Well, this is interesting: Adjunct professors make for better teachers than do tenure-track professors. Who knew? This finding comes from a study released by the National Bureau of Economic Research and the sampling population for the research was eight cohorts of first-year Northwestern University students. The study findings were even more pronounced among average to less-qualified first-year Northwestern University students. Fascinating, huh?
Here’s the abstract of the study on adjunct professors: “This study makes use of detailed student-level data from eight cohorts of first-year students at Northwestern University to investigate the relative effects of tenure track/tenured versus non-tenure line faculty on student learning. We focus on classes taken during a student’s first term at Northwestern, and employ a unique identification strategy in which we control for both student-level fixed effects and next-class-taken fixed effects to measure the degree to which non-tenure line faculty contribute more or less to lasting student learning than do other faculty. We find consistent evidence that students learn relatively more from non-tenure line professors in their introductory courses. These differences are present across a wide variety of subject areas, and are particularly pronounced for Northwestern’s average students and less-qualified students.”
But the study’s findings may not be applicable to all universities as Northwestern isn’t exactly your average university. Northwestern is among the most highly selective colleges in the nation so the sampling population isn’t going to be the same as at other less selective colleges throughout the country. Anyhow, does your intuition support the study’s finding? Did you learn more from adjunct professors than from tenure-track professors? Do you think that one of the reasons this might be true is because tenure-track professors are more invested in their research than their students? Let us know your thouhts on the subject by posting a Comment below. And read what “Inside Higher Ed’s” Scott Jaschik has to say about the adjunct professor study.