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Mark Wilson

Anything other than specific anecdotes that in great detail outline how you have actually taught is worthless.

That paragraph that describes how in *your* classes you try to get students to actually *do* philosophy in the classroom? I've read minor variants of it 1000 times, and I simply don't care. I'm not interested in your attempts to philosophize about teaching, I'm interested in seeing if there is any evidence that you are actually a good teacher. The teaching statement is not a space for you to do yet more philosophy.

Bill Vanderburgh

Given that I am at a teaching-focused institution (large regional state university, recently promoted to R2), it may be surprising to hear that I generally dislike and don't give much attention to teaching statements when evaluating candidate files.

Mark (elsewhere in this thread) objects to the philosophizing about teaching found in teaching statements. I have to admit this is often annoying because it is simplistic, uninformed by actual teaching experience, based on assumptions about students and teaching conditions that don't apply everywhere, clearly just made up for this purpose, indistinguishable from any other candidate's statement, etc. But some places ask for exactly this, going so far as to call them "statements of teaching philosophy." So candidates have to prepare them this way, and since they can't prepare new materials for every job, we are doomed as a field to have to receive them. But I don't really read them carefully. This is even more true when they are long.

I generally look for four things when thinking about a candidate's teaching credentials. Has the candidate participated in any teacher training? Have they taught any independent courses (if so, how many)? Have they reflected about how to teach better? Are their teaching evaluations at least reasonably good (and trending upward if there is more than one)?

Each of these is problematic, of course. Pedagogy training is no guarantee of anything. (And since some pedagogy theory is dubious, it is possible to become a worse teacher through such courses, though this is usually not the case since reflecting and practicing in themselves usually lead to improvements.) Likewise, having taught a class (or multiple classes), having a smart thing to say about teaching, and having good student evaluations at one institution, is no guarantee of success with the students and conditions at any other place. But there isn't really anything else to go on until we can have conversations with the finalists and watch their teaching demos (always the most important thing).

All that said, I also want to see a full syllabus (including a topics/readings schedule and methods of assessment) for a course that is at least largely similar to one we offer in the AOS we are hiring in. This helps us assess whether the candidate is actually strong in the AOS, and whether they have an interesting angle on it that would distinguish them from other candidates. More than one full syllabus in the teaching dossier is overkill, IMO, and I usually don't read more than one. A list of courses the candidate would be interested in teaching (perhaps with a couple of sentences about each) is a good idea, but don't go overboard with the number of AOCs you claim.


As a faculty member at an R2 who's been on several hiring committee's, I don't really look at teaching statements. In fact I'm sorry that candidates are asked to submit them because I think it's too burdensome and you shouldn't have to, given all the other items that are requested. Whatever matters for teaching can be discerned from the CV, teaching evals, and the campus visit where we have candidates give a lecture with students and faculty present.

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