Our books

Become a Fan

« Creating Collaborative Classrooms: Let them Eat Cake! (Guest post by Annie McCallion) | Main | Should candidates have a personalized website? »



Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


I don't list any such courses on my CV.

I do list them on my website, however, where I also provide a syllabus for each of them. My teaching dossier includes a full, one-page list of all these courses, with links to the syllabi, and I've linked to those syllabi in my cover letters, too, when I talk about how I'd teach particular courses.

I came from a program where we didn't get much in the way of solo teaching experience (mostly just lots of TA experience). I have anecdotal evidence that having those syllabi on my site, and referenced in my cover letters and teaching dossier, have had a positive impact on search committees looking at my file. I'm also told it helped me get my current, teaching-heavy NTT job.

But my anecdotes aren't data, and it's worth mentioning that I've only managed to get a handful of first-round interviews in almost as many years on the market. As always, YMMV.


I was given this advice by my advisor (someone who had been on hiring committees recently but not on the job market in eons). I came from a program with few opportunities for teaching one's own class (opportunities were competitive, though they did give preference to those who hadn't yet taught their own; I taught two over my time there, and that was about the maximum that most people did), so I modified this depending on the type of school (schools with a grad program got a list that included grad seminars; schools with a unique curriculum got it put in the names of what the class was at their school; etc.) I had syllabi for a number of these classes, which I think helped, but I don't doubt I would have done better with actual teaching experience in place. I did well, mainly in interviews at schools with a 3/2 and 3/3 teaching load (though the job I ended up taking is a 2/2, and the AOC for the job is one of the two classes I taught on my own during grad school, so YMMV).

slac chair

The problem with listing such courses on your CV is the temptation of inflation. It's easy to imagine you could teach a course in cognate ones. But it's also easy for readers (who have more experience teaching) to doubt your abilities to do so, unless you provide evidence in the form of prospective syllabi. If a candidate provides a syllabus for a course she hasn't taught, I take her pretty seriously, whereas if she just claims to be able to teach a course, I don't give it much credence. So if you have such syllabi, go ahead and list the courses on your CV.


TBH - I really don't understand this "unable to teach a course" thing. I get it if you are an ABD who has only taught one or two courses. In that case, I would question whether your general lack of experience would mean you would not teach *any* course very well, or perhaps, especially those that you have no experience teaching. However, my personal belief is that good philosophy teachers are good philosophy teachers, and while there is some exceptions with highly specialized topics, most good philosophy teachers should be able, with a reasonable amount of prep time (a few weeks) to teach something like 95% of undergraduate course offerings. This sort of thing is done all the time at any large university: people are assigned courses they have little background in but then they prep and it is fine.

I guess the argument is that, all things being equal, someone with experience in a certain subject is going to be better teaching that subject. I disagree. Here's why:

1. All things are rarely equal. I would take a teacher with a great record of success, creativity, and professionalism in teaching , but who lacked the particular class experience, over someone with a bit less of all of that but experience in the relevant class.

2.Those who are most familiar with a subject, I suspect, are actually more likely to teach it poorly. This is because they will take for granted things that undergrads don't know (or they would be more likely to do this.) If the class is new to the professor, they too, are learning it for the first time, and are likely to better understand the perspective of the student.

Anyway, different issue: Lauren I'm honestly curious whether your experience is out of the norm. During my time as a PhD student myself and other grad students only got to teach *1* solo class. In exceptional cases someone got to teach 2, or sadly sometimes, zero. There was almost never research free semesters, it was just all TAing. Yet I and many other grad students got experience solo teaching via adjuncting at other universities and CC's. I was under the impression that this is the norm, i.e., that those with lots of teaching experience as an ABD got most of it via adjuncting. I would be interested to learn that I am wrong, and that there are a non-trivial number of grad programs offering significant solo teaching experience. At my current institution, I haven't fully figured out the system yet, but I haven't heard of PhD students teaching their own classes at our university.


Amanda: There are definitely a fair few programs where students end up teaching *a lot* (it's often tied directly to their funding). CUNY, for example, has its students teach quite a bit at the different satellite campuses. IIRC, Columbia does, too. Many of the "continental" or "teaching-focused" programs are like that, too--Memphis and Villanova spring to mind. But I know there are lots, lots more out there, and they're distributed all across the PGR rankings.

(That said, I don't think it's okay to require that much teaching of your graduate students [in some of these places, it's a 2-2 load plus summer courses]. It does mean that they come out with a lot of teaching experience, however.)

For my part, my grad program struggled to give us all one course during our time there. And I applied for sessional work everywhere within a 2.5hr radius every year, but didn't get any bites. Often, I was instead told that I didn't have enough teaching experience to do any sessional teaching. (To be clear, a few other people in my grad program had better luck.)


Thanks Michel I didn't know that. And I would have done anything for summer courses and a 2/2 when I was a grad student. I did a 2/1 plus a 1/1 ta ships during the year, and the schools were about 40 minutes drive from each other (minus my lucky fellowship time, which I had to apply to) We had no summer funding and no opportunity to teach or TA in the summer my first 5(so almost all...I taught one summer course before graduating) years of grad school. I worked low paying summer jobs (like high school jobs) most of those years, and took out student loans the other.

The teaching experience you talk about, however, is interestingly not at the actual school of the grad program. They happen to have connections at other schools. I guess I get how CUNY could do that and tie it to funding, but does Columbia do Barnard? I am surprised you could somehow tie grad funding to teaching at unrelated universities.

A Philosopher

"However, my personal belief is that good philosophy teachers are good philosophy teachers, and while there is some exceptions with highly specialized topics, most good philosophy teachers should be able, with a reasonable amount of prep time (a few weeks) to teach something like 95% of undergraduate course offerings."

For whatever it's worth, I second this sentiment. I've found that friends in fields outside philosophy generally hold this view as well (about their own field). Related to Amanda's second point, the average undergraduate student isn't going to digest more than the barest of rudiments of any philosophy text (think, Wikipedia- or YouTube-level). Expert-level competence with the text will be lost of them, anyway.

slac chair

Sure anyone can "teach" most any course in their general area of specialty with a couple weeks prep. But, at least at my school, you aren't going to be able to teach it *well* with just a couple weeks prep (unless you've taught it before). Finding appropriate readings -- i.e., readings that capture the main debates but aren't too hard, additional readings that are "relatable" (ugh), etc. -- takes a couple weeks on its own. And then there's developing themes/metanarratives that students can follow, essay assignment instructions, and so on.

That said, like Amanda, I would take someone who looks like an excellent teacher over someone who has experience in a particular course (and I've voted in searches accordingly). But the OP's question was about listing courses on her CV, and that's the question to which I was originally responding.

A Philosopher

"But, at least at my school, you aren't going to be able to teach it *well* with just a couple weeks prep (unless you've taught it before). Finding appropriate readings -- i.e., readings that capture the main debates but aren't too hard, additional readings that are "relatable" (ugh), etc. -- takes a couple weeks on its own. And then there's developing themes/metanarratives that students can follow, essay assignment instructions, and so on."

I don't want to dig into things too far, because I believe the differences between slac chair and myself are very small (and this point is somewhat off-topic), but I do feel compelled to respond to this point, since I think it's the best case that can be made for needing "special competence" in phil X to teach a course on phil X.

On the one hand, it's correct that if you were to develop a syllabus from scratch, you need special competence in the area. I could not, for example, curate a good reading list in phil X for areas well outside anything I've ever read or taken a course in.

But on the other hand, teaching a course doesn't require curating a reading list from scratch. You can, for example, base the course around an introductory textbook on the topic. There are such books for just about any topic out there. Or, you could lean on the SEP entry for that topic, which might or might not lend itself to being a template for a course. You could get a collection of papers on the topic, e.g. off hand I know of well-used anthologies in phil language, phil mind, and epistemology. These tend to collect together all the "classic" readings and divide them up in a way any expert would agree represents the major fault lines of the field.

I guess I'm going on about stuff we all know, but that this point is so readily available makes all the talk of "qualifications" to teach a given course mostly mysterious to me. Sure, an expert in phil X can craft a certain sort of creative, "home made" course from scratch. Their course will have a different "feel" to it. But, another way to do it is simply to follow the experts via a textbook or anthology or SEP article. The latter might be "boring" and unimpressive to experts, but as Amanda and I point out, it likely goes over just as well with students, who definitely won't notice the difference and who couldn't digest all the novel nuance of the expert's carefully crafted reading list. Of course, it's a totally different conversation when it comes to graduate seminars, and probably undergraduate capstone-style theses, but I think these points hold even for upper-level undergraduate courses.

It's worth noting that something similar happens in other fields. E.g., experts in algebraic geometry or 18th century literature might teach these subjects from custom notes or a curated reading list (respectively), but all the other math and English profs just grab a textbook and no one bats an eye.

Again, I apologize for beating a dead horse.


Slac Chair:

We seem to mostly agree. I agree that, for the most part, the longer one has to prep for a course the better they will do. But I also think that, (1) the reality is that it is pretty common, at all types of universities, to only spend a few weeks prepping for a course, and (2) That it is possible - at any institution - to teach a course well with only a few weeks prep. Of course, this does not mean it is possible for *everyone,* but it is possible to make it work. One of my go to strategies for teaching a course with limited prep time is to look over the syllabi of several friends/colleagues who have taught the course before, and then use them collectively to integrate the content with my typical teaching styles and course design.

Again, there are a few courses it would be hard to do this for -not sure whether or not I could do this with a course on Hegel. I still I could not it pretty well with most philosophy courses, but, admittedly, not as well as if I had more time or experience.


I'm largely in agreement with Amanda and A Philosopher: most undergraduate philosophy courses could be taught well enough by just about any philosopher, provided they're given time to prep.

Then again, I occasionally come across syllabi which look hopelessly inadequate and incompetent to me. This is especially true for introductory sequences in aesthetics, for which there's a very common syllabus (I'd even call it the default syllabus, although that's just because every department teaches aesthetics, even though most departments don't have anyone with a proper AOC in it) that goes from Kant to Hegel to Nietzsche to Heidegger, with maybe a little Hume, Schopenhauer, or Danto tossed in for good measure. I'm sorry/not sorry, but if that's your syllabus, I don't think you should be teaching the course at all. 19th c. German aesthetics =/= aesthetics more broadly, and it's not an appropriate introductory course. And it wouldn't take much googling to find a better syllabus. I'm sure you can all think of similar pet-peeve courses.

I do think there's a role for genuine expertise, however, and I think it's mostly at the level of enrollment: an expert will have a much easier time pitching the course to attract students majoring in a cognate discipline, and will probably do a better job of getting these students to take another philosophy course. And that seems pretty important to me. I'd be delighted to teach a course in the philosophy of science, for example, but I'm pretty confident that I won't be able to stimulate interest from science majors in the same way that a proper philosopher of science (or even someone with a solid AOC in the subject) would. My own engagement with science in the course, and the facility of my examples, will suffer from my lack of expertise.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)

Job-market reporting thread

Current Job-Market Discussion Thread

Job ads crowdsourcing thread

Philosophers in Industry Directory