Today’s post is a Special Request post for quite a few clients, who wanted to know what is meant when a job ad asks for “Evidence of Teaching Excellence.”
I want to state at the outset that I have only a few thoughts to offer on this subject, and that I hope that readers will weigh in on the comments. It is entirely possible that I will not list every possible document that can be included as part of this “Evidence,” and I would appreciate readers sharing their own experiences, both as job seekers and as search committee members.
I believe that the basic evidence of teaching excellence to be submitted with a general job application includes the following:
- A teaching statement
- A sample syllabus
- A list of courses taught (this does not have to be 100% exhaustive but gives a sense of overall breadth and scope)
- Brief summary of evaluations
I will take each of these in turn.
The teaching statement is very easy to write badly, and very difficult to write well.
The overwhelming majority of teaching statements are simply awful.
I will not go into the reasons why here. I simply refer you to a recent post, The Dreaded Teaching Statement: 8 Pitfalls, that goes deeply into the subject. Please read this post closely and subject your teaching statement to a very close critical read for the errors and pitfalls I mention.
The sample syllabus should be a syllabus that reflects a course that you taught that is in some way similar to the courses you’ll be asked to teach at the job for which you’re applying. You do NOT need to write a new syllabus for one of the courses currently on their books (unless, of course, that were to be asked for explicitly in the ad). Your purpose here is simply to give evidence that you know how to put together a class, with appropriate organization, subject coverage, assigned readings, and course assignments and exams. The syllabus you submit should be a substantive one, with a good “course description” at the top that really demonstrates your original approach to and your pedagogical commitments in the class. Resist the temptation to create a “mega-class” to impress the search committee. Remember, they want evidence that your courses are successful, and that means, actually do-able by students. Keep the readings and assignments reasonable for actual students, and don’t use the syllabus as an opportunity to create an exhaustive bibliography for a scholarly topic.
Your list of courses taught should include the names, the level, and the enrollment. In my opinion descriptions are unnecessary. You can divide this list into undergraduate and graduate subheadings if you wish.
Lastly, you’ll want a brief summary of your evaluations. I say brief, because I do not believe it to be appropriate to send a complete teaching portfolio that includes exhaustive archives of your numerical and narrative teaching evaluations from all of your classes. These will most likely not be read, and may well offend the search committee.
Rather, find a way to summarize your numerical evaluations in a table, and then give a sample of the written comments.
It might be appropriate to, instead of the above, send the complete evaluation set, both numerical and narrative, from a single class. That would allow for an objective view, rather than the edited view that arises from your choosing which narrative comments to include. However, a single class probably does not give a sense of your overall teaching profile.
Two clients have been kind enough to send examples of their teaching evaluation summary tables. I share them here.
In all of your documents it is critical to be vigilant about the difference between your teaching as a TA and as Instructor of Record. Be aware that for the vast majority of search committees, TA work does not count as full-fledged teaching experience. If your department uses TAs as Instructors of Record for courses, then be absolutely sure that the title you use for the position includes an explanation that you were Instructor of Record.
In your selection of materials to include in this set of materials, always prioritize the classes for which you were primary instructor. Only use TA materials if you don’t have any Instructor of Record teaching experience. In general, even if the narrative evaluations from TA discussion sections were excellent, you should avoid using them if you have equally excellent alternatives from your sole-taught courses.
To conclude, readers, please feel free to add to comments below other documents you have seen included in the Evidence of Teaching Excellence. It would be helpful for this comment thread to serve as part of the archive on this subject.