Higher education recognizes the value of hiring professionals with practitioner expertise and strong field experience. Recent studies have shown that most academics are employed on a part-time basis. However, there is a void in the social work literature examining the types of mentoring supports identified as needed by adjuncts. Often universities provide little support beyond a syllabus, textbook, and administration details. This paper examines the blueprint of a successful mentoring approach. The research attempts to bridge a fissure in the social work academy by presenting the unique mentoring experiences of three social work educators in Australia, to enhance the engaged teaching and learning of adjunct staff. We aim to leverage our insider perspective, highlighting what worked well, lessons learned, and offering suggestions for future education-mentoring teams to answer the question: what are the experiences of and what can be learned by mentees and mentor engaged in a co-tutoring role, teaching a social work unit?
The framework for our discussions was de Lauretis’ (1991) queer theory which moved us from the dominant discourse around lead faculty teacher and adjunct relationships to supporting what some have defined as a radical experience to disrupt and deconstruct the social work education hegemony. This qualitative study, involving collaborative, autoethnography, is based on the professional and personal reflexive practice of three social work educators, throughout one semester. Data were collected from weekly written reflections over 11 weeks and six ZOOM group discussions. which were recorded, transcribed and thematically analysed.
Three themes emerged from the inductive analysis:
Theme 1: Mentoring building blocks, the key tools needed to successfully implement the mentoring of casual educators resulted in eight sub-themes: (a) accessibility, (b) collegiality, (c) confidence, (d) empowerment, (e) power awareness, (f) solidarity, (g) customized support and (h) bonding.
Theme 2: Mentoring blueprint: Casual educator development highlighted adjunct development in teaching and working towards participation in research. This mentoring blueprint, a plan or direction, was aimed at assisting casual teaching staff to increase their potential for full-time employment. Three sub themes were: (a) teaching reflection, (b) practice reflection and (c) research reflection.
Theme 3: Mentoring strengths & challenges highlighted both aspects of the mentoring process with two sub-themes of the same names.
Direct quotes from the reflective logs provided researchers’ voice. Each theme is illuminated through sub-themes. Results demonstrate applicability to the overall development of social worker adjunct teaching staff to be a more effective resource in teaching social work students.
This study uniquely adds to the current body of social work research by highlighting key mentoring attributes appreciated by adjunct teaching staff as well as noting how the current system could more effectively support adjuncts for their role of educator. This paper is particularly important because it expands the social work discourse around providing teaching grounded in a competency-based curriculum that produces measurable outcomes. It specifically addresses the need to place more than a strong clinician in the role as adjunct faculty but a clinician who is also prepared to be an educator.