Thursday, June 11, 2015

The Value and Contribution of Sessional Instructors - Diverse Expertise and Relevant Professional Experience

Great 2014 article by Usher on sessionals on the Higher Education Strategy Associates' Blog:

In the blog, Usher outlines reasons why sessional instructors are a growing proportion of academic staff in higher education: universities are paid to teach, and spend a great deal of time also doing research. The part that most interested me, however, was that in which Usher described two broad categories of sessional instructors: those who have full-time employment elsewhere and recent PhD graduates. This quote about the first category of sessionals resonates with my experience in our School of Education, especially the part where we are much better for their presence: 'First are the mid/late-career professionals who already make good money from full-time employment elsewhere, and who help provide relevant, up-to-date content based on practical experience in programs like Law and Nursing. For them, sessional teaching is a way to pick up an extra cheque, and maybe have some fun doing it. Outside Arts & Science, this is the dominant model of sessionals, and universities are much the better for their presence".  The second category of sessionals include recent PhD graduates looking to get a tenure track position in academia.

The blog resonated with me because I am privileged to work alongside a cohort of sessional instructors in Graduate Programs in Education, and I make these observations about my highly valued colleagues:

· The majority of GPE Sessional instructors hold full time employment elsewhere, and teach one or two courses per year with Werklund School of Education.

· Contrary to the national public discourse on sessional colleagues as under appreciated, underpaid individuals who “want to be on the tenure track”, the sessional instructors who teach in GPE are not seeking a tenure track position and they report high levels of satisfaction in their teaching roles, experience success in their teaching, and feel valued for what they contribute to graduate students' learning and development

· Each of our sessional instructors bring deep expertise in their discipline, broad experience in their profession, and current knowledge and highly relevant insights from their employment elsewhere, all of which greatly enriches and expands our graduate program offerings

· Sessional instructing also offers diverse and expanded opportunities for our doctoral students to develop teaching experience in higher education, as well as contribute their unique expertise and diverse strengths to the graduate program.

I encourage you to read Usher's blog - it offers a different perspective on the debate about sessional instructors.

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