Pressures faced by faculty


It’s been a tough few years for college instructors, but, in general, faculty still largely enjoy their jobs and remain committed to helping students, according to a white paper by edtech provider Cengage. However, those who are not happy with their jobs are considering leaving.

Some 64% of surveyed faculty indicate they are satisfied in their current position, with 88% of them noting that teaching, helping and mentoring students are among the most satisfying parts of the job, according to the report. However, more than one-quarter (26%) say they were dissatisfied. Of those, more than 70% have considered a career change in the past six months.

Unlike those who still enjoy their jobs, those who expressed dissatisfaction had many reasons:

  • 29% of dissatisfied faculty say they feel unsupported by their institutions or under pressure from the administration.
  • 28% say they feel undervalued or underpaid.
  • 17% say they have a hard time managing multiple course modalities (a challenge cited by both satisfied and dissatisfied faculty).
  • 16% struggle with a lack of student accountability and dishonesty.

Researchers spoke with 1,024 faculty members from 581 two- and four-year institutions, with instructors from two-year institutions comprising 31%. The research participants were largely white (77%), with Latino/Hispanic participants comprising 8% and Black/African-American participants 2%. Most of the instructors were full-time professors (56%), with 18% adjunct professors.

Changing roles and more work

About four in five faculty members indicated that their role as educators changed compared to three to five years ago, with 41% noting that it changed significantly, the report says. During the pandemic, teaching shifted from face-to-face to virtual and hybrid learning, which forced instructors in many instances to use new modalities, platforms and digital tools. That brought additional pressure.

In fact, managing modalities was cited as the most challenging experience for 55% of faculty, followed by producing creative content and lectures (27%), maintaining constant communication with students outside of class time (21%) and adapting around new student expectations, such as extended deadlines (19%).

With the shifting workload, Cengage looked at what responsibilities are taking more time for faculty and what areas are getting less of faculty’s time. Nearly three-fourths (73%) of faculty said they were spending more time on online course setup. About 56% said they were spending more time creating lectures, articles, videos and activities. Another 52% said they were spending more time communicating with students about course content.

Fewer faculty felt they were spending less time on any tasks, but of those who did:

  • 18% said they were spending less time teaching, whether in-person, virtually or hybrid.
  • 13% said less time was going toward attending faculty meetings.
  • 12% said they were spending less time creating syllabi/selecting materials.

Focus on adjunct faculty

Cengage took a closer look at adjunct faculty, who typically have to balance their teaching with another job. The report says that, compared to other faculty members, adjunct professors especially struggle with lower job/pay security, decreasing course load and a lack of support when moving their classes online. Nearly one-quarter (23%) of adjunct faculty said they taught fewer courses than before, a significantly higher percentage than other faculty types, the report says.

The report also cites 2022 AFT research about adjunct faculty that shows 93% of surveyed online-teaching adjuncts said they were not compensated for their time spent training. Nearly half (48%) stated they would not know their teaching status until a month before the start of the semester. And one in five adjunct faculty reported not being able to cover basic monthly expenses.

The Cengage report also had a special focus on women faculty, finding that 82% of women faculty say their workloads have increased, compared to 70% of men. More women professors say they have felt overworked and overwhelmed than men. Women also are more likely than male peers to take on the role of mentor or advisor, and — along with faculty of color and gender-nonconforming faculty — tend to do more service on committees and step up to help students in non-academic ways, the report says.

About the Author

Matthew Dembicki
Matthew Dembicki edits Community College Daily and serves as associate vice president of communications for the American Association of Community Colleges.