This week I will be visiting Umeå University and do interviews with people who have applied for a position as pedagogic developer. I have read their applications and done an initial ranking of the applicants before the interviews. I have done these kinds of interviews a few times before, and it is really a learning experience to listen to the presentations and to what their plans are for the job. Often it is also interesting to compare the impression you get from the application, and specifically the teaching portfolio to the impression you get from the person. However, often I am really nervous before doing interviews because I know that it is very important to the people that have applied for the job.
When doing my assessment I need to spend quite some time reading the instructions given by the university, and to create a rubrics that I use for the assessment. This rubric is unique for each assessment I make when it is for employments at different universities. The rubrics for titles such as “Excellent teacher” at a specific university are the same, and these assessments are often easier and quicker due to this. When the rubrics is done I start reading the applications to understand the competence and experiences of the applicant.
Here are some short tips for writing an application to a position in academia. Some advice are general and some more specific for the teaching skills assessment
- Use headlines that help the examiner find the information quickly and easily.
- Please read the job ad very closely, and also the instruktions for the position that you are applying for. See to it that you include the information needed for assessing your competence in the areas mentioned in the ad and in the job description.
- Please note that the assessment of the teaching skills requires you to write a text that reflects your experiences from teaching. A list of what courses you have taught is not enough. I cannot assess those who only add a bullet list with courses, independent of how long the list is.
- Provide evidence of your work in the form of letters of recommendation, course evaluations, descriptions of development project etc.
- If there are specific courses mentioned in the advertisement for the position, please mention why you would be a good teacher of those courses.
- Connect the teaching philosophy with your own experiences as a teacher, and reflect on them.
- Write something about how you plan to improve as a teacher. What would your future work be?
In Sweden there has been a stronger focus on teaching skills at the university level during the last 10-15 years. One of the changes is the introduction of courses in teaching and learning in PhD education at most universities, and another is a career path including a title connected to salary raise for Excellent teacher. A large majority of the universities have also added “teaching skills” as a part of the requirements when employing university senior lecturers, and it is a part of the promotion to Associate Professor and full Professor.
Since 2010 I work with assessment of teaching skills for employments or promotion at the university level. I have done a few hundred assessments by now, and worked for around eight different universities. When employing a senior lecturer, for example, there is often team of 2-3 external exerts who do assessments for a committee in charge of the employment process. Sometimes they have asked me to do the assessment of teaching skills, and then the other two experts to do an assessment of both teaching skills and research excellence. Often the other experts then write a couple of pages describing and evaluating the research contribution from different perspectives, and then by the end add two sentences on teaching describing the teaching experiences of the applicant. A typical assessment in this context looks something like this:
The applicant has taught four courses at the university level (2010-2016), and supervised 5 bachelor students and 3 master students.
My assessments are usually around 2-3 pages only looking at the teaching skills in relation to the criteria made up by this specific university (there are no universal criteria in Sweden for teaching skills), and the criteria specified text in the advertisement for the position.
Q &A related to Assessment of Teaching skills
Isn’t it very subjective to do these kinds of assessments?
- Well, not more than the assessment of scientific skills. Often the criteria used for assessment of teaching skills are much more elaborated and transparent than the ones used for scientific skills. So sometimes the assessment of scientific skills is really based on hidden norms and expectations, and that is really subjective.
The assessment is only based on what people claim they do, not reality what they have done.
- The assessment is based on the text, but claims made need to be supported by the material provided in the portfolio such as course descriptions, development work done and letters of recommendation. Sometimes the assessment is also made through a test lecture and an interview.
Is teaching skills really valued as much as research skills when employing senior lecturers?
- My experience is that sometimes it is, but often not. 🙁