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09/04/2019

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Charles

Thank you, Marcus and Craig, for your comments.
Just a follow-up question: Is it better to always teach a new course? Or should I rather teach at least one course multiple times?

a philosopher

Something to consider is availability of courses. If your grad program is now offering you the opportunity to solo teach something hyper specialized like phil econ or phil math (which sounds unusual to me), and for whatever reason there's upside to that for you, then you should jump on it in a second -- when else are you going to have that chance again before graduating? My experience is that getting to solo teach Intro to Phil is relatively easy for graduate students: even if your grad program doesn't give you the chance, there's often a community college around which will provide the opportunity.

But perhaps I'm missing something about this question?

Marcus Arvan

Charles: my sense is that it is probably better to teach more types of courses rather than the same course multiple times. If you've taught it once, then I think that shows you can teach it (or at least, that you would be prepared to if hired). So, I'm not sure teaching it multiple times helps a bunch. In contrast, you never know what kind of course a given search committee might be looking to hire someone to teach--so the more variety you have in your experience, the more likely it is (I think) to help you.

SLAC Tenured Prof & Chair

I agree that a diversity of courses is better. I've chaired a hiring committee for 4 people in the last 7 years, and people often cite specific courses an individual has taught as being evidence of an ability to teach in our desired area. I think this is over-simplifying things to say that least, but having taught a course in the area you are applying to is more important (at least at my SLAC) than not, and having a breadth of courses would only ensure that any overlap with any other courses that might need to be taught, might secure your spot for a fly out or Skype interview.

Amanda

I think it is much better to get a variety of course experience rather than teach the same course multiple times. I think any time you teach a course, beyond twice, is not going to help you much on the market.

Derek Bowman

The title of this post is "What kind of teaching experience is best?" As philosophers we might wonder "best for what," but of course as academics we already know it means "best for getting an academic job."

But I wonder if any of you would give different answers if the question were what was best for becoming a better teacher?

There is a case to be made that starting by teaching in your specialization would be better, since your expertise would allow you to focus more on learning to teach and less on content. This was the view of one of my early grad school teachers, who thought the seasoned faculty should be teaching the intro classes, while grad students taught the specialty classes for majors. But on the other hand, I've definitely improved as a teacher by teaching unfamiliar topics and materials, since it makes it easier to imagine how the material may seem to students approaching it for the first time.

Everyone here seems to think - plausibly - that teaching the same class again adds little or nothing to your marketability. But I've certainly improved greatly as a teacher by teaching the same class multiple times; having (some of) the material set frees up time and energy to try new things. And multiple iterations provide a better sense of what works and what doesn't.

Is there any reason to think that teaching a variety of different courses is the best way to learn to be a good teacher?

Carissa

This is one anecdote only, but the job I ended up taking took the job ad AOC very seriously. I had written an undergrad thesis in that area, but none of my graduate work was in that area (no classes at my PhD program, no one--at the time--capable of supervising a project in the area). I had done a lot of work in the AOC and was interested in publishing in it in the future, but didn't have a lot on my CV that showed that interest at the time. Since it was an area that was popular with students, however, I got to teach a class in the area, and I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have been a competitive candidate without it. It's one anecdote, of course, but I am definitely glad I took that on and didn't just teach another section of Intro or Ethics.

Teacher

Derek
I agree that teaching the same course a few times is very constructive, and really helps your teaching. It helps you develop a course. Almost inevitably the first time you teach a course, you do things you would not repeat. I always found the second time through a course was better. You had a handle on where the course goes, and you could take out things that really do not work (as learned from the first time).

Marcus Arvan

Derek (and Teacher): I think teaching the same course multiple times can improve you as a teacher, particularly (but not limited to) how well you teach that particular class.

Nevertheless, I'm still inclined to think that teaching a wider variety of courses is even more likely to make a significant positive difference to one's teaching. Here's why: teaching a variety of courses exposes you (as a philosopher) to a wider variety of philosophical and non-philosophical materials, theories, and arguments. It makes you a more *learned* teacher. Oftentimes, something I teach in one class turns out to be relevant to or intersect with something I do in another class. So, what I do (and the material I prep) in different classes I teach often *improves* how I teach other classes - in ways that would probably never occur if I just taught the same small number of courses multiple times.

Charles

Carissa,
Could you share with us the topic of the course in question?
Thanks!

ECR

While teaching a new course is very rewarding and (doubtless) helpful on the market,I just want to point out that expecting early-career, precarious philosophers to prepare completely new courses every semester puts a very high burden on them on top of those already imposed by finances, pressure to publish and applying for jobs. If we have to constantly teach new courses to be marketable, the only philosophers who will be able to repeat a course (and gain some time for research) will be those who already have secure employment.

What about cases in which candidates change their Intro or Ethics courses so substantially they are completely new? It isn't as though these courses are monolithic entities--covering new/different/desirable material in them seems as though it might well add to one's 'breadth.'

Amanda

ECR: the thing with comments like this, is that they are just completely irrelevant to the realities of the market. This sort of thing, that I illustrate below, is just never going to happen:

1. Search committee member: "We would really benefit from having candidates that have taught a wide variety of courses - these candidates will be better prepared to help our students in the kind of ways that would really benefit the university's demographic.

2. Other search committee member: "Yes, that's true. But this might put a high burden on philosophers in contingent positions. So let's just ignore how much breadth of teaching would help our students, so we can be fair to candidates."

As much as it may, at some abstract level, be "unfair" that search committee members prefer all sorts of things, this is really irrelevant to reality. Search committee members are there to higher the person that *best helps their department and their students.* Doing anything else would be a dereliction of their contractual duties. Search committee members have no duty to ensure fairness (other than to avoid direct discrimination against race, gender, etc.) to the candidates. Once job market candidates accept this reality, they can much better prepare themselves for the market that actually exists.

Carissa

Charles, the course in question was Feminist Philosophy. It's a topic that lots of schools would love to offer but many schools don't offer anyone qualified to teach it (something like Philosophy of Race would be in a similar position, I think).

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