Talking about Teaching in Academic Interviews

All of us at Rutgers are part of a large research university. Our views of teaching and research, and those of the faculty with whom we work, are shaped by this institutional context. Our faculty prepare us to be like them—professors at major research universities.The reality, however, is that only 2.4% of the 4,500 institutions of higher education in the United States share Rutgers’ comprehensive mission. Most of us who earn jobs in academe will work at institutions that emphasize undergraduate teaching. Even large research universities will be concerned with your teaching abilities and may ask direct questions about teaching during an interview.

Those who have prepared a teaching philosophy statement or gathered materials for a teaching portfolio as part of the application process will have already begun thinking about some of the relevant issues. Whether or not you’ve formally written out a teaching philosophy, take some time to think about your general approach to teaching. This includes what you want students to get out of your courses, your teaching methods, and your approach to assessing student learning.

Before an interview, prepare to answer questions about teaching in that specific department at that particular university. In addition to looking up the research interests and publications of the faculty who will be interviewing you, study the courses regularly taught in the department as well at the university’s general curriculum. Learn about both the institution’s mission and what types of students you’d be likely to teach. Be ready to talk about what you could contribute to the department as a teacher.

You can burnish your teaching credentials and give yourself material to talk about on the job market by participating in TAP teaching workshops and certificate programs.

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