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V. Branding Your Teaching Statement for the Academic Job Market

Aug 13, 2017 by Dr Sally

As part of an academic job application, you are almost always asked to submit a statement of your teaching practices and effectiveness. Just as your research statement is grounded in your academic brand, your teaching statement also should have your brand threaded through it.

Purpose of a Teaching Statement

The purpose of your teaching statement is to guide the job search committee to imagine you and your students engaged in the act of learning together. A teaching statement is not a list of what courses you have taught, what textbooks you have used, and where and when you taught. A teaching statement is a snapshot of who you are in the classroom-why you teach what you teach, what methods you use, and a demonstration of your effectiveness.

Many job posts specifically request a single-page teaching statement. Unless length is indicated, limit your statement to a single page.

If you do not already do so, start keeping your own data on your teaching practices and teaching effectiveness. Keep student quotation, letters, numerical evaluations, and copies of student evaluations. Create tables and graphs, if possible, to demonstrate that your skills as a teacher are getting stronger.

How to Write a Persuasive Branded Teaching Statement

A teaching statement defines your overall approach to teaching and connects to your academic brand. Your teaching statement includes an explanation of who or what pedagogical theories influenced you, a description of what you do in the classroom, a demonstration of how your methods are effective, and a brief conclusion on the value for your students.  

Your teaching statement should show rather than tell the reader about your teaching. You will not be able to cover everything. Choose two or three of the most important tenets of your teaching and provide concrete examples that demonstrate your claims that your students are meeting your learning objectives. Be specific about your teaching strategies and the goals achieved through them. If you use social media, film-making, or technology in a particular way, flesh out what you are doing and why.  If you are a diversity candidate or if you will be teaching a diverse population of students, include a statement of how you address issues or race, gender, and class in your teaching.

Focus on what you ask students to do, rather than on what you do. Yes, you prepare lectures, develop content, and assess students, but translate that into what your students actually do. Help the search committee members picture their students in your classroom engaged in learning with you. What does this look like? Do students collaborate, investigate, explore, test, predict, or develop knowledge with you and with one other? Notice the active verbs that are highlighted throughout this paragraph. Use active verbs that point to student learning outcomes.

You also may engage with students outside of the classroom. Use the teaching statement to explain what kind of graduate student mentor, undergraduate advisor, and lab manager you are or will be. Use direct phrasing such as, “My advisees can expect...” “Graduate students who work with me in the field will find that I....” “ I value independent thinkers who are not afraid to question traditional approaches to the study of [your research focus]” or “I expect the members of my lab to engage in constructive brainstorming sessions to explore alternative approaches to the [name the current problem being investigated].”

Explain not only what you expect students to do but emphasize how you assess their learning. Assessment is a critical piece of good pedagogy. Effective pedagogy is linked to effective assessment, and there is always more to learn. Even if, early in your career, you have not yet taught classes, you can still talk about how your teaching methods and assessment will effectively reach the students at the institution to which you are applying. Describe the courses you could teach and how you would teach them.

Conclude your teaching statement with a sentence or two about the impact of your teaching on students and the value of the learning outcomes to students' educational and professional goals.

Revise for Audience

While your teaching statement will generally remain the same across applications, adjust parts of it to address the needs of the institution's particular student body. Again, as we have emphasized in the previous blogs, think about your audience and research the school to which you are applying. For example, if you have only taught large lecture sections and you are applying to a college with smaller classes, translate the skills you use in front of 300 students to ones that will apply to a more interactive classroom. A classroom of adult commuter students will face different challenges than one filled with residential 18-year olds. Keep in mind that there is no longer such a thing as a “traditional” college student. Make a point to demonstrate your application of teaching to the student population you will be serving.

Ask your advisors and colleagues for examples of teaching statements written by recently successful job seekers in your discipline. While effective teaching methods reach across fields, the pedagogical approaches of your discipline may vary based on course, content, and department learning objectives.

Finally, the teaching statement is also a sample of how well you write and, therefore you should make sure that is as high quality as the other elements of your application packet. Remember, your documents are meant to convey a consistent and professional brand.

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