Graduate school offers many opportunities for students to talk about and present their research, but often provides fewer opportunities to discuss teaching. For those planning an academic career, the reality is that, in many jobs, at least some portion of your time will consist of teaching and interacting with students. Thus, whether you are just starting or are finishing your graduate work, now is a great time to think about how your teaching can impact your job search preparations. Here are a few teaching tips for Notre Dame graduate students at all levels to prepare for the academic job market.
Evaluations of your teaching are one of the primary pieces of evidence used to prove to potential employers that you can successfully fulfill the teaching obligations of the position. During your time in graduate school, seek opportunities to teach a lab, tutorial, discussion section, or independent course where you will receive official teaching evaluations. (At Notre Dame, these are known as Course Instructor Feedback forms, or CIFs.) Potential employers will often request student evaluations of teaching, so having an official record with strong evaluations will go a long way towards proving you can teach effectively. If you are a teaching assistant or deliver a guest lecture in a course without CIFs, it can also be a good idea to ask the instructor of record to distribute their own student evaluations of your teaching. Though they are not official evaluations, they offer at least an informal assessment of your teaching capabilities. Another valuable type of evaluation is to ask a professor to observe your teaching and write specifically about their observations in a letter of recommendation.
An additional way to signal your commitment to quality teaching is by attending workshops on teaching and learning and by earning one of the teaching certificates offered by the Kaneb Center. After attending five qualifying workshops and writing a brief reflection statement, you are eligible to receive the Striving for Excellence in Teaching certificate. The Kaneb Center also offers an Advanced Teaching Scholar certificate and the newly re-designed Teaching Well Using Technology certificate. All three look great on your curriculum vitae or resume.
Teaching Philosophy and Portfolio
As you gain experience as a teaching assistant or instructor of record, take notes on strategies and techniques that work well or that you would like to try in your teaching. Consider assembling your notes into a formative teaching portfolio, including a list of highlights from each semester of your teaching, examples of feedback on student work, letters of recommendation you have written, sample assignments, and anything else you may want to save for the future. This portfolio can be adapted to be submitted as part of a job application and will include materials to help you devise and articulate your teaching philosophy. As you assemble your portfolio, consider what you want your students to learn, how you help them learn it, and how you assess their learning in your classes.
If you are applying for jobs teaching courses that you do not have experience teaching, you might consider writing a high quality syllabus for the topic to indicate that you have thought about how you would teach the class. It is also helpful to think about courses you could potentially teach and to gather syllabi from others in the discipline to see how those classes are taught elsewhere. Having syllabi drafted will also reduce course preparation time once you begin your academic career.
Services and Upcoming Workshops
The Kaneb Center is an excellent resource for graduate students preparing to go on the academic job market. We offer individual consultations to discuss your teaching needs or to review your evaluations, syllabi, and other teaching materials. We also offer a number of workshops to promote teaching excellence and to give you experience talking about teaching. Some of our upcoming workshops that are especially relevant for the job market include:
- Writing a Teaching Philosophy Statement (Oct. 6th, 2:00-3:15 p.m.)
- Faculty Panel to Discuss Working at Different Types of Institutions (Oct. 9th, 9:30-10:45 a.m.)
- Interviewing, the Job Talk, and the Teaching Pitch (Oct. 14th, 3:30-4:45 p.m.)
- Our spring workshop series on course design (more details coming soon!)
Recommended Teaching & Learning Books for The Job Market
- How Learning Works: Seven Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching – Ambrose et al.
- What the Best College Teachers Do – Ken Bain
- Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning – Brown et al.
- Creating Significant Learning Experiences: An Integrated Approach to Designing College Courses – L. Dee Fink
- Teaching What You Don’t Know – Therese Huston
- McKeachie’s Teaching Tips: Strategies, Research, and Theory for College and University Teachers – McKeachie et al.