals have not prepared a CV and, thus, will need to conduct research to become familiar with what it involves. In this regard, typing "curriculum vitae" into an Internet search engine will provide numerous Web sites offering descriptions, templates, guidelines, and free examples. The CV's breadth of information allows applicants the opportunity to explain all of their teaching-related qualifications and experiences, along with pertinent dates, that are not always appropriate on a resume.
After completion of the CV and related application materials, candidates typically will undergo an interview. Prior to this, they must take steps to learn about the institution. Law enforcement personnel can gain a lot of what they need to know by thoroughly exploring the school's Web site. They should determine, for instance, the institution's vision and mission; information pertaining to the criminal justice department, including key figures, such as the dean, assistant dean, and other department leaders; curricula--a copy of the college catalogue will outline the entire criminal justice program, including all courses, requirements, and areas of specialization; and characteristics of the student body.
Officers interested in teaching also can explore Web-based instruction. If unable to commit to 1 or 2 nights a week in a classroom, they may find this an excellent choice. Opportunities abound; for example, two online universities, Capella University and the University of Phoenix, offer undergraduate degrees in criminal justice and also hire adjunct faculty. Obviously, candidates must posses a working knowledge of computer applications and may need to undergo some prerequisite training. Capella University further requires prospective instructors to complete two online courses about teaching via the Internet and adhering to the company's philosophy of education. (11)
Those who have taught online have enjoyed the experience. Akin to teaching in the classroom, the sole difference has been in geography. (12) Communication with students occurs regularly, as does personal contact with each individual, something often impossible on a university campus. (13) Web-based teaching offers flexibility and participants have described it as intellectually and professionally invigorating. (14)
PREPARING FOR THE FIRST CLASS
Once hired to teach a course, officers will find that few colleges have an orientation program for new adjuncts. (15) The information obtained during the preinterview research will prove invaluable in preparing for the upcoming semester. New adjuncts must review course protocols and objectives so that learning outcomes, lectures, and class assignments will match curriculum goals.
A trip to the college campus becomes essential. First, officers should visit the criminal justice department to meet the faculty and staff and view available classrooms as to layout and accessible equipment. Also, they should tour the library and bookstore; professors will need the familiarity because they will have to use both facilities and provide directions to students unfamiliar with the campus.
Although officers will find that the greatest resource for preparation lies in speaking to other faculty members, they should obtain and study a faculty/staff manual, which contains important information to learn prior to the first day of class. Part-time professors must know the institution's policies and procedures pertaining to student withdrawal, grading, missed classes and late assignments, make-up exams, tests, tutoring, disability accommodations, and learning center resources. Also, adjuncts should know the teacher evaluation systems.
Part-time instructors may find that they receive less institutional support than fulltime faculty. (16) They may not have an office, e-mail account, voice mail, secretarial support, or even a mailbox. Armed with this knowledge, officers will be prepared for the minor issues that may arise. For example, they can schedule office hours to help students 30 minutes before or after class time in the classroom, library, or student lounge. This would help offset the lack of office space.
Typically, adjuncts will receive a course textbook. When schools do not provide them with a syllabus, they should request copies of several used in the class. Not only can officers use these as a template but the syllabi will provide an idea of what other teachers have done in the course. A search through the Internet can produce a variety of different syllabi online, as well as free templates, guidelines, and examples.
Textbook publishers will freely give a desk copy of their texts to instructors. Further, the local sales representative for the company will provide resources to assist with lesson plans and tests. Publishers also have settled on the information superhighway, providing an abundant supply of teacher resource materials on their Web sites. Individuals can easily access games, presentations, test generators, video clips, pictures, class assignments, projects, student handouts, and a variety of other helpful materials and use them in the classroom. These vast resources provide hours of classroom assistance and help increase student comprehension through auditory and visual stimulation. And, they are easy to use and incorporate into a lesson plan.
Once officers settle issues, such as class design and format and learning competencies, they need to address several more ancillary matters before the first day of class. These include obtaining a parking sticker and finding the faculty parking lot; securing appropriate identification; learning how to get to the classroom; knowing the location and phone number of security personnel (e.g., in case someone mistakenly locks the classroom); procuring access to a photocopier for class assignments; and becoming familiar with the storage and use of audiovisual equipment.
IMPROVING TEACHING COMPETENCY
Although adjuncts typically serve more as experts in content than in pedagogy, they still will benefit from a familiarity with different teaching theories and learning styles. For instance, officers should become familiar with "Bloom's Taxonomy," which identified educational goals and objectives that teach educators what students need to know and how they acquire information at the cognitive level. (17)
Officers also can find printed resources to help build their proficiency. These include books specifically devoted to the issue of adjunct teaching, although only a few exist, and several periodicals and journals.
Finally, informal, anonymous class evaluations can help. Because most colleges and universities prefer to administer these at the end of the semester, instructors do not receive the results until the course is completed. Obviously, this does not allow officers to fine-tune their skills during the class. However, an informal evaluation given within the first few weeks of the course and another given after the midterm can allow for a more fluid approach and permit teachers to actively improve their competencies.
Institutions have found adjunct faculty members valuable and have enjoyed not only the quality instruction they provide but cost savings. The demand for part-time professors results in a world of opportunity.
Interested police professionals should take advantage. They will have much to offer schools and their students. By sharing experiences gained working in the trenches, law enforcement personnel can bring a unique flavor to classes. Consequently, they will only improve as officers as they acquire a stronger grasp of the subject matter through the art of teaching. The police officer turned professor serves the community in a dual role--protecting citizens by day and shaping the future of law enforcement by night.
A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.
(1) Carolyn Butler, "A Good Time to Study Crime," U.S. News and World Report: America's Best Graduate Schools 2006.
(2) William Wickun and Rock Stanley, "The Role of Adjunct Faculty in Higher Education"; retrieved from http://mtprof.msun.edu/Win2000/Wickun.html.
(4) John Hickman, "University Professors Get Outsourced"; retrieved from http://www.landiss.com/teaching/outsourced.htm.
(5) Supra note 2.
(6) Barbara Wyles, "Adjunct Faculty in the Community College: Realities and Challenges," New Directions for Higher Education 4 (Winter 1998): 89-93.
(8) Supra note 4.
(9) Supra note 4.
(10) Supra note 2.
(11) Bill Brown, "Life as a Virtual Adjunct"; retrieved from http://www.aasa.org/publications/saarticledetail.cfm? ItemNumber=2041.
(12) Kimberly Reeves, "Online Adjuncts"; retrieved from http://www.aasa.org/publications/saarticledetail.cfm?ItemNumber=2039&snItemNumber=950&tnItemNumber=951.
(13) Supra note 11.
(14) Supra note 12.
(15) Denise Dedman and William Pearch, "Perspectives on Adjunct and Other Non-tenure Faculty"; retrieved from http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa4057/is_200404/ai_n9348886.
(16) Supra note 4.
(17) For additional information, see http://chiron.valdosta.edu/whuitt/col/cogsys/bloom.html.
By TRACEY G. GOVE, M.P.A.
Detective Sergeant Gove, of the West Hartfot, Connecticut, Police Department, is an adjunct faculty member at member at Briarwood College in Southinton.
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|Author:||Gove, Tracey G.|
|Publication:||The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin|
|Date:||Apr 1, 2007|
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