In the comments section of our most recent "How can we help you?" post, a Fourth-Year grad student asks:
Discussion of the following might be helpful. So far I have taught intro to philosophy for two semesters. I am a fourth-year Ph.D. Candidate at a so-called top 20 program. I teach at a state school. The first semester I taught, the department didn't review my teaching because of internal issues. This philosophy department is actually brand new. So, I only have a teaching review for one semester. Will the fact that I only have one review even though I've taught two semesters hurt me if I go on the job market this fall?
Although it is not entirely clear whether the reader means student reviews or a faculty review of their teaching (I assumed it is the latter), I think there are some interesting issues to discuss here.
First things first: my own reaction to the reader's main question is that it is likely to make very little difference whether they have only one (as opposed to two) reviews. It's just not a very large sample either way. Hiring committees at research institutions are, it seems to me, unlikely to care much about the issue--but teaching institutions are likely to think that the sample is small either way (having been on two hiring committees, one or two semesters teaching seems very light on teaching experience to me). This isn't to say that someone like 'Fourth-Year' couldn't be competitive for teaching jobs with their level of experience (I think they could); it is just to say that a couple of semesters teaching is a bit light!
This brings me to two broader questions.
First, I'm a bit curious as to why the student's program has given them so few teaching opportunities. Is their experience normal? They mention their department is brand new--but I'm curious: how much teaching experience do grad students normally receive these days? Given how difficult the job-market is, I think it would behoove grad students and grad departments to help candidates get as much teaching experience as they reasonably can (for my part, I either TA'd or taught a course every semester at both PhD programs I was in--which seems to me a good practice for programs to have).
Second, I'm curious about faculty reviews of teaching: how seriously are they taken by hiring committees? Offhand, I guess I have my doubts. Seems to me that faculty reviews of teaching will either tend to be glowing (in which case one might wonder how objective it is, since a person's grad program has a vested interest in the candidate's success), or, if it is not glowing, a red-flag of sorts against the candidate. Anyway, I'm curious in part because I've never given it much thought (I never included faculty reviews in my own teaching portfolio!).
What do you all think?