Writing a Winning Teaching Philosophy

 

Teaching philosophy is one of the required documents by all the universities which seek to hire a new professor. Although there are general guidelines to write it down, it is really important to avoid buzzwords and cliches. To this end, here are 4 practical recommendations adopted from [1]:

  1. Discuss what students learn from your class after a semester. How is it beneficial to them? and the world? It is good to extend this discussion in terms of acquiring new knowledge and skills, separately.
  2. Most likely you will be teaching two types of courses: service courses offered by the department, and those courses related to your research expertise. It is a good idea to distinguish between the two which require different objectives and approaches.
  3. Tell a personal story. Walk the readers through your past teaching experience and show them that enlightening moment in the class, or a particular failure which led you to develop a novel teaching methodology.
  4. Acknowledge the inspiring teaching resources: your former beloved teacher, a great book, etc.

Finally, make sure to address these critical questions in your teaching statement: What do you want students to learn? What methods do you employ to help students achieve these objectives? How do you evaluate student learning? Why do you care about teaching?

Good luck!

References:

1- 4 Steps to a Memorable Teaching Philosophy

2- How to Write a Teaching Statement That Stands Out

 

Developing an Effective Research Statement for Faculty Positions

Research statement is one of the important documents in the process of applying for faculty positions, particularly required by research schools. The purpose of it is to showcase your journey in terms of doing research: the past, present and future of your research, in addition to the potential benefits to the community. Research statement is considered as a complementary documents to CV. The latter includes brief description of achievements, projects and essential information such as the name of your schools. Research statement though involves more details about the questions you have in your mind, why they are significant, and your strategies to address them. A winning research statement clarifies the path your research has taken, and where it will take you in the future, and ultimately convinces the search committee that you are a good fit.

One key point in developing an effective research statement is to introduce yourself as a mature competent scientist who aspires to run his/her own academic business independently. It is a fatal mistake to devise the direction of your research plan as a copy of what your current advisor does. The research committee seeks a creative scientist who has a clear short-term and long-term plans. Therefore, you should provide them with a persuasive, reassuring, realistic image of what their life will be like when you are working in their department.

Finally, do not forget to read the samples and observe the range of different approaches that can be taken credibly. It helps you to find your own style of writing.

Good luck!

References:

1- Research Statement Guide

2- Writing a Research Statement For Your Job Application

 

 

Is it Beneficial to Pursue a Postdoc?

 

While getting a doctorate degree is essential to enter professional academic/research job market, it is obscure whether holding a postdoc degree is required or even preferred. In a study [1], 85 percent of the Ph.D. holders stated that this degree is needed in their current job, whereas only 40 percent of the postdoc holders found it either preferred or required.

To start with, it is important to recall that postdoc is just a transition state and cannot be considered as an ultimate career goal. Second, it is hard to generalize the significance of having a postdoc for all the disciplines, e.g. in physics almost all the Ph.D. students end up getting one or even two postdocs, while in computer science graduate students barely end up doing postdoc. Therefore, I would rather merely discuss the pros and cons and let the audience to conclude.

First off, postdocs are absolutely underpaid! In [2] it is discussed that

”A scientific postdoc with a doctoral degree (to be redundant) with 5 years of experience makes ~$4,000 less than the typical librarian and ~$5,000 less than the typical postal carrier.

Now, why a Ph.D. would rather to remain underpaid after receiving the doctoral degree? Many graduate students, especially who plan to become a tenure-track faculty, choose to go for a postdoctoral research position to become more competitive, i.e. by publishing more peer-reviewed papers, applying for transitional grants and gaining teaching experience. However, it is crucial to know that doing postdoc does not necessarily result in all the mentioned achievements. One should definitely apply to join a reputable university and work with an expert professor; otherwise, he/she may not have productive years and lose the chance to compete with the peers. Finally, it is always a good idea to talk to someone who works in your research field and ask whether doing postdoc is a wise choice or not.

References:

1- To Postdoc or Not?

2- Why A Postdoctoral Researcher Position Pays Less Than A Librarian Salary

Future of the University

In recent years, online enrollments in higher education have been growing although overall enrollments in the United States have continued to decline [1]. Interestingly,

79% of all online students and 76% of alumni think that online education is “better than” or “equal to” on-campus education [2].

Given the ever growing number of online courses and material,  a substantial shift in the focus of teaching in the future universities is inevitable.  While in the past it was acceptable for instructors to repeat a set of slides and tests for several years, nowadays students seek up-to-date and pragmatic education. In the present time, one can easily sing up in an online course thought by a proficient professor in a top-rank college and learn the standard lessons for free. Therefore, what graduate students–  who spend considerable amount of time and money in graduate school instead of making money and gaining experience in either academia or industry– look for is beyond the conventional learning objectives. Accordingly, professors should make the nature of projects, tests and assignments more practical.

To this end, I expect to witness a younger generation of faculties in the future universities as well as the senior professors who are still keen to learn new skills and technologies and convey it to their students. Moreover, traditional classes are likely to be totally replaced by online learning platforms, where faculty and students interact most of the time in cyberspace.

 

References:

[1] Changing Students, faculty, and Institutions in the Twenty-First Century

[2] 2018 Online Education Trends Report

[3] The growth of online learning:  How universities must adjust to the new norm