Jan-Feb 2014 ASCB Newsletter - page 46-47

This can involve describing how your research
can be performed as part of a course-based
undergraduate research experience or how you
will mentor students in a laboratory setting to
train them as future independent scientists.
It is critical when applying to these types
of institutions to outline how you envision
incorporating undergraduates into your
research laboratory.
Collecting Evidence: Teaching
An excellent way to summarize
all of your teaching experience
for an academic job application
is to prepare a teaching portfolio.
As stated by the Washington
University in St. Louis’ Teaching
Center, “While dissertation
abstracts and research summaries
document your expertise in
research, the teaching portfolio
documents your expertise in
teaching. If you are a graduate
student or postdoctoral fellow
preparing a teaching portfolio
for the academic job market, the
portfolio will necessarily be both
forward- and backward-looking,
with examples drawn from courses
you have taught or assisted in and
from courses you are prepared to
teach in the future.”
A teaching portfolio allows
you to collect the evidence of your previous
teaching experience, including your teaching
philosophy, syllabi you may have developed,
and sample assignments or assessments. In
most cases, you will not be asked to present a
formal teaching portfolio in a job application.
Nevertheless, preparing a teaching portfolio
is an outstanding way to get your thoughts
together regarding the teaching portion of
your applications as well as to gather all your
teaching-related documents in a common
location so it will be easier to respond to
specific document requests from specific
Summarizing It All: A Concise
Cover Letter
Your cover letter is the “make or break”
document when a job search committee makes
the first pass through the applicant pool to
identify standouts from among dozens of
Awards (IRACDA) program to promote the
simultaneous development of independent
teaching and research skills. IRACDA programs
are in place under a variety of acronyms at
institutions nationwide.
Temporary vacancies at schools requiring
sabbatical or last-minute replacements are also
an excellent option for obtaining comprehensive
teaching experience, since they provide a
temporary but total immersion into the teaching
life. These positions will be listed alongside
tenure-track offerings on Internet job listings
and can offer opportunities
equivalent to a postdoctoral
position in terms of gaining
practical experience.
Developing Your
Vision for Teaching
and Research
While potential employers
will not likely expect you to
be the next Socrates, they will
expect you to have thought
through how you intend to
teach successfully. It is typical
for application packages
for academic positions of
all types to require a one-
to three-page statement of
teaching philosophy, so a
good preparatory step in your
packaging process is to draft
such a statement before going “on the market.”
Statements of teaching philosophy are a
challenge to write: What can you say about your
own personal teaching style that is innovative?
When developing a teaching philosophy, worry
less about innovation and more about conveying
what, in your mind, constitutes a successful
teaching experience. Include some concrete
examples of successful teaching experiences that
illustrate your ideas as a way of indicating that
you “practice what you preach.” The University
of Minnesota has developed an outstanding
tutorial for the development of a solid statement
of teaching philosophy.
A statement of research is another required
document for almost all academic positions. For
a position at a research university, this statement
will be completely devoted to the details of your
potential research agenda. For teaching-oriented
schools, however, the research statement is
another opportunity to show how you plan to
integrate your research work into your teaching.
When developing
a teaching
worry less about
innovation and
more about
conveying what,
in your mind,
a successful
in Cell Biology
While training for a career in cell biology, many
of us have discovered a passion for teaching
and want to find a job in which teaching is of
central importance. Others have found their
primary passion in the laboratory but have also
discovered the joys and satisfaction of student
mentorship. Finally, there are those among
us who are not excited about teaching but
realize the importance of teaching credentials
for obtaining an academic position in which
research will
take center stage.
Regardless of which
camp (or camps)
you find yourself
in, it is essential
when preparing for
an academic career
to develop the
skills necessary to
show a prospective
employer that you
can succeed in
the classroom. So
what can you do to position yourself for college
teaching in your future career?
Gaining Experience
It is simple to suggest that every potential
future teacher should go out and get teaching
experience. But where should you look? How
do you balance gaining this
experience with lab work? A
good first step is to assess the
type of position you would
ultimately like to hold.
A position at a research
university is likely to require a
minimal amount of classroom
teaching when compared
with a position at a liberal
arts or community college. If
research is your primary love,
then look for chances to gain
teaching experiences through
your research. This could take
the form of guest lectures on your research in
classes at your institution or in the mentorship
of undergraduates or graduate students in your
lab. These small steps will give you the chance
to discover your strengths and weaknesses as a
teacher and mentor while retaining your focus
on research activities.
For those who seek a more teaching-focused
career, it is important to gain more complete
classroom experience in which you are able to
participate in course design and assessment. In
this case, one good approach is to see if your
institution has a college teaching preparation
program for its graduate students and postdocs.
Examples of
such programs
can be found at
Yale University,
Dartmouth College,
and Virginia
other places.
For many future
faculty, teaching
assistantships are
a good gateway to
a fuller teaching
experience because they offer opportunities both
to observe the techniques of classroom veterans
and to provide personal input on how particular
topics may be taught or emphasized in the
sections they teach.
Beyond teaching assistantships, it is a
good idea to look around at local institutions
that may be in need of adjunct
faculty for their classes. Such
adjunct positions give you the
independence to develop a course
while simultaneously allowing
you to continue your research. It
is important in this case, however,
to seek the guidance and support
of your PI, as he or she will want
to know how such teaching
activities will affect your research
Good transitional experience
from graduate or postdoctoral work
to a teaching-focused career can
be found in dedicated teaching postdoctoral
programs. For example, the National
Institutes of Health sponsors the Institutional
Research and Academic Career Development
Packaging Yourself as a Teacher
Michael J. Wolyniak
Jennifer A. Roecklein-Canfield
If research is
your primary
love, then look
for chances to
gain teaching
through your
Career Adv i ce for
Women and Men
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