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A phenomenological study of the lived experience of work productivity among non-tenure track agriculture-based extension faculty at a research-intensive Land-Grant university

Tim M Lemmons, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


This qualitative phenomenological study was designed to gain an in-depth understanding of the lived experiences of non-tenure track, extension-based faculty members who have academic positions in research-intensive Land-Grant institutions, to determine how their positions affect their productive behaviors and actions. A review of the literature found gaps in the understanding of productivity, between tenure-track and non-tenure track faculty members, as well as traditional departmentally-based and extension-based members. Using a purposeful sampling method, I targeted nine faculty members working in agriculture-based extension positions, representing 41% of the eligible population set. The use of a phenomenological method provided an understanding of their lived experiences as they conducted their productive work lives. The central research question for this study was what role does productivity play in success for a non-tenure track faculty member working in extension agricultural fields within a large research-intensive, public Land-Grant institution? Participant interviews showed that non-tenure track faculty members spent the majority of their work time in outreach activities, and lesser time in activities related to research and teaching. Faculty members found that outreach and teaching activities provided greater levels of satisfaction and personal reward, especially with evidence of measurable or observed adoption of instructed principles. The study demonstrated a wide variety of research, teaching, and outreach behaviors that were largely self-directed with support from advising bodies, such as governing boards, committees, groups, and councils. The study revealed gaps in productivity relative to what faculty members considered was important, and what administrators collected as evidence of productive behavior. These findings have broad implications for non-tenure track faculty members, clientele, and administrators. Implications discussed demonstrate a need shift in understanding of the extension educator and work function. Extension educators must expect that impacting the lives of the clientele come at a price, to include the challenges of self-determination, academic ambiguity, and the opportunity of working within exclusive client communities; however, paying the price leads to personal and career growth.

Subject Area

Educational sociology|Higher Education Administration|Educational psychology|Organizational behavior

Recommended Citation

Lemmons, Tim M, "A phenomenological study of the lived experience of work productivity among non-tenure track agriculture-based extension faculty at a research-intensive Land-Grant university" (2014). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3667011.