THE CHALLENGE OF PRECARIOUS EMPLOYMENT PRACTICES ON THE DELIVERY OF QUALITY TEACHING AND LEARNING OUTCOMES IN HIGHER EDUCATION
The international higher education sector is increasingly reliant on precariously employed non-tenured academic staff. Such staff are variously labelled as contingent, part-time, temporary or adjunct and, in Australia and New Zealand, as ‘casual’ or ‘sessional’ employees. The international trend is that staff so employed now deliver a significant proportion of teaching load. There is evidence that in some universities the majority of undergraduate courses are delivered by such staff. While there is some evidence that these employees are typically committed to their teaching, their students and their discipline, there is little work on how their employment conditions affect the quality of teaching and learning. Most previous research emphasises the conditions and experiences of academics so employed rather than the impact of such employment practices on their ability to deliver high quality teaching and learning outcomes. Thus further research in this area is necessary since this group of academic is increasingly pivotal in the learning experience of a great many students, particularly in the early years of higher education. In this research project a population of 130 sessional lecturers, tutors and markers in the disciplines of business and law at an Australian regional university were invited to participate in an online survey to report on their perceptions of their academic development and support, their teaching practices, and their motivation and satisfaction with their employment situation. The impact of these factors on the ability of such employees to deliver high quality teaching and learning outcomes for students was analysed. The paper makes a number of recommendations of strategies to improve the inclusion and support of these key employees and their teaching practices in order to enhance the learning experiences of students.