Monday, November 1, 2010

too little (requested) information

After my post on search committees that ask for too much information from job candidates, I saw this exchange on the Chronicle for Higher Education, asking what search committees mean when they ask for "evidence of teaching effectiveness". The first commenter says that in their program, that phrase means:

1) “My philosophy of teaching” statements, usually 1-3 pages. These are often pretty routine, but occasionally one stands out as really thoughtful; and the absence of ANY such statement counts against an applicant. 2) Photocopies of student evaluations, plus relevant statistical data. Some of our faculty place more weight on the overall data, others on student written comments. 3) Comments by the applicants’ peers or graduate professors who visited the applicants’ classes. 4) Syllabi from courses the applicants have taught.

Further responders asked if the job ads actually specify that these items are required. If the absence of a teaching statement will count as evidence of no teaching philosophy whatsoever, I hope the ads tell candidates that such a statement is expected. Candidates are often told to follow the application guidelines to the letter, since sending more than is asked for could count against us. Alas, not surprisingly, the answer was:

Looking over several of our old ads, I see they vary a bit, and they definitely do not ask for all the six things I listed; but those things carry a lot of weight, and we tend to think that serious applicants should be able to figure out what unspecified items would enhance their chances. The ads have varied because search committee members have varied, and the committee writes the ad (except for the wording the university requires). One example:

Candidate should have teaching competence in XXX … must provide evidence both of proficiency in undergraduate teaching, including introductory level courses, and of potential for scholarly achievement … Finalists must successfully complete an interview and a teaching demonstration.

I love that line about "serious applicants should be able to figure out what unspecified items would enhance their chances." Yeah, because even highly educated academics believe that all people think like them, and there is only one right way to do things: the way it happens to be done at their institution. Therefore they don't have to be clear in their directions, because anyone who was the right fit (i.e. same background in academics, age, class, gender, and race) would know the unspoken code. And, hell, there is nothing capricious about assuming everyone can read their minds.

The commenter did say they would provide clarification if the candidates e-mailed, but it's hardly surprising that many won't. We don't want to annoy members of the search committee who may very well get 100 e-mails regarding the details of the application.

Reason #712 why the job market is a complete and utter crapshoot.


  1. Thanks for posting this! One of my mentors told me "evidence of teaching effectiveness" sounded like a fancypants way of asking for teaching evals. Sounds like this varies so much by department I'll have to ask them, sigh. I hope those of us going through this mess now will remember it well enough to fix the worst parts when we eventually gain some power to do so.

  2. Just emailed the HR person in charge of the search I was suddenly worried about, and was told that at UC Berkeley, "evidence of teaching effectiveness" indeed means teaching evaluations. I imagine a high percentage of people reading this are applying for that job, so I thought I'd pass it on.

  3. Thanks! Yes, I bet a bunch of us are applying, so that will be useful information. If you have the time, add it to the archaeology jobs wiki, too.

    The problem with an anonymous blog and anonymous posters is now I'm wondering if you're one of the anonymous people I know, or not! Either way, good luck with the job applications!

  4. If you are who I suspect you are, we do know each other. And if people were hired based on their CVs, the fact that we have similar interests and are applying for the same things would terrify me, as I'm several years behind you experience-wise. But, since in real life getting a job seems to be akin to getting struck by lightening or benefiting from divine intervention rather than anything one could predict based on perusing the ads and the applicants' CVs, I am trying to tell myself not to freak out about it. :-)

  5. Ha! And here I thought I was all anonymous! Yes, I think we do know each other, and definitely you should not be freaking out about the job situation. Crapshoot, crapshoot, crapshoot, that's all I can say. Anyway, thanks for stopping by here. It's good to know there's a community of us interested in the same stuff!

    Oh, and thanks for changing the wiki, too!