Degree Date


Document Type

Dissertation - Public Access

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Academic Discipline

Community College Leadership


This mixed methods study explored the phenomenon of job burnout among adjunct faculty at two suburban Illinois community colleges. The Maslach Burnout Inventory – Educators’ Survey (MBI-ES) was administered to adjuncts at both colleges to determine overall levels of burnout for the three dimensions of burnout – emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and lack of personal accomplishment. The results of the MBI-ES also allowed differences in burnout levels based on selected employment characteristics and teaching disciplines to be examined. Qualitative methods, specifically semi-structured interviews and document review, provided further insight into these areas. Qualitative methods were also used to investigate the risk factors for job burnout, strategies that prevent and address job burnout, and the role of adjunct unions in burnout prevention.

Overall, adjunct faculty experienced mean burnout levels that were similar to other postsecondary faculty. Elevated levels of burnout were observed among the following adjunct groups: (a) adjuncts who held part-time teaching positions at multiple institutions, (b) new adjunct faculty, (c) adjuncts who taught in transfer disciplines, and (d) adjuncts who taught lower level courses. Additionally, adjuncts who aspired to earn a full-time faculty position experienced early engagement that appeared to evolve into burnout as their full-time prospects diminished.

The challenges facing adjunct faculty are numerous and have been described in literature as relating primarily to compensation, resources, and involvement. Similar challenges, as well as others not identified in literature, were identified at the selected institutions.

Several of these challenges corresponded to the organizational v risk factors for burnout that arise when a mismatch exists between the employee and the job environment (2008). Namely, mismatches related to the following areas were observed: (a) workload, (b) control, (c) reward, (d) community, and (e) fairness. Several strategies that either addressed or prevented the manifestation of job burnout were observed. Individual strategies employed by adjuncts tended to address existing feelings of burnout while institutional strategies helped to prevent burnout from arising. Adjunct unions also helped to support adjuncts and prevent burnout through contract provisions and by creating a sense of community. However, the effectiveness of adjunct unions was limited by strict eligibility requirements and inexperienced union leadership.