This week TNP is doing a Q&A with some insightful guest contributors about the academic job market. Today’s post discusses preparing application materials for teaching-oriented academic positions. There are many different resources out there about application materials. You’ll notice that we didn’t ask a ton of questions about teaching and research statements. For more on that, check out Kameko Halfmann’s blog post about application materials to be very helpful. In it, she goes into detail about teaching, research, and diversity statements, as well as providing tips about the cover letter and CV. Below are some other, more specific questions that we had related to application materials.
1. As search committees look through 100+ application packets, many have emphasized that materials should be clearly organized. What are some tips for keeping an application packet (and the materials within it) organized?
Kameko Halfmann: Use a consistent naming convention, preferably using something like LastName_DocumentName. For example, Halfmann_CoverLetter. We don’t actually get even close to that many applications usually (because we are in rural Wisconsin!).
Kathryn Narciso: Considering most places have you upload materials online leaving the organization across the materials out of your control, though there is one thing I highly recommend you do. Put your last name and page number as a header for all of your documents (except maybe the cover letter).
Jennifer Talarico: This may seem obvious, but a clear, consistent file labeling system *that includes your name* is really helpful. For example, Talarico_CV, Talarico_Teaching_Statement, Talarico_Research_Statement, Talarico_Teaching_Evaluations, Talarico_Teaching_Syllabus, Talarico_Research_Publications…
If asked for a syllabus…
2. Should I provide one syllabus for each separate course I have taught, or limit it to one syllabus and offer the others upon request?
Kameko: If the job ad suggests “a syllabus” I’d submit just one, but if it is more general, I’d consider providing two. We do not request syllabi at my institution, though, so I’m not 100% sure. Search committees aren’t generally looking for more to read through, so I’d just make sure the one you submit is something you are proud of.
Kathryn: I based this on what the job ad was looking for, so I sent the most appropriate syllabus for that particular job ad depending on which classes they wanted taught.
Jennifer: My preference is for fewer materials. Provide one syllabus, describe the context (e.g., an accelerated summer course or an online course, enrollment numbers, etc.), and state how it is typical of your teaching philosophy and/or how it would change for the context to which you are applying.
Jake Kurczek: If you are asked for a syllabus, if possible you should provide one for a course that you have taught that matches a course that is written in the ad. For example, if the college/university is advertising a social psychology position and provides a list of possible courses that includes: Introduction to Psychology, Social Psychology, Research Methods and an advanced topic course in the candidate’s area, then you should attempt to provide a syllabus for one of those courses. If the job ad does not list potential courses, then providing one syllabus for a service course (for example Introduction to Psychology) or a core course within the psychology curriculum.
3. What type of information are committees looking for in syllabi? What deems a syllabus to be “good” or “bad”?
Kameko: The search committee is most likely trying to get a sense of your pedagogy. Does your syllabus reflect what you wrote in your teaching philosophy? For example, if you say you use writing and active learning strategies, is that clear in your syllabus? What types of assignments do you provide, what are your course policies? Do you only give exams with no other assignments (I think most smaller schools would see this as a red flag). My institution has this great syllabus checklist (https://www.uwplatt.edu/files/ttc/syllabus_checksheet_2017-18.pdf) that I referred to before creating my syllabi last year (and will refer to again). I also think the language you use in your syllabus really says a lot about who you are as an instructor. I aim to appear challenging but fair
Kathryn: For me, I felt it was important to have clearly defined learning goals stated in my syllabus. I also tried to make it appear organized and professional so that anyone can easily find necessary information. The syllabus is a peek into your classroom in addition to your teaching statement. If my teaching statement said I valued students learning communication and writing skills, yet according to my syllabus I never had writing assignments….that would be strange. But don’t overthink your syllabi and think everything needs to match to the teaching statement.
Jennifer: This can be idiosyncratic from committee member to committee member. I’d suggest being specific and providing context so that you control your own narrative and limit committee members’ assumptions and/or inferences.
Jake: Many institutions will provide a boiler template of language that needs to be included in the syllabus that may include: the information about the course, assignments and general requirements, academic integrity policy, the accommodations policy, etc. Personally, I find “good” syllabi that are created with universal design (designed in a way to access the greatest number of people) in mind, that have clear learning objectives and outcomes and that are learner centered.
Hopefully this post leaves you inspired to go and write those job documents! You got this! Stay tuned for more tomorrow!
Special thanks to our four Q&A contributors for taking the time to provide thoughtful responses:
Kameko Halfmann (@KamekoMae): Kameko is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at University of Wisconsin – Plattville.
Kathryn Narciso (jake_steele): Kathryn is a Lecturer of Psychological Science at the University of North Georgia.
Jennifer Talarico (@j_talarico): Jennifer is an Associate Professor of Psychology at Lafayette College.
Jake Kurczek (@EngagedBrain): Jake is an Assistant Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at Loras College.