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08/08/2013

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Rachel

1. Your syllabi should look similar, but they don't need to be identical. Font and general formatting should be the same, but the layout and the content can differ, which includes things like how you set up the schedule.

2. This depends on what you're trying to accomplish with your portfolio and what sort of job to which you're applying. If they have specific teaching needs, and you have syllabi for those, absolutely include them. Your syllabi should be representative of your teaching, so only include a selection. 3 is a good number.

3. Yes, develop and include a syllabi for your AOS. You'll be asked about how you'd teach that course, so it's helpful to show that you've already thought about it and put it down in a prospective syllabus. This will come in handy during interviews, since you can refresh yourself by looking at the syllabus before the interview (and in some cases during!).

Anonymous

Rachel,

Thanks so much for your input. I figured I should draw up a syllabus for a course in my AOS for exactly the reasons you mention. So that's something I'll get to work on. I'll also think about tailoring the teaching portfolio to the job.

Do you think the materials should look similar for the reasons I mention above (purely for the sake of presentation) or are there other considerations you have in mind? Also, would 3 syllabi be too few if I were applying to a teaching school rather than a research school?

Rachel

3 should be fine for even a teaching school (I wouldn't do more than 4). You can always make them available online and indicate this in your teaching portfolio executive summary (and/or cover letter).

You want them to look sufficiently similar because it connotes professionalism and the sense that you know what you're doing. If they're all over the place, then this sends a problematic message about you and your work habits. But like I said, this doesn't mean they have to be *identical* but keep things like font and basic formatting decisions the same across the syllabi.

Marcus Arvan

Rachel: quick question. Are the syllabi supposed to be *full* syllabi (complete with classroom policies), or merely course outlines (i.e. course overviews plus reading/teaching schedule)? I've been advised to include something like 2-3 course outlines and only one full syllabus. Is this advice incorrect?

Rachel

Don't include the fine print (University/Department policies), but include *your* policies. Now would be a good time to revise any Draconian late assignment or email policies. Include full syllabi for each.

Everyone should also read www.theprofessorisin.com religiously.

Marcus Arvan

Thanks!

Roman

Okay, so now I'm curious about what people think about www.theprofessorisin.com. She had one post that insisted you should never ever do an edited collection. That worried me, since I was putting together an edited collection. A few months later, I saw a post by her that said you should never ever apply for a job using Interfolio for your rec letters. At that point, I assumed she was either completely insane or in a field so culturally different from philosophy that her advice wasn't worth taking seriously.

Or is she just right about some things and totally, horribly wrong about others? (The other alternative--that she's right about everything--wouldn't work for me. So let's leave it out as a possibility...)

Rachel

...she's right. Edited volumes should be left until post-tenure. They don't get you a job, they don't really count towards tenure, and they're a huge time sink. That goes for book reviews, too.

I haven't seen the post about Interfolio and letters of rec. I used it just fine. (Do you have a link?)

C.

How exactly the syllabi portion of a teaching portfolio is considered is an interesting question. My guess is that 90% of the syllabi are virtually identical. There might be some potential red flags (if I saw exams, no essays, I'd wonder a bit (unless it were a 100 person class say, or no consideration of gender in constructing a reading list), or if the syllabi just conveyed the wrong sort of attitude about students. But largely whether someone chooses to use a reader or a series of primary sources in an Ancient class is not going to likely matter much.

So although you might harm yourself by having shoddy or peculiar syllabi in extreme cases at least, I doubt there is a lot of upside to significant effort on them.

The only place where this might really matter would be upper level courses where the decisions might say a bit more about how you approach the topic.

But include sample syllabi for any relevant area of teaching, but clearly indicate which are hypothetical and which have been instantiated in courses.

For a teaching job, I think the reflective statement ("teaching philosophy of teaching philosophy") is where someone can stand out in a teaching portfolio.

Roman

This is the post that convinced me that she must be operating out of a somewhat distant possible world: http://theprofessorisin.com/2011/09/07/1499/

Edited collections are cool for all sorts of other reasons. Maybe they won't get you jobs. But what gets you jobs seems to be primarily things like pedigree and luck, and neither is something you have control over by the time you're on the market.

AGS

@Roman: If she is right (and her advice applies to philosophy as a discipline) this is deeply troubling. Given that the APA offers Interfolio (at least the initial account launch fee) free to graduate student members, that my university recently closed the office that handled recommendation letters, that my department placement officer spoke of signing up for Interfolio in a way that made it seem essential, that I can't imagine anyone other than (maybe) my dissertation adviser writing customized letters, I hadn't even considered not using Interfolio. I'd just been grumbling about the cost. My understanding was that schools do not anticipate receiving customized letters and was even told by one person that they might be viewed suspiciously (i.e. people may wonder if you wrote them yourself). I'm going to assume that Interfolio is the way too go, but if I'm wrong it would be good to know sooner rather than later.

Justin Caouette

Re: Edited Collections

I just finished one (I'm a grad student and not post-tenure as recommended by Rachel) and thought it was a great experience. Yes, super time-consuming, but valuable! I got to engage with a few of the contributors on a professional level(and others I will now have a way to break the ice with much more easily) and discussing the content with my supervisor(and co-editor)gave way to the ideas behind my dissertation proposal.

It doesn't look "bad" on a CV and if one is able to pull off a few publications to go along with it it's possible that it could make your CV stronger. It would show the hiring committee that you can publish your own work and do other projects. I would think an ability to juggle multiple roles would be an important asset to any department.

Rachel

Roman. I agree that she's off the deep end on that post...there's just no way letter-writers are going to take the time to *personalize* each letter for each application for each applicant. Maybe that's the ideal, but it's a mythical one. I got a TT job (and would have been offered >1 if I didn't pull out of some searches -- this is data, not boasting) and used Interfolio for most of my letters.

However, she's bang on about edited volumes (and it's not just her who has that opinion). No one's saying they're without any merit, but for junior faculty (or those not yet on the tenure track), your time is far better spent on publications and really locking down the quality of your application materials. Also, the job market is NOT just about pedigree and luck (unsuccessful people tend to want to think that it's just these two factors). That's not to say that pedigree and luck don't play any -- let alone a significant -- role, but they can be overcome. Again, I'm just such a person. (Non-Leiter ranked school, but lots of publications in "top 15" journals.) The big difference this year to my ABD year was more publications (but that shouldn't *really* matter if the median number is 1), tonnes of really successful networking, and *way* better application materials.

I think people sell networking short -- its importance is almost always underestimated.

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