Tomorrow's Academic Careers
The posting below looks at the values, policies, and practices that govern the faculty hiring process at various community colleges. It is from Chapter 9, Now Hiring: The Faculty of the Future, by Donald W. Green and Kathleen Ciez-Volz, in the book, Hiring the Next Generation of Faculty, Brent D. Cejda and John P. Murray, editors. Number 152, Winter 2010. Jossey-Bass, San Francisco. Copyright © 2010 Wiley Periodicals, Inc., A Wiley Company. [http://www.wiley.com/] All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.
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Tomorrow's Academic Careers
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The Hiring Process for Community College Faculty
The process for recruiting and selecting effective community college faculty members remains a relatively neglected area of scholarly inquiry (Twombly and Townsend, 2008). Having surveyed the literature, Flannigan, Jones, and Moore (2004) conclude that little has been written about the hiring of community college faculty over the past fifty years. Similarly, Twombly (2005) remarks that a gap in the research exists about "how and where community colleges recruit faculty or what values and practices influence the hiring process" (p. 426). Conspicuously absent in the literature is information about how community colleges search for and select faculty members. That Flannigan, Jones, and Moore feel both "concerned and intrigued" by the paucity of scholarly books and articles compels other researchers and practitioners to explore the topic further (2004, p. 826). To address this concern, Twombly (2005) conducted a case study in which she investigated the values, policies, and practices that govern the faculty hiring process at various community colleges. Her definitions of these terms provide a useful framework for examining the selection process:
• Values-important principles in defining "quality faculty"
• Policies-written guidelines that shape the hiring process
• Practice-a regularly instituted activity, such as a required teaching presentation
Only by agreeing on core values, reviewing policies, and implementing standardized practices can committees conduct effective searches.
Just as recruiting skilled athletes represents the "single most essential ingredient" in a successful college athletics program, so also does recruiting talented faculty form the foundation for a "first-rate academic department" (Olson, 2007, online only). The search process, remarks Olson, is an institution's "one opportunity to assemble the ideal team." To achieve academic excellence, Olson says. institutions must recruit, hire, and retain excellent faculty; the search process therefore represents one of the "most consequential tasks" performed on campus. Hiring exemplary faculty members entails the following steps:
• Establishing the hiring committee
- Writing job descriptions and requirements
• Specifying qualifications
- Advertising the position
• Selecting individuals from the candidate pool
- Prescreening the semifinalists
• Interviewing the finalists
- Conducting reference checks (Murray, 1999).
Similarly, Flannigan, Jones, and Moore (2004) summarize the faculty hiring process in terms of an announcement of a position, a review of the applications, an interview protocol, and a selection of the leading candidate. Like Murray, Olson (2007) maintains that a successful hiring process begins with a selection committee that clearly understands its role: finding and choosing the best candidate after having determined the guiding values, policies, and practices. Once established, the committee must compose an advertisement that will attract applicants. As the institution's first communication with prospective instructors, the advertisement should clarify the college's mission and values while setting the stage for the ensuing process.
The interview traditionally represents the crux of this process. Flannigan, Jones, and Moore (2004), however, observe that both search committees and scholars have commented on the ineffectiveness of the interview model, which often fails to provide the depth necessary to determine the fit between the interviewee and the institution. Flannigan, Jones, and Moore further note that although the time-honored approach of crafting job descriptions and conducting interviews may lead to the hiring of a faculty member who is competent in her discipline, such an approach does not ensure that the new hire "possesses the ingenuity and passion needed to transcend traditional modes of instruction and provide new avenues for engaging community college students in the learning process" (pp. 824-825). Perhaps a deeper exploration of the hiring process will help committees evaluate a candidate's fit within the institution more effectively.
Several researchers have commented on the significance of fit-a term that merits closer examination. According to Murray (1999), the word fit implies that the candidate is well suited to both the position and the institution. Credentials alone rarely reveal an individual's abilities or indicate the fit between a prospective faculty member and the hiring institution (Flannigan, Jones, and Moore, 2004). Flannigan, Jones, and Moore maintain that a screening committee can assess fit by examining the compatibility of an applicant's values with those of the institution. Therefore, the committee must communicate the college's mission and values, as well as obtain information about the candidate's values. Twombly (2005) explains that fit refers to a candidate's sharing of the community college mission, knowledge of the service area, collegiality, and willingness to fulfill one's job responsibilities.
To determine fit more effectively, screening committees might develop an interview protocol with questions intended to elicit behavioral responses in terms of the candidate's previous experiences (Murray, 1999). Unfortunately, though, most selection committees do not undergo training regarding the use of interview questions to obtain the information necessary for making the best faculty selections (Flannigan, Jones, and Moore, 2004). Rather than present exclusively hypothetical scenarios about what a candidate might do if, say, a student could not attend class because of a conflict with work or child care, the committee might question the candidate about what she has previously done in such a circumstance. Interviewers will acquire a richer understanding of the candidate by posing behavioral questions, such as, "What did you do?" instead of, "What would you do?" These questions allow interviewers to gauge "how the candidate learns from mistakes, resolves conflicts, and solves problems" (Murray, 1999, p. 45).
Like the interview, a required teaching demonstration can play a pivotal role in the faculty hiring process. While admittedly a somewhat contrived process in which the candidate teaches before a jury of peers as opposed to a group of students in a real classroom setting, this exercise enables the committee to gain deeper insights into the candidate's teaching philosophy, persona, and practices. To assess the candidate's performance, the committee might consider using a rubric (an example is in the chapter appendix). This tool is admittedly limited in its usefulness because of the committee's brief observational period, yet it may provide a helpful approach for measuring the interviewee's teaching performance. Based on Chickering and Gamson's research (1987), this rubric focuses on teaching behaviors. While completing the rubric, the committee might raise questions whose answers it deems important indicators of effective practice - for example:
• Does the candidate exemplify qualities desired by the committee?
• Which of the seven practices emphasized by Chickering and Gamson does she apply?
• Do those practices support the college's mission? If yes, in what ways? If no, why not?
• Does the candidate appear to fit into the department and institution? If yes, in what ways? If no, why not?
Certainly a candidate's fit cannot be measured with an instrument alone but must also be determined intuitively-viscerally even. Perhaps, though, the approach outlined here will prove helpful during the hiring process.
To learn more about a candidate's teaching skills, committees might consider requiring a "first-day essay," like that to which Twombly (2005) refers. In such an essay, candidates explain the activities that they would conduct on the first day of class-arguably the most important day of the term. This essay could shed new light on an applicant's teaching philosophies and practices. Hiring committees might also ask finalists to share a teaching portfolio consisting of a syllabus, lessons, activities, assignments, and assessments, as Twombly observed at one college during her case study. A portfolio, whether in a printed or digital format, provides a more in-depth exploration of a candidate's approach to curriculum development, instructional design, and assessment, thus enabling the committee to assess fit more effectively. Such practices, when combined with the traditional interview, might facilitate the decision-making process for hiring committees.
Chickering, A. W., and Gamson, Z. F. "Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education." 1987. Retrieved July 29, 2008, from http://www.csuhayward.edu/wasc/pdfs/End percent20Note.pdf.
Flannigan, S., Jones, B. R., and Moore, W. "An Exploration of Faculty Hiring Practices in Community Colleges." Community College Journal of Research and Practice, 2004, 28, 823-836.
Murray, J. P. "Interviewing to Hire Competent Community College Faculty." Community College Review, 1999, 27(1), 41-56.
Olson, G. A. "Don't Just Search, Recruit." Chronicle of Higher Education, May 25, 2007. Retrieved July 29, 2008, from Professional Development Collection database.
Twombly, S. "Values, Policies, and Practices Affecting the Hiring Process for Full-Time Arts and Sciences Faculty in Community Colleges." Journal of Higher Education, 2005, 76(4), 423-447.
Twombly, S. and Townsend, B. K. "Community College Faculty: What We Know and Need to Know." Community College Review, 2008, 36(1), 5-24.