Diverse Teaching Experiences and the Philosophy Job Market


Graduate students in philosophy usually can teach in their own departments, but also sometimes have the opportunity to teach at other schools nearby, including schools very different from the one they’re currently attending.

Is it good for one’s job prospects to take that opportunity? A professor of philosophy recently wrote in with that query:

Does a grad student have a better chance of getting a job if that student has teaching experience at more than one institution? Would/Do people working at institutions with grad programs advise their grad students to seek adjuncting experience at other institutions prior to the time that they’re ready to go on the full time job market? 

We can ask about whether having taught anywhere besides one’s home institution as a grad student is helpful on the job market, and also ask about whether having taught at institutions rather different from their own (such as a community college) is helpful.

I suspect that search committees at community colleges, small liberal arts colleges, or colleges with distinct populations (such as a high number of first-generation college students) would count a candidate’s having taught at a school like theirs a plus. But it would be best to hear from those who’ve been on search committees for such institutions over the past several years to see whether this is really the case, and how much of a difference it tends to make.

And if anyone knows of any data that would be relevant to this, please share it.

Installation by John Breed

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ejrd
ejrd
2 years ago

One data point: In my experience (at a well regarded but still clearly undergraduate teaching-focused institution), what matters is that you have experience teaching (not TA-ing) the classes that you’ll be likely teaching at our institution. It’s much less important that you have done so at multiple places than that you’ve done so multiple times.

For example, if we’re hiring a bioethicist then it’s a huge leg-up to have actually taught bioethics (or medical ethics or neuroethics) and better still to have taught it a few times. Report

On The Market
On The Market
2 years ago

I graduated last year with a PhD from a large private Catholic university with a very good reputation as an undergraduate school. One of my on-campus interviews in the Spring was at a very small, private Catholic university that primarily served its local community.

I have significantly more solo-teaching and syllabus designing experience at my university than to the average PhD student at other schools (11 sections of the university’s intro course at the time of the interview).

The vast majority of the questions I was asked in the interview were basically “Our students are not as academically high-performing as students at [my university], how would you handle that?” (that is, in fact, a near direct quote of one such question). It was clear to me after the fact that this was their main concern: How would my teaching experience translate to their student body.

I did not get the position. The person who did (whom I know) had teaching experience at a school similar to the hiring institution (they were also a few years out from their phd, whereas I had just defended a couple months prior, so other factors likely also played a role)

It was also clear to me that, while I had thoughts about what I would do, I did not have any idea whether they would work in practice. I have since talked with colleagues who adjunct at smaller schools in the area about how they adapted from their teaching at our home university. My theoretical answers mostly corresponded with their real solutions. But obviously, I could have sold my skills more compellingly if I had been able to say that I *do*, rather than that I *would do *, it that way. I have made it a point to get that experience this year for the second year on the market.Report

PhD student on the market
PhD student on the market
2 years ago

Last year, I conducted a soft search that culminated in no interviews. Coming from an unranked program, I applied primarily for teaching jobs at small, unprestigious liberal arts colleges. When the season ended, I decided to compare my “stats” to those of the winning candidates. In general, I was competitive on the publication front, both in terms of and prestige of publications (for someone of my career stage), but the winning candidates’ average number of *different courses taught* (not *sections* taught) was roughly 9 (compared to my 2). Of those newly hired TT’ers who held a PhD for no more than two years, the median number of different courses taught was 8.

My sample size was small and my data incomplete. Still, I’m amazed by how much teaching experience my peers managed to accrue. I’d be shocked if it didn’t play a major role in their success. But of course, more systematic data would be helpful.Report

Marcus Arvan
Reply to  PhD student on the market
2 years ago

This sounds exactly right to me. Breadth in teaching (not TA) experience matters a great deal.Report

PhD on the market
PhD on the market
2 years ago

As a Phd from an institution at which TA teaching opportunities are limited, and proper teaching non-existent, I find the stress on teaching experience in hiring practices rather annoying. It may be easier to publish and/or attend conferences if one belongs to certain prestigious programs, but at least it is possible for everyone to play the game. Being evaluated on the grounds of something you were not allowed to do is frustrating to say the least.
(The frustration is compounded by the fact that I believe that what I did as a TA was not substantially different from a non-TA position).Report

Jen
Jen
Reply to  PhD on the market
2 years ago

Why do you say you were not allowed? Were you prohibited from from adjuncting while writing the dissertation? Or do you mean that you did not have an opportunity to teach *at your institution*? I was at an institution that does offer extensive TA-ing opportunities to its grad students, and when I was not TA-ing, I was able to adjunct at a nearby school while being enrolled as a full-time student and making significant progress on my dissertation. (Of course, I know not everyone is in a position to do this, but it is a possibility to consider for oneself.) This is something I’d recommend to others. Report

M
M
Reply to  Jen
2 years ago

Hi Jen, Thank for you reply, and sorry: I could have been clearer.
What I meant by “not allowed” is simply that we have very limited teaching opportunities, even as TAs, so one does not always get a position per semester, and never or hardly ever more than one.
As far as working as an adjunct in a nearby institution, there is only one nearby institution, and they typically need only one or two people per semester, which makes it hard to get the job if you are competing with other PhD candidates who work in the area in which teaching is needed.
But I understand that this is an exception, and is not representative of the situation of the average PhD candidate in a large US city.Report

ejrd
ejrd
Reply to  M
2 years ago

I think your teaching horizons might be too limited. When my department couldn’t fund me via teaching I taught at writing programs in my university (where I could be an instructor and not a TA). When those occasionally dried up, I adjuncted at local (and not so local) universities that would have me.

Just like publishing has become a requirement in this increasingly competitive and tighter academic market, so has teaching (and just like publications – it’s good teaching that matters). Ignore either at your own peril. Report

M
M
Reply to  ejrd
2 years ago

Hi ejrd,

Thanks for the reply.
As I detailed in the reply to Jen, with the exception of one or two teaching positions per year at a nearby university, there simply are no local or non-local teaching opportunities other than at my institution for me, because there is no other tertiary institution within a two-hour drive from mine that has any adjunct teaching needs in philosophy. Even the one two hours away never hires philosophy PhD as adjuncts from other universities, as far as I know. The next closest philosophy department to that one is eight hours by car from where I live.
These postgrad hiring dynamics might be very different from what people are used to in the US, but that’s how it is here. (Note that my institution is *not *a poorly ranked one, neither in the country, nor internationally).
Aside from these logistic details, I think the point stands: some institutions are incapable of providing teaching opportunities to their graduate students. If we don’t want to be unfair to those who graduate from such institutions, we should hire primarily on the basis of achievements that it is possible for the candidate to have obtained. (The point may be dismissed if one thinks that these institutions are a minority, and too much in terms of valuable selection criteria would be lost, if we adopted something like what I suggest.)

(By the way, I am also against increasing graduate teaching opportunities where financially possible. I think this is a way for universities to avoid hiring people in more permanent positions. They feed the hope of graduates with teaching experience that is not going to lead to a permanent position… because the teaching needs are going to be absolved by the next hopeful generation of underpaid fixed-term graduate students.)Report

ejrd
ejrd
Reply to  M
2 years ago

I have two follow-up questions:

1. Have you tried to do any online teaching (either at your institution or any others)? Online teaching is a growing aspect of the job for many of us (especially in the summer) and you wouldn’t necessarily be as limited geographically as you seem to be.

2. What is the placement record for your department? If it’s very good, this may be less worrisome for you than it might otherwise seem. If, when you do go on the market, and assuming you get interviews, my best advice for someone in your position is to rehearse your teaching demo and make it at least as excellent as your research talk. An excellent teaching demo goes a long way toward allaying the fears that some faculty have about teaching (we’ve had people with amazing teaching breadth really blow it on the demo and those with less experience really surprise us with the excellence of their pedagogical approaches). Report

M
M
Reply to  ejrd
2 years ago

Hi ejrd, thanks for your follow-up and advice.
Yes, I am currently doing some online teaching, but for my own institution (I’m also designing part of the course). In fairness, I haven’t looked for online teaching previously, and, as my PhD is over now, I won’t do so in the future. Perhaps some more online teaching experience would have been worth having, but I can’t imagine it would count as much as a face-to-face TA position – in a sense I feel like it shouldn’t.

My university does not have a bad placement record, but neither does it have an excellent one. A senior professor told me recently that they were used to people doing a PhD here “as a hobby”, as opposed to as a way to start an academic career. However, we have placed some PhD in good postdocs, and some got tenure-track jobs. We do have a good department, it’s just that the whole institution is not placement-minded as it could be, it seems to me.
I will certainly follow your advice with regard to the teaching demo, and thank you again for your reply!Report

Marcus Arvan
Reply to  Jen
2 years ago

“I believe that what I did as a TA was not substantially different from a non-TA position.” I have a hard time imagining a scenario in which this true. I was a TA for nearly nine years across two PhD programs. Those experiences in no way prepared me for the reality of what teaching involves or requires in my current institution. Report

Daniel Kaufman
Reply to  Marcus Arvan
2 years ago

This is absolutely right. The two are only barely comparable. Report

Michel
Michel
Reply to  Marcus Arvan
2 years ago

How about when a TA is responsible for teaching two sections a week, as well as all grading for those sections? That seems comparable to me, and is a pretty common arrangement. Sure, the instructor develops the syllabus, but they don’t usually do any of the grading, and the number of contact hours is the same (though differently organized). So what, exactly, is doing all the work of making these positions “barely comparable”?

The only real answer I can think of is teaching load, but then solo teaching experience isn’t going to approximate that, either, unless it’s as part of an actual position. In which case, what you’re looking for isn’t teaching experience so much as it is experience with a teaching load of whatever magnitude.Report

Marcus Arvan
Reply to  Michel
2 years ago

Where to begin?

First, you’re TA-ing two sections of the same course. Prepping three courses daily is an entirely different beast.

Second, at institutions like mine you’re probably teaching a 3/3 or 4/4 where half the classes are ones outside of your AOS. This means that you have to put entire courses together (syllabi, assignments, etc.) and prep daily on material you don’t specialize in and may have only taken a couple of grad courses in years ago).

Third, if you are at an institution like mine, you have 4-credit rather than 3-credit courses—which means your MWF classes are 1:15 long and your two day a week classes are 2 hours long. We had a tenured faculty from an R1 in a visiting position for a year and she said she was astonished at how much more work this was. My experience fully concurs: it is *nothing* like teaching (let alone TA-ing a 3-credit course, alone three or four different ones at a time).

Fourth, at institutions like mine expectations for teaching are much different (and higher) than you are probably accustomed to. As a TA, I got to stand in front of a classroom and lecture off the cuff and maybe grade some exams and term-papers. This isn’t the kind of teaching that is expected by students, faculty or administrators at institutions like mine. It is standard to have PowerPoint lectures, daily or weekly graded assignments (particularly in writing intensive courses, which are common), term paper rewrites, in-class graded group work, and so on. Again, nothing like what I did as a TA.

Finally, you have to do all of this while publishing consistently, serving on committees, doing things outside of class with students (viz. student engagement), and so on.

This is just a start. I could go on ad nauseum. There is no comparison between TA-ing in grad school and teaching full time at a teaching focused institution. I did both for a very long time.Report

Marcus Arvan
Reply to  Marcus Arvan
2 years ago

Correction for grammar and clarity: [teaching 4-credit courses] is *nothing* like teaching (let alone TA-ing) a 3-credit course, not to mention three or four different 4-credit courses at a time.Report

Michek
Michek
Reply to  Marcus Arvan
2 years ago

That’s all well and good, and I don’t disagree. But I didn’t ask about the difference between teaching under a teaching load and TAing; I asked about the difference between teaching *a course* and TAing. Let’s compare comparable things!

I think you’ve also made my point for me: in the context of the experiences you think matter most, simply teaching a course or two doesn’t count, either (or, it shouldn’t). What you seem to care about is *experience navigating the load*. And since that’s the case, the suggestion that PhDs acquire whatever teaching experience they can seems misapplied: you don’t (or shouldn’t, given what you say) care whether someone has taught four or five courses solo, if these were only taught one at a time.

What it sounds like you want is someone who’s taught 2-2 or whatever while doing all the other things they need to do (publish, take classes, etc.). Or, to put it another way: to the extent that teaching a course here or there counts, it seems like TAing (where that’s not just grading) should also count.

Look. I don’t disagree that teaching and TAing are different, or that navigating the expectations of a full-time, tenure-track job are different from navigating the experience of graduate school. Of course they are. But let’s at least be clear about what it is that’s being looked for in the “teaching experience” requirement, and let’s give TAing its due. TAing *is* a lot like teaching *a* course; it’s just not a lot like having a full-time academic job. Report

Marcus Arvan
Reply to  Marcus Arvan
2 years ago

“let’s give TAing its due. TAing *is* a lot like teaching *a* course; it’s just not a lot like having a full-time academic job.”

I still entirely disagree with this, but only on the basis of my own personal experience with both and the fact that I have heard many faculty say the same.

“But I didn’t ask about the difference between teaching under a teaching load and TAing; I asked about the difference between teaching *a course* and TAing. Let’s compare comparable things!”

In my experience, these two things are related (that is, there is an interaction effect between teaching load and what is involved in teaching *a* course). Teaching a course is a very different experience all around when you are teaching just one course as opposed to 3 or 4 at a time. Among other things, you don’t have nearly the same amount of time to dedicate to prep, grading, and so on, that you would if you were just teaching one course all by itself. In other words, my experience is that it is just a mistake to think that one course as a TA *is* comparable to one course as a full time faculty member (as one is never just teaching one course).

“What you seem to care about is *experience navigating the load*.”

In part–that *and* experience teaching many different types of courses regardless (as past experience teaching a course will make it more likely that you can step in and teach that course well in a full teaching load, compared to someone who has never taught that course before).

This is why, if you look at hiring outcomes–at PhD student on the market’s first comment on this thread relating their experiences, as well as at Ornaith O’Dowd’s comment below–the best advice for someone who wants a job at a teaching school is: all things being equal, the more and broader your solo-teaching experience, the better. For my part, I know candidates who got jobs at teaching schools in part because they adjuncted multiple classes at nearby universities each semester for years while in grad school. For better or worse, the reality is: candidates like this have more job-relevant experience for jobs they are being considered for.Report

international grad student
international grad student
Reply to  Jen
2 years ago

Hi Jen,

It might be worth noting that some international students, at least, might quite literally be prevented from working as other than TAs. My F1 visa prevents me from working outside my institution (especially permissions can be granted but they are rare), and I’m at an institution where instructorships are rarely granted to grad students.

On another, more general note, for those who think it legitimate to give preferences to those with extensive teaching experience: Is there any data to suggest that such experience correlates with better teaching over the years? I would be less surprised if it correlated with a shorter adjustment period. But even of this I’m skeptical: I have taken a number of classes with people teaching their first class and they were better than the average class of people who have taught for many years. Of course, this may be purely anecdotal.Report

Ornaith O'Dowd
Ornaith O'Dowd
Reply to  international grad student
2 years ago

I was an F1 student as well but at an institution where there was tons of teaching. I’d suggest finding professional development opportunities related to teaching if you can’t find much teaching work– workshops at your school’s teaching and learning center; conferences and workshops with groups like the AAPT (American Association of Philosophy Teachers), and anything similar, including opportunities to get familiar with the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL).
As for experience being preferred, I would say that schools like mine are looking not only for experience but evidence that you’ve learned something from it. In your teaching statement, in letters about your teaching from others, and in interview, we’d be looking for concrete examples of how your approach has developed over time. Report

Ornaith O'Dowd
Ornaith O'Dowd
Reply to  Ornaith O'Dowd
2 years ago

Also: all PhD programs should be making sure their students are prepared. Placement directors should be ensuring that students are learning how to teach (properly!) and getting at least some practice and formative assessment by faculty.
Report

MrPork
MrPork
Reply to  international grad student
2 years ago

I am an F-1 student and I think Ornaith O’Dowd’s comment is absolutely right. There are tons of opportunities for international students to develop their teaching skills, such as workshops, teaching fellowships/scholarships, etc.

In addition, F-1 students are only allowed to work for their own institutions, and they are not allowed to work for more than 20 hours a week. But you can use your CPT to work outside of your school, as long as you can show that the work you want to do is an essential part for you to finish your degree. You can work full-time or part-time on your CPT, though if you work full-time under CPT for more than a year you will not be able to use your OPT after graduation. Anyway, you can easily find the information online.Report

PhD who is leaving the market
PhD who is leaving the market
2 years ago

Personally, I have teaching experience in two Catholic schools (one of which is my unranked, spep-friendly home institution), two public universities, and at one international department during a fellowship. I’ve had no interviews. I know that my experiences are not unique.

I can imagine a diversity of teaching experiences being helpful for entering a new department. But the market is awful these days. And – no offence is meant, Justin – it’s a bit frustrating always seeing posts for more ways that people are supposed to distinguish themselves on the market. Publications, extensive and diverse teaching experience, letters, awards, etc. – You can have all of these, and still not get any interviews.

I truly love teaching, and I am glad for the opportunity to do it. But it’s worth keeping in mind what it is to teach at ‘another’ institution. It is adjuncting for less than a liveable wage, with no benefits, often with no union, under semester-long contracts, while enabling the university to avoid hiring more full-time or even tenure-track faculty.

I’m not trying to be a cynic, but this is really not working. Look at my colleagues’ posts above – three different stories about the market, and none of them spoke of success.Report

PhD on the market
PhD on the market
Reply to  PhD who is leaving the market
2 years ago

“Publications, extensive and diverse teaching experience, letters, awards, etc. – You can have all of these, and still not get any interviews.”
This seems sadly true, and what is more discouraging is that I see people who don’t have all of those things and get hired anyway.
I agree that it is just not working. Discussions such as these are helpful, and I am grateful to Daily Nous for hosting them, but they are no solution.
I studied with one of the best-known scholars in my sub-field, and have more and better publications than the average PhD. I have letters from two scholars who are well-known outside my sub-field, and teaching experience in different areas. I sent 85 applications in the past 10 months, applying to anything from post-docs to open rank positions, all over the place – US, UK, China, continental Europe, and even Guam. Result: one first-round interview (in the US) – I went there in person at my own expenses, and they never wrote me back after the interview.
Make a parallel with any other profession of your choice. Suppose you worked with a well-known chef and performed above the average. You would be turning down job offers. The profession is in a disastrous situation. Senior academics should stop giving young students the message that with a couple of good publications they’ll be fine – they are playing with people’s talent and future. (I am not suggesting that all senior academics intentionally lie about the state of the market, but simply that I have met some who seem completely out of touch with the way things are now.) Report

Daniel Kaufman
Reply to  PhD who is leaving the market
2 years ago

The forces that compel schools like mine to focus so keenly on teaching experience operate outside of the discipline, and are not going to change regardless of what we do internally.Report

Chris Surprenant
Chris Surprenant
Reply to  PhD who is leaving the market
2 years ago

Not to open up the adjunct discussion again, but…

“It is adjuncting for less than a liveable [sic] wage, with no benefits, often with no union, under semester-long contracts, while enabling the university to avoid hiring more full-time or even tenure-track faculty.”

1. If you’re halfway decent at teaching, and you’re teaching a class that you’ve taught before and use material that you’re familiar with, adjuncting is perfectly good pay for part-time work. 16 weeks, 2 1/2 hours of class a week, 3 office hours (during which few if any students show up and you can prep your course or grade), and some minimal amount of outside of class time to grade. Even if you spend 5 hours per week outside of class and office hours a week grading and prepping (which is much more than), that ends up as 168 hours for the semester. Even if you’re paid only $3000 to adjunct, that’s just under $20 an hour–again, not bad for a part-time job where you get to have interesting conversations, do what you love, etc.

2. People should see adjuncting as what it is–a way to get your foot in the door at a university or to gain experience that can help you on the job market. How else are you spending your time in grad school? Work on your papers and teach courses to develop your CV and give yourself a better chance on the market. Graduate students need to see graduate school not as an extension of college but as the first step in their professional careers. They should know that they need to teach a reasonable range of courses to be successful on the market and should jump at the chance to teach more classes of their own, never mind be paid to teach those courses. Report

Jen
Jen
Reply to  Chris Surprenant
2 years ago

Are you suggesting that people shouldn’t be discouraged or depressed by the state of the market? I don’t understand why you would suggest this. I completely accept both of the points you make, but still recognize that the state of the market can be depressing and discouraging. The fact that there was a time when the likelihood of landing a job without having to adjunct for years was much lower, makes the state of the market quite depressing. Reflecting on this is discouraging for people on the market now, despite the truth of the points you made. This, I take it, is what underlies the lack of excitement in the text you quoted.Report

Chris Surprenant
Chris Surprenant
Reply to  Jen
2 years ago

I think people should be discouraged by the state of academic philosophy, how academics are hired, where positions are opening up, etc., but I’m not sure we’d agree on the specifics. Either way, I don’t find the state of the job market depressing. It may be discouraging, but then that should discourage people from going to graduate school in philosophy if they’re going to graduate school for the sole purpose of landing an academic job.

I ask this next question seriously and without snark: Do you think that everyone who completes a PhD program should get a tenure-track job at a stable university, where the teaching load is no more than 3-3, and where salaries are the equivalent of whatever 60k gets you in some small town in the Midwest? If so, why? No one, for example, enters law school and passes the bar thinks that they are somehow entitled to a job just for completing the program. Why do we think that when it comes to academics? (And if you don’t think this there seems to be more than enough people who do.)

It is upsetting that there are lots of people who want to do certain things in life and for all sorts of reasons it just doesn’t work out for them. I would have loved to be a professional golfer, but even if I were to have put in the hours I likely would not have been good enough to make a living playing golf (even though I’m quite decent and enjoy it). There seems to be a virtue in cutting your losses and recognizing when you’ll never attain that thing you’ve been working towards and believe to want.

I don’t say this because I’m not sympathetic–I am, at least to a certain extent. One problem with philosophy (unlikely golf or professional sports generally) is that folks don’t think there’s a lot of merit to who gets jobs in academia, or at least a very high percentage of getting a good job is chance. Generally, I think that’s garbage. People who are successful say that it’s chance so as to not make other people feel bad; people who are not successful repeat this idea because it’s an easier pill to swallow than realizing that they’re a less competitive applicant for one reason or another.

There’s a reason why there’s a handful of people who end up with lots of interviews when they go on the market. That isn’t chance. I strongly discourage the graduate students I work with from thinking that the academic job market is a lottery. Sometimes, like in poker, you have bad luck. But you need to do what’s in your power to make it more likely that things go your way more often. That probably requires more on the part of a job-seeker now than it did 10, 20, or 30 years ago. But academia is not alone here. You have to do more things now to be successful on the PGA Tour than you had to do 10, 20, or 30 years ago. Most outside observers would say that’s progress. Report

Jen
Jen
Reply to  Chris Surprenant
2 years ago

You can’t seriously be suggesting that every hard-working, talented, deserving philosophy graduate student gets a job. If every such graduate student were getting a job, there would be no serious problem. But that’s not the case. So what’s your point?
Your comment gives the impression that you think people are depressed or discouraged because lazy, untalented, self-important people have trouble getting jobs. I doubt people are discouraged or depressed by this. The real problem has to do with the fact that there are people who refuse to work on weekends, to work over the summer, and to do research “off the clock”. Some still get lots of interviews and land a job. Meanwhile, there are people who start working at 7 am, work all day almost everyday (including weekends, holidays, etc.), and love philosophy, and these people are worried about the state of the job market. Some of these people are doing adjunct work too. This, I’m sure you’ll agree, is depressing and discouraging.Report

Jason Brennan
Jason Brennan
Reply to  Jen
2 years ago

Jen, you are right that he can’t be seriously suggesting that. Indeed, he didn’t unseriously suggest it, nor does it follow from what he said.

What he said was that the system is not a lottery. The people who get the jobs tend to be deserving of the jobs, though I think Chris would agree that there is some corruption involved in who gets job. (But corruption ≠ lottery.)

“Most people who get jobs are deserving” does not imply “The people who get jobs are undeserving, untalented losers” or “Every hard-working, talented, deserving philosophy graduate student gets a job”.

By the way, working 90 hours a week at philosophy is not the same thing as being meritorious. While I admire work ethic, merit is also about actual output, not input. Imagine a person who worked 90 hours a week doing philosophy but who published nothing in six years. I’d view that person as not meritorious and suggest he do something else he’s actually good at. Sometimes lots of hours demonstrates commitment. Sometimes it just demonstrates a lack of skill, including time management skills. Report

Jen
Jen
Reply to  Jen
2 years ago

Thanks for the lesson about what implies what. But I don’t need it. Here’s a lesson you need at least as much as I needed yours: ‘You can’t seriously be implying that p’ neither implies ‘You implied that p’ nor implies ‘You didn’t imply that p’. Nor does it imply ‘It follows from what you said that p’.

I did not say anything contrary to any of what you wrote. For example, I never said (or implied) that someone working 90 hours a week deserves a job. Moreover, it doesn’t follow from anything I said.Report

Chris Surprenant
Chris Surprenant
Reply to  Jen
2 years ago

“You can’t seriously be suggesting that every hard-working, talented, deserving philosophy graduate student gets a job.”

How do you identify who is “deserving” of a job in philosophy? From your comment, being “deserving” is different from being “hard-working” or “talented,” since you’ve listed those things separately.

I don’t see “hard-working” as being a necessary condition for being deserving, but I do see talented (at least when it comes to the appropriate talents) as being necessary. What other things make someone deserving of an academic job in your eyes?Report

Jen
Jen
Reply to  Jen
2 years ago

Chris Surprenant, as I see things, one necessary condition of being deserving of a research-focused position in the current market is that one’s project substantively contributes to the discipline, with potential for having a lasting impact. W.r.t a teaching-focused position in the current market, one necessary condition is that one has a commitment to student success and education. Since one can be talented and hard-working without having either such a project or commitment, being deserving of an academic job can be separated from being talented and being hard-working, as I see things.Report

Chris Surprenant
Chris Surprenant
Reply to  Jen
2 years ago

Jen,
I wouldn’t disagree with any of that, but I bet our colleagues would believe that these standards are much too high. If the standard for deserving when it comes to research positions is “one’s project substantively contributes to the discipline, with potential for having a lasting impact,” then I’d argue that the vast majority of professional philosophers, including most who get hired for research positions, fail to meet this standard. The teaching standard your identify is arguably much lower, but since the vast majority of folks on the market have no interest in 4-4 all teaching positions, I worry that you’ve provided the best evidence yet that the job market isn’t as bad as folks make it out to me. I can’t think of anyone whose research “substantively contributes to the discipline, with potential for having a lasting impact.” But I’ll be hiring 3 post-docs this year and I’ll be happy to consider any folks who fit this description and who want to work on issues related to minority entrepreneurship!Report

Jen
Jen
Reply to  Jen
2 years ago

Chris Surprenant, whether the research standard is too high depends on how ‘substantive contribution’ and ‘lasting impact’ are to be understood. I think there is a plausible way of understanding them according to which the standard is not too high, and the 3 post-docs you hire might satisfy them. It seems to me that there certainly are people who meet the standards but don’t get jobs, as well as people who get jobs but don’t meet the standards. Report

Derek Bowman
Derek Bowman
Reply to  Chris Surprenant
2 years ago

Chris Surprenant:

Notice that the starting assumption of your time estimate (“If you’re halfway decent at teaching, and you’re teaching a class that you’ve taught before and use material that you’re familiar with…”) runs directly counter to the entire premise of the present discussion: that grad students should be adjuncting precisely because their existing training and experience may be inadequate for teaching at the sorts of schools where they’d be adjuncting (to get such experience). Report

Chris Surprenant
Chris Surprenant
Reply to  Derek Bowman
2 years ago

You took my comment out of context. I was addressing the issue that adjuncts are somehow not paid a “fair wage” for their work.

Graduate students likely will need to devote more time to teaching an adjunct course than folks who have completed their PhDs and have previous teaching experience. But even if it takes 2x as long because you lack the experience, you’re still getting paid to gain that experience. Report

Jon Light
Jon Light
2 years ago

I’m at an R1 and prior teaching experience has literally been completely irrelevant for our past few hires (cf., “they’re smart enough, they’ll figure it out”).

But it’d obviously be a terrible idea for Ph.D. students to operationalize that because they’ll be applying both to places who don’t care and to places who do care, so they should probably take at least some opportunities seriously. At least to the extent those don’t–as they often do–substantially take away from other stuff, like completing the Ph.D., getting conferences/publications, and so on.

Btw, I’ve been *shocked* that we’ve had applicants from elite universities who have effectively been on research fellowships through their Ph.D. programs and have never taught (at all, including TA’ing–because some of those schools don’t use TA’s). Having taught something/anything should be a requirement for receipt of a Ph.D., in my opinion.Report

Ornaith O'Dowd
Ornaith O'Dowd
2 years ago

I’m at an open access regional campus of a state school, where teaching is officially 80% of our workload. We’d look for a seasoned teacher who is ready to go on day 1 and ready to teach whatever we might need (many such schools have tiny philosophy departments or philosophers integrated into other departments such as a humanities department). We couldn’t afford to take a chance that someone wouldn’t be an excellent teacher in our particular context. If you can show a track record of meeting students where they are, finding ways to engage underprepared students, supporting first-generation students, etc., then that is going to be impressive. Teaching a bunch of courses, lots of times, with students like ours, and doing it well, is good advice for anyone looking for a teaching-focused job. Pursuing professional development opportunities relating to teaching is also great evidence for us that you will do well at a school like ours. Report

Daniel Kaufman
2 years ago

I am gearing up to chair what I think is my 5th search committee, and as has always been the case, demonstrated ability to teach across our curriculum will be the overwhelming factor in determining who is hired. That means having taught classes oneself and not TA-ing and having excellent evaluations, both student and faculty. Both pedigree and publications stand below this factor in our considerations.

I myself had 5 years of teaching experience before getting my first full time job. All of these were jobs I got myself at local universities and community colleges. At the same time I also waited tables and had other clerical jobs . All while in graduate school.

We only have an undergraduate program and whether we live or die depends entirely on credit hour production. Hence the dominance of teaching experience in our considerations.Report

Experienced
Experienced
2 years ago

Maybe a success story will add something to the thread. I was on the job market for six years, and I acquired all sorts of teaching experience while on the market. My experience was that a broad range of teaching experienced really helped. But let me be clear, I do not mean teaching at different sorts of institutions, so much as teaching both lower division and upper-division courses, in both small classrooms as well as very large lecture halls, both heavy teaching loads and not-so heavy ones, (ideally) teaching to both undergraduates and graduate students, as well as teaching at different institutions (though not necessarily different kinds of institutions). Having real teaching success in such a wide variety of teaching contexts really seemed to translate to more interviews for me, until a TT offer was finally made. Granted, an offer was made after much frustration with interviews and the job market. I agree that a job candidate will see plenty of people get hired who do not have as much experience, which can be frustrating for those who do have more experience. But for anyone who is determined to push forward, that’s a distraction, not something to focus. Progress is still progress.Report

bob
bob
2 years ago
Jason Brennan
Jason Brennan
2 years ago

My tenure home is in a PPE department at a business school, and our faculty get assigned to both philosophical and not-so-philosophical classes. Every year, a number of jobs open up outside philosophy programs for people with philosophy PhDs, e.g., in pre-professional, professional, bioethics, education, and other kinds of fields. Some of these jobs are quite desirable. (E.g., I took my gig over some sweet philosophy gigs, in part because I am greedy and it paid better.) It can certainly help you stand out with jobs like these if you have a diversity of teaching experience, if you can show you can successful teach things other than philosophy courses.

I’m at an R1 and tend to care about research far more than teaching, but relevant teaching experience certainly breaks a tie among the top research-oriented applicants. At less research-focused institutions, the relevant teaching experience may be the dominant factor. I know we’ve managed to place some of our philosophy PhD post-docs in business schools because they proved they could teach business students when they were with us.

So, something to consider. I suppose in general, committees tend to presume that if you can teach well at all, you can teach on your narrow speciality. They also presume, though less strongly, that you can teach in your general field, outside your specialty, with more prep. But there’s less expectation you can each outside your field. It might all things equal be worth picking up a class outside your PhD department.Report

Brian Weatherson
Brian Weatherson
Reply to  Jason Brennan
2 years ago

When I saw this post, I thought it would be about teaching outside philosophy programs. I was disappointed that there was almost nothing about this until this post.

I don’t know how much difference it ends up making on the job market. But anecdotally, I think folks who have taught in psychology, or political science, or great books (just to use places UM grads have recently taught) have benefited from having that experience. Report

Joshua Mugg
Joshua Mugg
2 years ago

It is imperative that a graduate student get adjuncting experience at a non-PhD granting institution if they want to get a TT job at a teaching focused school. It is also very important to teach in more than one modality (e.g. online, face-to-face, and hybrid). I taught at a regional school in the Indiana University system and now at Park University. I taught ~6 courses at either a SLAC or community college during grad school, and this was far more important than my publication record in securing my first position. Report

Crimlaw
Crimlaw
Reply to  Joshua Mugg
2 years ago

Are you generalizing from one case, yours, to what is “imperative” and “very important” for [all?] of those seeking jobs at teaching focused schools? In recent years several of my students have been hired into such positions without having the experiences you discuss. Report

Joshua Mugg
Joshua Mugg
Reply to  Crimlaw
2 years ago

You have had several philosophy students hired at places like Indiana University Kokomo and Park University who have never taught a course? Report

Crimlaw
Crimlaw
Reply to  Joshua Mugg
2 years ago

What are you talking about? I didn’t say they hadn’t taught courses.
I said that they had not done what *you* said is “imperative” and “very important” if they want to get a job at a teaching focused school. Namely, they did not adjunct at a non-PhD granting school and they did not teach in “more than one modality.” They taught first as TAs and then on their own at our PhD granting institution. Report

Joshua Mugg
Joshua Mugg
Reply to  Crimlaw
2 years ago

I see. So they do have some of the experience I suggest, just not all of it. Namely, they lacked teaching experience at non-PhD granting institutions and experience beyond face-to-face.

Regarding teaching at non-PhD granting institutions, here is my reasoning: teachers at teaching-focused schools are often concerned about graduate students’ ability to teach to THEIR kind of students, which is often a different type of student than attends an R1 for undergrad. (I think a number of others have said the same thing in this discussion).

If the institutions your students ended up in don’t have a strong online presence, or are not heading in that direction, then I suppose teaching in multiple modalities wouldn’t be important. My impression is that online education is now a financial must for most institutions, especially teaching-focused institutions. As such, they need folks who can develop (not just teach) online classes.

I hope that clarifies my line of reasoning.
Report

Daniel Kaufman
Reply to  Crimlaw
2 years ago

His experience is mine as well. In my over twenty years at this, we have never hired the sort of person you describe — i.e. lacking this sort of experience — and colleagues/friends of mine at similar institutions in the region tell me the same.Report

Crimlaw
Crimlaw
Reply to  Daniel Kaufman
2 years ago

It is miraculous that so many students manage to get jobs at places that Daniel Kaufmann continues to try to speak for at Daily Nous without having the background that he and others at his institution prefer to hire.

I appreciate the diverse input from those involved in various small ways in the job market. I continue to urge caution about the grand generalizations about what is essential, imperative, important….for hiring at a large group of colleges. Daniel Kaufmann apparently wouldn’t hire students who have taught a range of courses on their own for several years because they have done so at a PhD granting institution. Many other regional state schools and liberal arts colleges certainly will. I have placed more students into such jobs than he has hired. Report

Daniel Kaufman
Reply to  Crimlaw
2 years ago

I said no such thing. Of course we will and have hired people who have taught at phd granting institutions. What matters is that they have taught undergraduates and especially intro courses.

I’ve been trying to be helpful to people given he thread topic, which I know something about. Trust some philosopher to find a way to turn that into a bad thing.Report

Joshua Mugg
Joshua Mugg
2 years ago

If there are folks interested in getting experience teaching at a teaching-focused institution, I am in charge of hiring adjuncts for Philosophy and Religion at Park University. We have campus centers here: https://www.park.edu/map/, and a large online presence. Courses are capped at 25, including online courses. Send me an email if you are interested ([email protected]).Report

Daniel Kaufman
2 years ago

We’ve just met to agree on our ad copy. Not merely do we emphasize solo teaching experience, we especially emphasize demonstrated excellence in teaching Introductory level courses. General education is where all the credit-hour production is, and also is where all of our majors and minors come from. We’ve had experience with people who have been great at teaching high level students, but a disaster at the introductory level, which is the reason for the further emphasis.Report

Rick
Rick
2 years ago

Related question to this for anyone who wants to take a crack at it: what exactly distinguishes teaching at a teaching school from teaching at a research school? My MA was at a teaching school (CSU system) and my PhD is at a (barely-ranked) R1. In terms of style, assignments, etc., teaching of undergraduate classes seems similar at both. So what’s the difference that hiring committees will care about?

I’m asking in part to see if there are things I can tweak about my teaching experience or planning that will more closely reflect what search committees look for.

One more: is there any point at all to building sample syllabi of classes I’m prepared to teach, but haven’t?Report

Recent grad
Recent grad
Reply to  Rick
2 years ago

At least in many (most?) cases, the students at schools with philosophy PhD programs are, on average, vastly better prepared are more motivated than the students you’ll encounter at your average BA institution. For example, I would venture that the top 10% of my students would be in the 40-50th percentile at the place where I got my PhD, and those in the 40-50th would be in the 5-10th.

With this in mind, it’s often a shock what it takes to prepare for classes with the less prepared students. Different readings are often required, different assignments and explanation of assignments, different paces in a single class and over a semester, etc. It can be just as rewarding, but in my experience it’s a lot more work.Report

Jen
Jen
Reply to  Recent grad
2 years ago

My experience has been different. I have experience teaching at a community college. I taught the students there in the same way as I teach students at an R1. I did not assign different readings, assignments, etc. Student success rates differ, but student interest in the class does not. I didn’t vary my standards. Students did fine.Report

MentalEngineer
MentalEngineer
Reply to  Recent grad
2 years ago

Your second paragraph rings true to me, but my experience of which students are which has been exactly the opposite of yours! At the urban university with no PhD program and enough majors to count on one hand where I got my MA, a surprisingly large amount of the intro students showed up ready to learn. Even in the big lecture/discussion courses, plenty of kids were at least willing to hear us out and talk ideas over. Their written English was often middling, but there was often meaningful content in it. By contrast, at the big R1 state school where I’m doing my PhD, the number of intro students who can even pay attention to a 5 minute discussion of a simple point asymptotically approaches 0. Most of them seem to be here because it’s “the thing to do” and/or because we’re a well-known party school. I haven’t had my own course yet at my PhD (I did discussion sections and then adjuncted at my MA), but judging by the amount of extra prep I have to do just to effectively TA here, you are exactly right about that part. Report

Rick
Rick
Reply to  Recent grad
2 years ago

Thanks, this is helpful to know and think about.Report

Jen
Jen
2 years ago

Some teaching-focused schools want to know that a candidate can effectively teach students like the ones at their institution, and this is more important than other things (such as style and assignments). What explains this (at least in my experience) is that enrollment numbers are important for various administrative reasons, and an effective teacher often leads to high enrollment and (hence) a thriving department. So, e.g., since the ability to teach effectively at an R1 is not evidence of an ability to teach effectively at a community college, hiring committees at community colleges prefer to see evidence of the latter sort. Unfortunately, this is not something you can “tweak” to make your CV more compelling to such a committee. Merely tweaking your CV is likely not to make a difference.Report

Daniel Kaufman
Reply to  Jen
2 years ago

This is very well put and pretty much describes us.Report

8910
8910
Reply to  Daniel Kaufman
2 years ago

Hi Daniel. I just want to make sure I understand your comment. Are you saying that this is the attitude the hiring committees at your institution would take toward applicants from R1 programs? “Well, candidate Smith from R1 Uni knows how to tweak a CV, but it’s clear Smith hasn’t taught students like ours, and that’s a problem.” ? Or did you mean something else?Report

Jen
Jen
Reply to  8910
2 years ago

This is not the attitude suggested in my comment. My comment suggests a preference for evidence of a certain sort (e.g., of effective teaching at the level appropriate for a teaching-focused institution). Candidates applying for a job at a teaching-focused institution likely need to prove that they can effectively teach at the appropriate level. And evidence of an ability to effectively teach students at an R1 is not as probative as evidence of an ability to teach students at a teaching-focused school. Report

Daniel Kaufman
Reply to  8910
2 years ago

We want evidence of excellence in teaching Introductory level courses and yes, “students like ours.”

I could say that when I was a job candidate (forever ago), because while I was in a Leiteriffic graduate program, I taught courses at various community colleges and technical schools, so I had a lot of experience with introductory level teaching as well as teaching those in need of remedial education.

We’ve turned down a number of candidates from top schools with impressive research resumes, in favor of those with far less impressive pedigrees on this basis, and we are fortunate to have very strong teachers.Report

Rick
Rick
Reply to  Jen
2 years ago

Thanks for responding, this is good to know. My AOS is phil science, which means that courses I teach often have science majors with no philosophical background and philosophy majors with no science background. (And majors in some sciences at my school seem commonly to be less-well-prepared than majors in other sciences.) As a result, I have to find ways to get everyone onto an even-ish footing—teaching some basic science to the philosophers and some basic philosophy to the scientists. I had been wondering if showing that I do have experience in dealing with a variety of preparedness levels would help. Guessing not, though, since it’s all still at one school. I appreciate the thoughtful response. Report

Daniel Kaufman
Reply to  Rick
2 years ago

It certainly would help with us. I can’t speak for others.Report

Rick
Rick
Reply to  Daniel Kaufman
2 years ago

Thanks for letting me know (and for all your helpful comments throughout the thread).Report

Daniel Kaufman
Reply to  Rick
2 years ago

It’s my pleasure. Don’t hesitate to email me at Missouri State if you want to discuss the job market further.Report

Jen
Jen
Reply to  Rick
2 years ago

No problem. Glad to help.

The fact that you taught only at one institution wouldn’t be a problem, I think, if there were a way to convince a committee at (say) CSUSJ that the students you taught at an R1 are *enough* like the students at CSUSJ. I’m not sure that there is such a way. I guess it depends on the R1. Maybe the students at an R1 (say, UCD) have students who transfer from CSUSJ, or both CSUSJ and UCD have students who transfer from the same community colleges. If so, there may be a way to convince a committee at CSUSJ that one can effectively teach their students despite having experience from only UCD. Report

Rick
Rick
Reply to  Jen
2 years ago

Thanks for taking the time, Jen. This is very helpful.Report

Anna
Anna
2 years ago

I also found it much harder to teach students at state schools that are not very selective. Students (often rightly) have other priorities at these schools and it is much more work to motivate them and make the material interesting and accessible. Report

IGS
IGS
2 years ago

In a weak labor market, employers always suddenly “need” qualifications that they did without before. “Need” in this context does not mean that it is suddenly necessary for the job; it means that in a weak job market, schools suddenly find that they can find candidates who have desirable traits that they could not find in a stronger market, and they do not believe that they can turn down these traits. It is the same reason that employers suddenly “needed” all sorts of STEM skills and programming during the weak job market of the Great Recession. It is all part of the process where employers shift costs onto employees, lowering the effective wage indirectly, since directly lowering wages in dollar terms is generally undesirable.

These phenomena are largely outside philosophy’s control. Philosophy departments are squeezed by the STEM phenomenon and cannot justify turning down candidates with these desirable teaching qualifications. It is all part of the process. It would be nice though if professors who have long been on one side of the divide could avoid being sanctimonious about the process. Comparing “deservingness” across labor market time periods is a fool’s errand without a huge amount of evidence that is absent here. For example, it is perfectly consistent in these conditions to say that teaching schools are justified to select those with a particular kind of teaching experience and that this selection procedure is unfair because many schools and students are not positioned to get that experience. Neither of these conclusions is related factors that were relevant to the job market in the 90s or the 80s.Report

Daniel Kaufman
Reply to  IGS
2 years ago

I don’t see the unfairness in our selecting on the basis of excellence teaching undergraduates and introductory level students, given the imperatives we operate under and given the demographics we draw our students from.Report

IGS
IGS
Reply to  Daniel Kaufman
2 years ago

The unfairness I’m referring to, if it exists, would be a systemic unfairness in the lack of substantive opportunity, not in the procedure. What I have in mind is described in Scanlon’s “Why Does Inequality Matter?” Ch. 5. “Procedural Fairness concerns the process through which individuals are selected for positions of advantage. The requirement I have called Substantive Opportunity concerns the education and other conditions that are necessary to become a good candidate for selection through such a process.” Thus, it would not be an issue with your selection process but with the institutions that prepare students for that selection.

I am not saying here that I am convinced such unfairness is present. I am saying that this unfairness is consistent with your committee being justified in selecting the more prepared candidate under 2018 conditions. I am also saying that conditions that were present at earlier dates are not relevant to determine whether 2018 conditions have this kind of unfairness in substantive opportunity.Report

Daniel Kaufman
Reply to  IGS
2 years ago

I understand. Thank you for the clarification.Report

Jen
Jen
Reply to  IGS
2 years ago

I think I mostly agree with you. But I’m not sure I completely understand your point. Deservingness for a job is partly determined by qualifications needed to effectively do a job, but also by other factors–such as a commitment to student success. For example, suppose that A and B are the only candidates for a teaching-focused position, and that A is but B is not committed to student success. Other things between them being equal, A deserves the job and B does not, since both A and B can effectively do the job, but A is the best candidate (in some relevant sense of ‘best’). It seems to be reasonable to compare such deservingness across labor market time periods. But you’re just making a point about deservingness as determined by qualification needed to effectively do a job, right?Report

IGS
IGS
Reply to  Jen
2 years ago

I am not terribly excited about the idea of “deservingness,” but I do think that candidates should be selected in a way that their talents fit the purpose or function of the position. Thus, I would certainly agree that A should be selected for the position because her commitment to student success is relevant to effective teaching, which is certainly among the critical purposes of a professor at a teaching college. Thus, committees are justified in selecting a student with more relevant teaching experience or more motivation for teaching.

As I noted in my response above, as I see it, the unfairness, if it exists, would not be in the selection procedure by a single committee but in the ability of the profession as a whole to equally prepare students to meet these standards.Report

MBW
MBW
2 years ago

Having read upthread that no one wants the kind of job I have makes me a bit loathe to respond! (That may well be true, and that’s fine, as long as one isn’t a jerk about it.) Nevertheless, it is a significant advantage for a candidate for a job at an institution like mine (4/4 load, open access, lots of gen ed) to have had a) solo teaching experience b) solo teaching experience at the introductory level and c) some evidence of breadth. Our department thrives because of our high gen ed enrollments; moreover, because we’re small, whoever we hire is automatically responsible for a significant chunk of our curriculum. Having had solo teaching experience isn’t an overwhelming advantage, but it can help a file stand out.Report

Rick
Rick
Reply to  MBW
2 years ago

Does “introductory level” here just mean lower division, or is it referring specifically to Intro to Philosophy? Report

MBW
MBW
Reply to  Rick
2 years ago

Intro or critical thinking or something similar. Pitched at the general education level rather than specifically at majors.Report

Tom
Tom
2 years ago

I’m super confused by all the comments about how students at an R1 are so different from students elsewhere. Here’s the deal: either teaching the undergraduates at Harvard and at teaching the undergraduates at the University of Arizona are basically the same job or not.

Case 1: teaching at the two schools is basically the same. Well then since demographically these two student bodies are *wildly* different, yet these differences don’t matter, it seems unlikely that whatever demographic differences there are between UofA students and yours will matter either.

Case 2: the two jobs aren’t basically the same. If so, then you can’t draw any generalizations from my having taught students *at an R1* to anything about whether I can teach students elsewhere.

Yes, I expect that if I’ve never taught anywhere but University of FancyPants, I won’t be able to teach students at Southeastern Somewhere County Technical College as well. But that’s not a comparison of R1 versus non-R1. It’s a comparison of one specific school versus another. Report

Robert A Gressis
Reply to  Tom
2 years ago

I think this is a false dilemma, Tom.

Now, the students are NOT basically the same. But it doesn’t follow from that that you can’t draw any generalizations from my having taught students at an R1 to anything about whether I can teach students elsewhere.

There are good and bad pedagogical practices. If you used the good ones with the students at Harvard, then this is some evidence that you would use good (albeit somewhat different) practices with the students at California State University, Northridge. Plus, people on the hiring committee can ask you how you taught students at Harvard and then how you’d teach them at Northridge. Report