Date of Award

Spring 2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Foundations & Leadership


Educational Leadership

Committee Director

Karen L. Sanzo

Committee Member

Jay P. Scribner

Committee Member

Petros J. Katsioloudis


The aim of this study was to explore the lived experiences of adjunct faculty to understand their roles and means for professional collaboration. The study examined how adjuncts engage and collaborate, professionally and informally, and what vehicles influence their growth. Finally, the study addressed how educational leadership preparation programs might be enhanced for relevant, continuous learning in order to improve instructional practices and the experiences of aspiring school leaders.

Using a phenomenological methodology, 27 adjuncts were interviewed from a university-based educational leadership preparation program in the southeast region of the United States. These in-depth interviews were transcribed and analyzed, using coding, bracketing, and memoing methods to glean concepts and their relationships. From this, three overarching categories emerged—culture, systems, and empowerment.

The findings from this study revealed that adjuncts engaged in collaborative learning activities through multiple modes to interact with one another, and with full-time faculty, resulting in networked learning communities, or, communities of practice, that expand beyond the university’s instructional personnel, the preparation program, and the educational leadership department. Serving in part-time capacities created challenges related to availability due to time constraints, university proximity, personal priorities, and other factors. The department examined in this study acknowledged these potential pitfalls, focusing on ways to invest in the adjuncts that would foster collaborative practices. The adjuncts felt connected, resulting in engagement. They grew professionally and integrated the learned skills into their instructional practices and practitioner roles.

The study concludes that professional collaboration can be established in complex contexts. Findings revealed the need for university-based leadership preparation programs to enhance their methods for delivering knowledge and passing information. The graduate program director was credited and revered for leading, prioritizing, and addressing stakeholders’ needs, purposefully and effectively. Community developed, allowing the instructional personnel to regularly interact and establish trust in order to discuss and resolve problems of practice. Lastly, leadership preparation programs must ensure that adjuncts are adequately equipped to teach courses by providing them with appropriate supports to grow. In an era of high-stakes accountability and demands for quality candidates entering the workforce, the need is critical to invest in adjunct faculty.


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