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13. What else should I know about being effective as an adjunct faculty member?

THE SEVEN HABITS OF HIGHLY EFFECTIVE ADJUNCT PROFESSORS
(adapted from Richard E. Lyons, Success Strategies for Adjunct Faculty, 2004)
Richard E. Lyons created this inventory, based on Dr. Stephen Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (1989), to offer adjunct faculty a set of successful teaching and course management strategies. This set of guidelines is useful for any faculty member who wants to be a more effective educator.

Habit 1: Be Proactive
Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind
Habit 3: Put First Things First
Habit 4: Think Win/Win
Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood
Habit 6: Synergize
Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw



Habit 1: Be Proactive
Proactively fostering relationships with your students from the very first class meeting not only increases the effect of your teaching but also enables you to anticipate and manage challenges that commonly occur later in the term.

To be proactive, adjunct professors should:

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Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind
Because an adjunct professor's teaching contract is typically open to renegotiation at the end of each term, it is critical that you provide learning opportunities that fit the needs of the particular group of students in each class that you are assigned.

To begin with the end in mind, adjunct professors should integrate the following tactics into their teaching:

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Habit 3: Put First Things First
Staying organized and dividing weekly planning into two distinct steps—prompt evaluation and analysis of the previous class meeting and a separate planning session that looks ahead to the following meeting—will pay many dividends. Within the class meeting itself, effective professors focus on addressing the most critical concepts when students are physiologically receptive and regularly connecting activities and assignments to the course objectives.

To put first things first, the most successful adjunct professors will employ the following tactics:

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Habit 4: Think Win/Win
Although we have all likely seen an argument between a professor and student, we might ask whether any professor ever really "won" such an exchange. Using a "win/win" approach, where both the professor and the students can have a reasonable expectation of a “winning” outcome, will allow professors and students to achieve mutual success. Students who see the professor as a caring human being truly invested in their well-being will typically extend themselves to meet higher expectations, and also begin to internalize high standards for subsequent performance.

Sensitized professors who think "win/win" will regularly employ the following tactics:

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Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood
It is important to work on understanding the perspectives of the students enrolled in your courses. Effective professors have learned that they do not "teach a discipline" so much as they teach students, who have the potential to grow well beyond the multiple challenges they bring with them to the classroom.

Seeking first to understand and then to be understood is facilitated by employing the following tactics:

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Habit 6: Synergize
A professor who works toward synergy believes that a particular course should be more than the sum of its assignments, examination results, and classroom interactions, and thus thrives on the diversity that today's students offer. Each course section and class session should truly enrich the lives of students by giving them a foundation on which to build an understanding of subsequent academic work, life experiences, and personal insights. Achieving synergy in your teaching requires embracing Covey's first five habits to draw students in and make the course an individualized learning event, and then trusting students to develop the insights and courage to take their learning a step further.

To synergize, professors should employ the following tactics:

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Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw
In The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Covey relays a number of parables, including one about watching a man while he is sawing down a tree. The man admits to being at the task for more than five hours. When asked why he didn't stop to sharpen the saw, he exhaustedly exclaims, "I don't have time. I’m too busy sawing." Many adjunct professors become frustrated when their "tried and true" techniques fail with a particular group of students. Like the man sawing, many do not take the time to sharpen their tools. Citing the whimsical definition of insanity, they seem to expect a different result from doing things the same way they have done them a hundred times before.

In the last few years, research that employs technology to record brain functioning of humans while performing critical tasks has revealed some truly fascinating insights into how learning occurs. As professionals, we should invest the time to become familiar with at least some of this research and assess its ramifications on teaching and learning methodologies.

Adjunct professors who seek to continuously "sharpen the saw" might employ the following tactics:

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