|Abstract or Summary
- Background: Previous studies suggested that the professional identity of community college faculty
is less than clearly articulated. Lack of clarity with regard to professional identity may have
impacts in a number of areas, including recruitment, professional development, and the overall
reputation of community colleges.
Purpose: To examine how community college faculty members articulate their professional identity
and how the discourse around that professional identity affects the social reality of community
college faculty members.
Setting: Interviews were conducted at “typical case” community colleges in Washington and Oregon:
institutions with an annual full-time equivalent (FTE) enrollment of between 3,000 and 10,000 FTE,
with a mission mix in which academic transfer students formed the largest percentage of annual
enrollments, followed by career and technical education, and then pre-
Subjects: Fifteen faculty members were interviewed at three community colleges. Faculty
members were full-time, tenured teaching faculty.
Research Design: Qualitative interviews using a semi-structured question matrix; the question
matrix was designed to elicit responses related to elements of social identity theory.
Data Collection and Analysis: Face to face interviews were conducted on college campuses. Audio
recordings were collected, transcribed, then coded using computer-assisted qualitative data
analysis software. Coded excerpts were grouped into prominent themes.
Findings: Five primary themes were identified from the interview data.
• Participants became community college faculty members through an accidental or unexpectedly
changed career path.
• Teaching was the most salient role feature for community college faculty.
• Being involved in a significant committee, professional development project, or other work
group was often cited as a marker of professional identity development.
• Autonomy, freedom, and flexibility were prominent values attached to the professional roles.
• Community college faculty articulated a strong sense of mission; however, that sense of
mission tended to vary between three values—a traditional academic paradigm, a workforce
development paradigm, and a social justice/student empowerment paradigm.
Conclusions: While teaching was the most salient role feature for community college faculty, most
had little or no professional training for that role. In addition, the accidental career path that
most faculty members experienced may contribute to a sense of luck or randomness that prohibits
serious self-examination of the professional role. The strong value placed on autonomy and
flexibility by community college faculty members may also inhibit examination of the
professional identity. The social identity constructed by the discourse of community college
faculty seemed weakly defined from the perspective of social identity theory.