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I've only served on a search committee once, but I second Marcus's claims regarding originality. It's surprising how few people can give concrete examples of original pedagogical practices. So when you finally do come across one, it really stands out. One thing that I know others find annoying (though I don't mind so much) is when applicants make a point of noting that they always make an effort to remember their students' names. I know that not everyone actually *does* (or realistically *can*) do this in practice. However, my understanding is that it's generally expected of educators that they do this. Someone's seeing fit to mention it on their teaching statement therefore makes it sound like they take something that is generally expected to be special/supererogatory.


don't do these things:

-be critical of your students, or students today, or kids today

-be critical of other teaching styles, teaching trends, and certainly not other teachers

-make blanket statements against the use of technology in the classroom, or against teaching class without technology.

-in general, be positive, thoughtful, and interesting.

Marcus Arvan

Amanda writes: "[don't] make blanket statements against the use of technology in the classroom, or against teaching class without technology."

I strongly second this. Some search-committee members are super 'pro-technology'. However, other search committee members can be very *anti*-technology (seriously!), even going so far as to think that technology has ruined education. It's a bad idea to alienate either type of reader. It's fine if you use (or don't use) technology. Be honest! Just don't assume that everyone does (or should) share your views or approach to teaching.


While I haven't yet served on a hiring committee, we have hired several folks since I've been at my current position. I think that something that is important at a teaching focused job or department is that you can demonstrate how you adjust to meet the demands of a particular course of body of students. Obviously, if you haven't had to do this, you probably can't address it. But if you have taught many classes at all, chances are you have made some adjustments if you really think about it. A couple concrete examples--even small adjustments--can demonstrate to the committee that you are a thoughtful and creative educator.


Along the lines of the technology stuff Marcus and I mentioned, if you ban cell phones or laptops, I think the odds are in your favor to not mention it. (In the cover letter nor in the sample syllabi, nor teaching statement) It is, again, one of those issues that people feel very strongly about, and it is best not to risk pissing somebody off so much that you are in their "I very much do not want to hire them" category. On the other side of things, if someone agrees with the bans, you mentioning it might make them slightly more favorable on their scale, but I don't think it would do nearly as much positive as the opposite would do negative.

Once you are hired, go ahead and ban technology if you want, but you need to *get* hired first.


How might a paragraph like the following come across to potential SC members:

"Moreover, one important principle I have learned the longer I have taught is to try and make sure students know why they are being asked to complete certain assignments. In other words, transparency in terms of connecting class assignments to learning outcomes is crucial. One important learning outcome for most introductory courses I teach is: “Develop the ability to read, understand, and engage with philosophical texts.” One might accomplish this through simply assigning readings from class texts, but in my experience, unless students are given some kind of incentive to do the readings, they are less likely to do so, especially with material as unfamiliar to them as philosophy is most likely to appear in the general education classroom. I therefore write 3 homework questions that go along with each class’s reading. These serve two functions: incentivizing reading and guiding students towards the most important elements from the reading. Students have responded by suggesting they appreciate the opportunity to know what to look for as they read and that they are more informed during class discussions themselves."

Is something like assigning homework questions too bland or ordinary to stand out?

Marcus Arvan

Anon: the point about transparency is good. My own experience is that students benefit from and tend to work harder when they know the pedagogical rationale of the assignments they are required to complete. So I think that part of what you wrote looks thoughtful and experienced--and that search committee members at teaching places may be apt to think so too.

But let me ask you a question (which isn’t clear from what you wrote): are students’ answers to the homework questions graded, or are the homework questions optional and ungraded?


The questions are graded and required.

Marcus Arvan

anon: perfect. Then I would make that very clear in the teaching statement. My sense is that search-committee members can be very skeptical about teaching practices to "get students to do the reading" that don't involve giving students any tangible incentive (viz. grades). This is because (I think), in a lot of our experience, students really do need incentives. So when someone writes in a teaching statement that they get students to do the reading without incentives, it may make the candidate look naive and under-experienced (rightly or wrongly).

In any case, I'd make it very clear that the assignments are graded! Finally--following the advice from Karen Kelsky that I have shared a number of times--I think it is vital to give a *concrete example* of a question you ask. One of the biggest mistakes people make in teaching statements is stating grand gestures ("I give 3 homework questions") without giving any clear picture how creative or interesting those things are. As a rule of thumb, every teaching practice stated in a teaching statement should be (ideally) paired with a concrete illustration of the practice.

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