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A phenomenological research study was conducted to explore the intrinsic factors that influenced the job satisfaction of twelve adjuncts teaching field education seminar courses. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with the participants to explore their lived experiences. The study’s results indicate three emergent themes which influenced the adjuncts’ job satisfaction: 1. Professional Development, 2. Enhance the Social Work Profession, and 3. Work with Emerging Social Workers. In this article, the rich and thick descriptions of the results, implications for social work education, and recommendations for field education directors are presented.

Keywords: adjuncts, field education, job satisfaction

In higher education, a growing number of adjuncts, the part-time instructors, are being hired to teach in degree granting programs (Lyons, 2007).  More specifically, in social work education there is an increasing number of adjuncts hired to teach on campus and online to meet the enrollment and course offering demands. Many of the online programs rely heavily on adjuncts to teach across the curriculum (Rich, 2015). This is based on adjuncts’ educational backgrounds and extensive practice experiences. According to the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), nearly 90% of the faculty at for-profit institutions are adjuncts (Yeoman, 2011). In 2013, adjuncts accounted for two-thirds of the faculty workforce and 51.2% of the faculty in traditional colleges and universities in the United States (AAUP, 2013).

With a trend towards using adjunct faculty in higher education, social work programs are beginning to expand the roles of adjuncts as field education seminar instructors in traditional and online programs. While adjuncts’ contributions are many, historically, this faculty majority has endured levels of disparagement due to being marginalized and not as included in the academy as their full-time colleagues (Gappa, Austin, & Trice, 2007; Greive & Lesko, 2013). Umbach (2007) added that adjuncts have been counted as secondary entities in higher education. However, this faculty majority teach, mentor, and shape the futures of the great majority of students in American colleges and universities (Lyons, 2007).

Significance of the Study

Scholarly work has been conducted towards adjunct faculty members’ pay, benefits, and their marginalization in the academy (Baron-Nixon, 2007; Bergmann, 2011; Cashwell, 2009; Cunningham, 2010; Diener, 1985; Dolan, 2011; Edwards & Shepherd, 2007; Fouche, 2006; Gappa et al., 2007; Gappa & Leslie, 1993; Green, 2007; Hoyt et al., 2008; Kayworth & Leidner, 2001; Leslie & Gappa, 2002; Lyons, 2007; Scott, 2010; Truell, Price, & Joyner, 1998; Wallin, 2005). Further, more recent studies have been conducted on adjuncts’ teaching best practices and classroom management (Greive & Lesko, 2013; Hammond, 2014; Post, 2012).  In social work education, extensive scholarship has guided the functions of field education directors and coordinators (Bogo, 2005; Hunter, Moen, & Raskin, 2015; Knight, 2001; Teigiser, 2009; Zosky, Unger, White, & Mills, 2003; Wayne, Bogo, & Raskin, 2006). However, there are no studies known to the author that examine the job satisfaction of adjuncts teaching field education seminar courses in the United States. However, the 2014 Annual Statistics Social Work Education Survey, which centers on collecting annual data on social work programs and its faculty, reported that 2,221 adjuncts teach in undergraduate social work programs and nearly 4,000 teach in master’s level social work programs (Council on Social Work Education [CSWE], 2015). To this end, there is a growing number of adjuncts teaching in social work education while limited research is being conducted to explore their job satisfaction and impact on field education instruction.

Literature Review

The first scholarly work centered on adjuncts was conducted by Tuckman (1978), nearly 4,000 adjuncts were studied in an effort to explore their work and rationale for teaching in a part-time role in traditional higher education institutions. The findings concluded that adjuncts were members of diverse segments of the society. Some adjuncts self-identified as semi-retired, meaning they worked as adjuncts with no interest in full-time appointments, while others self-identified as part-mooners, meaning they taught as part-time instructors while working other jobs outside of academe. Tuckman (1978) defined adjuncts as faculty teaching on a part-time, temporary, at-will, or contingency basis.

Gappa and Leslie’s Taxonomy

The original work on adjuncts led by Tuckman (1978) and Biles and Tuckman (1986) was extended by Gappa and Leslie (1993). The scholarly work of Gappa and Leslie (1993) presented the challenges encountered by adjuncts, including: a sense of feeling invisible, receipt of low pay, being underappreciated, lack of support, and assignments of courses with little notice prior to the first day of class.

Adjunct Support

In a study centered on adjunct support, Ballantyne, Berret, and Harst (2010) found that college administrators, department chairs, and full-time faculty provided limited support and engagement to adjuncts. The study findings indicated that adjuncts were encouraged to attend departmental meetings; however, meetings times and dates were not clearly communicated to the adjuncts. Ballantyne et al. (2010) concluded that support and communication should improve and it begins with the administrators, departmental chairs, and full-time faculty presenting a change in their attitudes towards adjuncts. According to Scott and Edwards (2012), adjuncts are in need of support from their institutional leaders and colleagues.

Thirolf (2012) study explored adjuncts’ identities, and found that adjuncts reported their greatest joy was the interactions with students, and not administrators and full-time faculty. The study reported there were deficiencies concerning adjunct faculty communication with full-time faculty due to a lack of interaction and professional development offerings. Overall, there was disconnect between adjuncts and their full-time faculty colleagues.

In a qualitative research study exploring the work experiences of 28 adjuncts, Dolan (2011) found that adjuncts felt a sense of ambiguity, lack of shared governance in their departments, and limited communication from department and university leadership. As a recommendation, Dolan (2011) suggested that college administrators and program leaders should provide regular (not occasional) meetings, which include adjuncts.

Adjuncts in Social Work Education

According to the 2014 Annual Statistics Social Work Education Survey (CSWE, 2015), there are 499 baccalaureate (BSW) programs, 233 master-level (MSW) programs, five doctor of social work (DSW) programs, and 75 philosophy of social work (PhD) degree programs in the United States and its territories. A great majority of programs responded to CSWE’s survey, which centers on collecting annual data on social work programs and its faculty. The response included 98.8 % (n=493) of the BSW programs, 99.1% (n=231) of the MSW programs, 80% (n=4) of the DSW programs, and 92% (n=72) of the PhD programs. Of the participating schools, 433 institutions shared insight on adjuncts. The participating institutions reported that 2,221 adjuncts teach in the their BSW programs, 3,958 adjuncts teach in MSW courses, and 50 adjuncts teach doctoral level courses (PhD or DSW). The survey indicates there is a need for further research on adjuncts teaching in social work education programs.

Benefits of Adjuncts

Hiring part-time faculty provides benefits to the colleges where they are employed. For example, the adjunct faculty include those that are recent graduates who bring fresh ideas, conversations, and the latest news from graduate programs to the students and established professors (Fagan-Wilen, 2006; Greive & Lesko, 2013). Adjuncts are excellent teachers combining enthusiasm and an innovative spirit with a serious scholarly outlook (Greive & Lesko, 2013).

While research shows that adjuncts have historically been hired last minute or just before the start of a term (Rifkin, 2000), a key benefit of using adjuncts is their flexibility (Gappa et al., 2007; Gappa & Leslie, 1993; Greive & Lesko, 2013; Wallin, 2005). One of the greatest advantages of flexibility is the institution’s ability to quickly adapt to varying enrollment demands (Gappa et al., 2007). Employing adjunct faculty allows institutions to hire with short notice and have teachers in the classrooms the same day or night (Gappa et al., 2007).

Theoretical Framework

Herzberg’s Two-Factor Theory was the theoretical framework used in this current study. The Two-Factor Theory provided a quality perspective on the intrinsic factors which influence workplace experiences of adjuncts (Riley, 2012). The Two-Factor Theory allowed the author of this study to explore intrinsic factors that impacted the adjunct participants’ instruction in field education courses. According to Herzberg, Mausner, and Synderman (1993), intrinsic factors lead to job satisfaction when they are not addressed in the workplace. Examples of intrinsic factors include: achievement, recognition, the work itself, responsibility, and personal growth and advancement (Herzberg et al., 1993; Riley, 2012).


This phenomenological study was conducted to explore the factors that influence social work adjuncts’ teaching. Widely used by qualitative researchers as a philosophical component in social science (Creswell, 2013, p. 77), the author of this study sought to explore the lived experiences of adjuncts teaching field seminar courses in social work programs in the United States. This approach provided the author with the opportunity to establish what an experience means for the adjunct participants and gain comprehensive descriptions of the phenomena (Moustakas, 1994, p. 13). Further, the decision to use phenomenology as a methodology ensured the experiences of the participants would be explored as they openly reflected on professional workplace factors which impacted their teaching of a field education seminar.

Two research questions guided the study: What are the work experiences of adjuncts teaching field education seminar courses? What factors influence the work experiences of adjuncts teaching field education seminar courses?


The author received Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval in August 2012. Soon after, the author began recruitment of adjuncts to serve as study participants. A criterion-based sampling protocol was used to obtain participants. The following criteria was used to determine eligibility: 1. Teaching social work field education seminar course as an adjunct, 2. At least one year of social work teaching experience as an adjunct, 3. Willing to participate in a research study, and 4. Willing to participate in one telephone interview, which would be recorded for research purposes only. Twelve adjuncts comprised this study. This study is comprised of 33.3% (n= 4) men and 66.6% (n= 8) women with an average of 5 years of adjunct social work teaching experience. Further, 58.3% (n=7) of the adjuncts self-identified as Black/African American, 33.3% (n=4) as White/Caucasian, and 8% (n=1) as Latino/Hispanic.

Data Collection

Semi-structured in-depth interviews were conducted to explore the intrinsic factors that influenced the workplace experiences of the adjuncts in this study. In phenomenological studies, in-depth interviews are used to collect data (Creswell, 2013, p. 161). The semi-structured in-depth interviews provided this study’s author the opportunity to explore the lived experiences of the participants. The author developed ten questions, and allowed the participants to freely elaborate on each question (Siedman, 2006). The following are a few of the questions posed to participants:

What factors motivate you to teach as an adjunct in field education?

What are the factors that influence your teaching in a field education seminar?

How have these influences impacted you as an adjunct?

What are the challenges of teaching a field education seminar as an adjunct?

What do you enjoy about teaching a field education seminar as an adjunct?, a free and independent telephone service, was used to conduct the interviews. The interviews were conducted between November 2012 and March 2013. The average interview was 63 minutes in length.

Data Analysis

Phenomenological analysis was employed in this qualitative study. In phenomenology, there are highly structured methods used to systematically analyze the data (Creswell, 2013; Moustakas, 1994). The first step taken by the author was to reflect on personal experiences with the phenomenon to ensure a reduction in bias (Creswell, 2013). Next, the the twelve interviews were transcribed by the author, and then read aloud over two weeks. Each interview was read three times to establish a closeness with the rich data (Creswell, 2013). Afterwards, each transcribed interview was emailed to the appropriate participant for their review of accuracy and/or updates. One participant (8.3%) added content to her transcript related to factors that influenced her job satisfaction as a social work adjunct. Eleven (91.6%) participants emailed within eight days and shared their transcripts were accurate with no new data added. This qualitative technique, known as member-checking, provided an opportunity for each participant to verify the accuracy of the data collected in their semi-structured interview (Rager, 2005).

The transcribed interviews were further analyzed and coded using MAXQDA. Once uploaded in the qualitative database, the author reviewed each transcript again line by line to understand the phenomenon. During the second and third reading of the transcripts, the author employed memoing, and reviewed the notes taken during each interview. This process further immersed the author in the data, while creating notes in the margin of each participant’s transcript within MAXQDA. Next, the author developed a list of significant statements about each participant’s experience, while treating each participant’s data equal in its worth (Creswell, 2013; Thomas, 2006). The statements were grouped together into meaningful units to form the initial themes. Afterwards, textural and structured descriptions were developed (Thomas, 2006) with verbatim examples of the adjuncts’ lived experiences. Finally, the author wrote a composite description of phenomenon which created the essence of the lived experiences of the participants. This final analysis yielded three emergent themes.


The qualitative research standards for trustworthiness were used in this study (Lincoln & Guba, 1985). Initially, the author applied reflexivity to address any bias and past experiences with the phenomenon. In doing so, the author candidly reflected on personal experiences as an adjunct teaching face-to-face and online in social work programs. This personal reflection allowed the author to examine workplace relationships and personal assumptions as a means to establish this study’s credibility (Creswell, 2013, p. 251). Further, the author documented the highlights of the reflection, and reviewed the document, prior to conducting interviews with the participants.

To verify the accuracy of the raw data, member-checking was used. According to Lincoln and Guba (1985), member-checking is an essential technique in qualitative research credibility.  Additionally, the author developed rich and thick descriptions of the lived experiences of the participants which are presented in this study’s findings.


The twelve participants in this study openly discussed their adjunct teaching experiences with excitement. Overall, each was elated to have the opportunity to express how teaching informed their social work practice work and added value to their lives. One participant shared, “I can’t believe someone would be interested in my experiences as a part-time instructor.” The participants offered details and examples of their work experiences as adjuncts and appeared comfortable in discussing their experiences. Each participant shared they currently worked full-time as social workers, with an almost even mix between micro, mezzo and macro practice. One participant worked in private practice, and all held a social work licensure.

From the interviews and data analysis, three themes emerged: 1. Professional Development, 2. Enhance the Social Work Profession, and 3. Work with Emerging Social Workers. The themes aligned well with Herzberg’s Two-Factor Theory. The alignments are discussed in each theme presented below.

Professional Development

 In this study, professional development is defined as the participants’ learning opportunities to develop social work education knowledge and teaching skills. This theme aligns with Herzberg’s personal growth, which is an intrinsic factor. This factor, which can lead to job satisfaction, is defined by Herzberg and his associates as one’s ability to move onward and upward towards advancing their skills in a specific profession (Herzberg et al., 1993).

One adjunct shared, “My field education director provides an online portal where we can log in and find topics to use for our field seminar courses.” A new adjunct teaching in a baccalaureate program added, “When I started teaching at my college, I was given an adjunct faculty handbook. This book has saved my life! I use it as my go-to document when I have any questions about teaching and field education.” Other participants expressed that they are invited to faculty meetings and can attend online, or watch the recorded meeting at their leisure. A clinical social worker with five years of adjunct teaching experience posited, “I can earn my CEUs [Continuing Education Units] at my university, and I have a faculty mentor that emails the upcoming topics for my review. So, this makes teaching worthwhile.” One participant, who has taught as a social work adjunct for three institutions, offered insight on the resources her social work departments have provided. She shared, “Each college I have worked at has provided online training for field education faculty, ethics training, training on the social work [CSWE EPAS 2008] standards and best practices in teaching seminar courses.”  Another adjunct shared:

The level of support the social work program provides to the adjuncts is great. I havecompleted two graduate mental health counseling courses at the university at no cost.Where else can I get college credits at a top university for free? Teaching there has been a blessing to my social work practice and professional development!

There were overwhelmingly favorable experiences shared by the participants concerning the resources and support towards professional development and inclusion in their respective field education programs and social work departments.

Enhance the Social Work Profession

The second theme, Enhance the Social Work Profession, is defined in this study as the participant’s personal and professional contributions to the field education program. This theme aligns with Herzberg’s intrinsic factor of achievement. Herzberg et al. (1993) define achievement as success in completion of a task, problem solving, and seeing results in one’s work. More specifically, this includes the participants’ sharing of their practice experience, personal encounters in the field of social work, and a dedication to promoting social work best practices among social work students enrolled in their field education seminar courses. An adjunct with 8 years of teaching experience shared that he readily engages students in dialogue about his first year as a social worker. He reflected on this discussion:

I tell [social work students] it is ok to not know it all, but learn from your mistakes. In my first month on the job, I did not thoroughly document [client-social worker exchange] after home visits, and it required me to conduct additional visits with families. Families were upset that I was revisiting them to discuss topics that had we previously discuss just a few days ago. I quickly learned the value of slowing down, taking notes during the visits, and completing documentation immediately after a visit. This is an arduous task when you have back to back meetings and a high caseload. However, documentation is very important in social work practice.

The adjuncts in this study candidly expressed that they have an obligation to the social work profession to teach social work students the “right” way to practice and enter the profession. Based on their experiences, 91.6% (n=11) of the participants expressed the importance of sharing the challenges they faced as a new social worker. An adjunct that self-identified as White and lesbian shared, “I am honest with my students. It is important for them to know that the world is comprised of all hues, colors, nationalities and sexual orientations. Therefore, they need to understand that any issues they have about people that do not look like them, or act like them, will need to be addressed before working in our profession.” An African-American male that teaches a graduate field seminar course added, “I encourage students to volunteer at our state NASW [National Association of Social Workers] conference to learn more about the profession and to hear others present information on trends in social work. By doing so, students become engaged in the profession early.” In addition to the involvement and sharing of personal experiences, the participants presented information on how their professional work enhances social work education. One adjunct shared that she serves on the social work program’s field education advisory board. She added:

As the only Latina in the department, it is important that the program seeks new sites that are inclusive and innovative. I love my profession! So, sharing new possible sites with the advisory board and the field director is my way of helping out the program and promoting agencies that serve Latinos. I am proud to say, three students [enrolled in my field seminar course] are interning at sites that I suggested to the board.

Overall, the participants expressed a desire to promote the social work profession in their field seminar by offering practice tenets that advanced the well being of the students. These tenets included:

  • Managing a heavy case workload
  • Self care and Burnout
  • Building quality relationships with colleagues
  • Being friendly and approachable in the workplace
  • Understanding the workplace culture
  • Being flexible; applying theories that align to the mission of the organization, and not just those from the social work program
  • Exhibit professionalism at all times; an awareness of self in the workplace, online, and in the community
  • Honesty; share the truth with colleagues and clients and avoid promising any outcomes
  • Ask as many questions as need to the supervisors and experienced colleagues, instead of assuming what is a best course of action

Work with Emerging Social Workers

The third theme, Work with Emerging Social Workers, in this study is defined as the professional relationship between the participants and their students. This workplace factor aligns with Herzberg’s intrinsic factor known as recognition. According to Herzberg et al. (1993), recognition is defined as an act of notice, praise, reward and interpersonal relations of an individual, supervisor, professional colleague, peer, client [student], or general public (p. 45).

In this study, 100% (n=12) of the participants discussed that students were the leading reason they continued their work as an adjunct. An adjunct instructor with four years of adjunct teaching experience shared, “The only reason I keep teaching is because of the students. It’s not the money [chuckle], trust me.” Another adjunct pointed out, “The opportunity to hear the young students talk about social work with such admiration is exciting to me. It keeps me excited about my work with older adults and church’s prison ministry.” Additionally, the participants offered that they view the students as emerging colleagues and not solely as students in a program. One adjunct added, “I am counting on my students to go beyond the textbook, and challenge theory and case studies, so they can be at their professional best now, not when they graduate!” Another adjunct explained, “We must praise these students when they discuss the challenges they are facing in the practicum, and encourage them as colleagues (not as students) to keep their heads up and strive for excellence.” It was not enough to simply engage students, but the adjuncts were committed to building professional relationships with the students.

An adjunct with two years of teaching experience expressed, “I allow students to discuss family, work, faith, relationships, and course concerns in the field seminar.” She went on to explain:

By doing so, I am preparing students to be good coworkers and citizens. No one should feel as though their personal lives do not matter. Yet, we do have limits [laughing]. I do not want to hear all of the details, but to know there is a safe place to share thoughts in a professional way is important to me. It is not all about the grades. People need to be heard, and I want students to see me as their professional coworker in this process, and not only as their teacher. Students need to be lifted up and encouraged that they can succeed in social work practice. That’s what I try to establish in my seminar classes.

Additionally, the adjuncts discussed the interpersonal relationships with students. Each shared how their students motivated them to be at their best in the field seminar course meetings, and in their respective social work practice positions. One adjunct shared, “Students inquire about my private practice work. One student said that I am their role model.” Another participant stated, “My students motivate me to read more and apply theories from the class in my own work.”  An adjunct with one year of teaching experience shared, “The questions students ask about my work requires me to take time to inventory my agencies policies and to apply concepts that promote social justice in more innovative ways.”

The adjuncts appeared to see their students as colleagues that offered praise, respect, and recognition for the work the adjuncts are currently doing outside of their teaching. Likewise, the adjuncts praise the students for their practice skills demonstrated in the field seminar courses.  For example, one adjunct shared:

I have a social work blog, where students are invited to share their learning experiences. It is a great way for students to improve their writing, share their stories about the field experiences, and communicate with other students. On a monthly basis, I present one students blog entry to my class, and students enjoy this recognition. They love to see that their work is being acknowledged and being used to inform our seminar discussions.

            In this study, the participants expressed satisfaction in their work as field seminar adjuncts. While this study focused on twelve adjuncts, there are implications for practice that may serve helpful to the larger social work education community.

Implications for Social Work Education

            Herzberg’s Two-Factor Theory was the theoretical lens used in this study. Through the application of inductive data analysis (Thomas, 2006), the findings are congruent with this theory and its intrinsic factors that lead to job satisfaction. The implications in this study are targeted towards social work education in an effort to prepare programs to best understand the factors that influence adjuncts’ job satisfaction.

Intrinsic Factors       

The first intrinsic factor, Professional Development, could be characterized as a motivation factor, as it relates to personal growth (Herzberg et al., 1993). Personal growth is the workplace factor that includes one’s increase in knowledge based on education and services provided by the employer. In this study, 100% (n=12) of the participants expressed how their social work department provided orientations, professional development, or continuing education to ensure to promote their professional well-being as field seminar instructors. According to Herzberg et al. (1993), when employers provide work centered training, there is a sense of upward mobility, a feeling of status and an increase in work related skills. In this study, participants expressed how their departmental-led professional development training added value to their social work practice and provided essential tools to be at their best in the field seminar class. While adjuncts in this study were not seeking upward mobility in their work as adjuncts, they were seeking to be knowledgeable about the goals of the program, learning objectives, and teaching practices which were all new tenets for them. The training, orientation, professional development, and continuing education opportunities were welcomed, enjoyed, and embraced by the participants. To this end, social work education programs are enhanced when professional development training is provided and made available at times that work well with adjuncts’ schedules. For example, offering online training, recording the training, and emailing the training to adjuncts for their review are important factors to promote adjuncts’ job satisfaction. Conversely, to refrain from offering professional development training and not ensuring the training is easily accessible may lead to a lack of job satisfaction and thus, impact the adjuncts’ productivity in the field seminar courses.

Another intrinsic factor in this study was Enhance the Social Work Profession. This factor, which can also be categorized as a motivation factor, centers on achievement of a task, duty, or resolving a problem. In this study, the participants shared how they worked closely with students to prepare them for the daily demands of the social work profession by sharing their experiences. The participants took great pride in their teaching, as well as their modeling of professional behaviors essential to social work practice. The participants discussed how their institutions were amiable to them openly sharing their lived experiences, role-playing scenarios to demonstrate professionalism, and presenting pitfalls they experienced as newly minted social work graduates. Among full-time faculty this is best known as academic freedom.

Social work education programs are best served by affording such freedom for adjunct and student engagement, involvement, and communication that promotes well-rounded social work interns and graduates. In this study, 91.6% (n=11) of the participants were currently employed in social work, and openly shared how they enjoyed sharing their work experiences, challenges, success, promotions, and licensure preparation experiences. This level of engagement can only be provided by adjuncts, as they are both faculty and practitioner. A great majority of full-time faculty are centered on teaching, scholarship and service towards tenure and promotion. Therefore, it is prudent for social work education programs to embrace the adjuncts’ unique abilities to offer current practice, lived experiences, and mentorship in field seminar courses.

The third intrinsic factor was Working with Emerging Social Workers. This factor most closely aligned with Herzberg’s workplace factor known as recognition. According to Herzberg et al. (1993), this intrinsic factor centers on an appreciation, identification, and notice of others in the workplace (p. 45). In this study, the participants shared examples of how they valued their students as colleagues and emerging social workers, and not solely as students in a course. The participants expressed how they engaged the students in professional discussions concerning social work practice, the NASW state chapter conferences, and established a rapport with them. In doing so, the adjuncts overwhelmingly expressed a sense of connection and respect for the students, and the students, in turn, provided similar levels of recognition. In this study, working with emerging social workers was the most expressed reason to continue working as an adjunct. To this end, social work education programs should promote adjunct-student relationship building and recognize the contributions of adjuncts to promote job satisfaction in their social work education programs.


The first limitation is that the study was comprised of only adjuncts teaching field seminar courses. The results of this study provided insight on the lived experiences of twelve participants engaged in field education, and the core curriculum of a social work program. Therefore, the emerging themes may not align with the lived experiences of adjunct’s teaching practice, research, statistics, or human behavior courses. A study population that includes adjuncts from these content areas may offer a different set of research results in a phenomenological study.

Another limitation of this study is the data collection method. One semi-structured in-depth telephone interview and memoing were the primary data collection methods. An in-person interview may have yielded additional data about the physical workplace, to include, the classroom and adjuncts’ interactions between full-time faculty colleagues and their students, and review of the professional development training modules. These data collection methods may offer additional insight on the factors that influence adjuncts’ teaching in social work education programs.


To promote adjunct job satisfaction in field education, the author offers several recommendations.

Recommendation for Field Education Director

The undervalued adjunct is the largest faculty group in traditional and career colleges (Yeoman, 2011). Therefore, ensuring adjuncts are acknowledged, treated fairly, and given the opportunity to express their opinions are essential components to job satisfaction (Sweeney, 2009). Field education directors must embrace, engage and encourage adjuncts by recognizing their work in field education seminar courses and their mentoring of students. While there is a historical perspective that offers insight on adjuncts as marginal, temporary, and second-rate instructors, this cannot be the perception that social work education administrators have towards their field seminar adjuncts. Adjuncts bring a host of intrinsic experiences that promote the mission, goals, and well-being of field education and the social wok profession. For example, adjuncts in this study shared their lived experiences with students, encouraged students’ engagement in the NASW, and mentored students during the field seminar courses. This level of dedication must be celebrated, acknowledged, and promoted. Adjuncts are a viable asset in the academic culture (Gappa et al., 2007; Wallin, 2005).

Professional Support. In this study, adjuncts indicated their social work programs provided professional development training, orientation, and continuing education units. The training was viewed favorably by this study’s participants. Further, the training increased the adjuncts’ practice knowledge and teaching skills. Field education directors should develop training programs that are relevant to the needs of the adjuncts. The training should promote best practices in teaching a field seminar and provide professional enhancement (i.e. ethics and cultural competence training for continuing education units). In this study, one participant shared that their social work program provided online orientation for new adjuncts. The training included an overview of the Council on Social Work Education’s Education Policy and Accreditation Standards (EPAS) Core Competencies and practice behaviors, NASW Standards for Cultural Competence, leadership skills to employ during the field seminar course, and ethical decision-making. Similar training can promote the job satisfaction of adjuncts. A web-based training may be an ideal consideration to reduce cost of hosting an on campus training. The training can be conducted using a university learning management system or a free meeting asset (i.e. Skype, GoToMeeting, Adobe Connect).

Adjunct Committee. In this study, the participants expressed having good relationships with administrators and faculty. While this result is markedly different from the literature on adjunct inclusion, it is important that field education directors review how their adjuncts are engaged and included in meetings. Further, field education directors must be aware of the intrinsic factors that impact the job satisfaction of their adjuncts. One opportunity to promote the awareness would be the creation of an adjunct committee. The committee can be comprised of all social work adjuncts. The committee could meet once a semester or quarter using university resources or a free media asset (i.e. Google Hangout or During the meetings, adjuncts can be encouraged to communicate teaching practices, raise innovative ideas to enhance their work with students in field seminar, discuss any needs or concerns, present insight on resources that promote their best practices in teaching, and share personal insight on their teaching experiences and engagement within the program and university. At the end of each meeting, the key areas can be shared with the field education director for their review and response. Further, it is highly recommended that a faculty member, dean, chair, or field education director attend one meeting annually to share program related updates in an effort to promote engagement and inclusion of adjuncts in the academy.

By implementing these recommendations, field education directors are creating a collegial workplace for adjuncts and changing the historic narrative of adjuncts being marginalized and disconnected from their institutions and departments.

Direction for Future Research

With a growing number of social work programs expanding hybrid and online course offerings, and establishing fully online programs, it is recommended that scholars expand their research to include studies on adjunct faculty. Adjuncts bring real-world practice expertise and knowledge of the current trends to the classroom; however, their teaching acumen must be developed and nurtured. Therefore, further studies on the teaching, professional development, training, inclusion, engagement, and support of adjuncts would advance social work education and support the well-being of adjuncts.


The participants in this study indicated they were satisfied in their work as adjuncts. Overwhelmingly, they experienced job satisfaction based on the professional development provided by the social work program, the opportunity to openly share their lived experiences with students in the field seminar courses, and the opportunity to establish a rapport with students to promote professionalism in the social work profession. These three intrinsic workplace factors were supported by the social work programs and their field education director, and thus, led to job satisfaction and excellence in teaching.

This study should serve as a call to action for field education directors. Field education directors are called upon to promote adjunct engagement by providing professional development training that enhance teaching and adjuncts’ professional practice work. Further, field education directors should encourage adjuncts to share their workplace experiences and build professional relationships with students. By doing so, adjuncts are demonstrating tenets of the social work core competencies, personal enrichment befalls and ultimately job satisfaction is achieved.


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