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I, for one, would be very interested to hear from your two friends here as guest-authors. Before then, I was simply wondering about a general point they both brought up (and perhaps others will have insightful things to say as well), namely that to be competitive for teaching jobs one needs to have a lot of teaching experience. That of course makes perfect sense, but I simply would want to have a better idea on what “a lot of teaching experience” means in practice. If teaching one or two courses is not enough, how many will be? Also, how do “teaching schools” look at summer/winter teaching and online teaching? Does TA experience have any weight at all? In other words, for example, would fantastic TA evals offset a rather low number of courses taught as main instructor?


Interesting question. My guess is for teaching schools, TA experience doesn't mean a lot. I have found TAing is MUCH different from teaching your own classes. And it is much easier to be liked and receive high evaluations as a TA than an instructor. What might overcome this, is if you show in your materials that you are truly creative and innovative.

I have never served on a search committee, but if I was on a teaching school search committee it would be easy to hold lack of solo teaching experience against a candidate. It is easy to get adjunct jobs in the US, and if a grad student hadn't bothered to at least try teaching their own course, I would question their commitment to a teaching school. But that's just me.


Oh, and I would add that if you have taught your own online classes that is a big plus.

Marcus Arvan

AnonGrad: from my own experience and talking with my two friends, my sense is that TA experience matters very little. We are hiring teachers, not TA's, and the fact is, as Amanda notes, that TA-ing and full-time teaching (especially at my university) are vastly different. This is a really important issue people need to understand. I'm going to write a new post in the series on it.

In any case, winter and summer solo-teaching are good. Online teaching is okay, but only if you have experience teaching solo in the classroom. In terms of how many solo-courses is good, the answer: the more the better. One or two solo-taught courses is really not enough. A lot of candidates for teaching jobs have experience teaching a fairly good variety of courses (e.g. 5-7+ different courses). This is what people who want jobs at teaching schools need to shoot for: MORE. Amanda is an excellent case-study. I'm sure she stood out in the pile of applications as (seriously!), like, one of the *only* people who went out of their way to get teaching experience in grad school. It matters.


Thanks to you both, Amanda and Marcus. This is all really helpful. I must confess, though, I was surprised and perhaps even a little disheartened by the fact that you two seem to agree that TA weighs very little. Don’t get me wrong — at the end of the day, I think TA experience *should* weigh very little. I also think the point you both made that TA-ing and full-time teaching are *very*, *very* different is absolutely spot on. However, not only is it my experience that being a TA at my institution involves quite a lot of careful, creative planning and pedagogical training, for administrative and other reasons that I don’t fully understand, our graduate students do not get to teach their own classes that often (I’d say two or three would be REALLY high for us). This is perhaps too general a question, but other than teaching experience per se, is there anything else that might make a candidate stand out for teaching-oriented jobs?

Marcus Arvan

AnonGrad: I think your case is fairly representative. Many programs seem to go out of their way to prevent their PhD students from getting adequate teaching experience. This is something that needs to change. Or people need to do what Amanda did (and I did, to a lesser extent) and get teaching experience outside their grad program "under the radar."

In terms of your question, the answer is mostly 'no.' Teaching schools are looking for people with substantial experience teaching. Publishing consistently may help. So may taking on service opportunities. But anyone who lacks a substantial record of independent teaching will tend to be at a real disadvantage relative to those who have it.


How is your school ranked? If it is not a top 15, then you will probably do yourself good by trying to stand out in the teaching market. And even if your school does have exceptional TA training, which is great, my guess is (1) that will be hard to show in a cover letter/CV and (2) it is still not solo teaching experience. Go teach an adjunct course if you want to help yourself. I only taught 2 solo courses at my grad program, and the rest was at a state school 30 minutes away. The best way to do this is to look at state schools (or liberal arts schools, or community colleges - almost everywhere in the US there is one of these opportunities within a 30 minute drive) in your area, and go talk to the chair in office hours. This will for sure make you stand out and give you a very good chance of teaching a course right away. Those who send in a CV to a school will probably get an adjunct gig eventually, but it might take a while. It is those who are willing to go out of their way (by seeking out adjunct opportunities, and by making the point to see a chair in person) who get rewarded.


As far as what else besides teaching experience can make you stand out, doing things like workshops, cover letters that stress teaching, having gone to a liberal arts school as an undergrad and talking about that experience. I had a friend who got a job that way - she did not have a ton of solo teaching experience but had went to an institution similar to the one where she got a job. There have been other posts on this. But *usually* all these other things are what make someone stand out because they have that *and* teaching experience.

Anon International GS

I just wanted to thank Amanda for the tip about talking to the chair in office hours --- that sounds like a great idea. And thanks, too, for making more salient the adjuncting stuff in general!

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