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Needs, motivations, and identification with teaching: a comparative study of temporary part-time and tenure-track health science faculty in Iceland

  • Snook, Abigail Grover1, 2, 3
  • Schram, Asta B.2
  • Sveinsson, Thorarinn1, 2, 4
  • Jones, Brett D.5
  • 1 University of Iceland, Faculty of Medicine, 101 Reykjavik, Iceland , 101 Reykjavik (Iceland)
  • 2 Health Sciences School, University of Iceland, 101 Reykjavik, Iceland , 101 Reykjavik (Iceland)
  • 3 University of Iceland, Physical Therapy Department, Reykjavik, 101, Iceland , Reykjavik (Iceland)
  • 4 Research Centre of Movement Science, 101 Reykjavik, Iceland , 101 Reykjavik (Iceland)
  • 5 Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, Virginia, USA , Blacksburg (United States)
Published Article
BMC Medical Education
Springer (Biomed Central Ltd.)
Publication Date
Sep 11, 2019
DOI: 10.1186/s12909-019-1779-4
Springer Nature


BackgroundAbout 70% of teachers who instruct healthcare students are considered sessional (adjunct/temporary part-time) faculty and receive limited instruction in pedagogy. Sessional faculty may feel isolated and struggle with their teacher identity, and are often assumed to vary in their commitment, motivation, and ability to teach. However, research on teaching identity, motivations, and needs of sessional faculty is lacking. The aim of this study was to compare similarities and differences between sessional and tenure-track faculty across a health science school to guide faculty development for sessional faculty.MethodsWe developed an online needs assessment survey, based on informal interviews and literature reviews. Seventy-eight tenure-track faculty and 160 sessional faculty completed the survey (37, 25% response rate, respectively). We used validated scales to assess intrinsic motivation, identified regulated motivation, and identification with teaching, as well as developed scales (perceived connectedness, motivated by appreciation to try new teaching method) and single items. All scales demonstrated good internal consistency. We compared sessional and tenure-track faculty using t-tests/chi-square values.ResultsWe found similarities between sessional and tenure-track faculty in intrinsic motivation, identified regulated motivation, and identification with teaching. However, sessional faculty perceived less department connectedness and were more motivated to improve instruction if shown appreciation for trying new teaching methods. Sessional faculty agreed more that they desired pedagogy instruction before starting to teach and that teachers should invest energy in improving their teaching. Admitting to less participation in activities to enhance teaching in the last year, sessional faculty were more interested in digital formats of faculty development.ConclusionOur comparison suggested that sessional faculty value being a teacher as part of their self, similar to tenured faculty, but desired more appreciation for efforts to improve and perceived less connectedness to their university department than tenured faculty. They also preferred digital formats for pedagogy to improve accessibility, prior to and throughout their teaching career to support their development as teachers. Using this information as a guide, we provide suggestions for faculty development for sessional faculty. Supporting sessional faculty in the health sciences should improve the quality of teaching and positively affect student learning.

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