Sometimes it happens that a professor traveling has his TA or RA fill in for him/her delivering a class lecture. Is this experience appropriate for a typical engineering CV, and if so how would it be designated?

This question deals with what sounds to me a somewhat greater honor, being invited to give a lecture in another department at your school. The answers there suggest that this should be listed as a "guest lecture". A related question is whether my first scenario can be described as a "guest lecture". I have seen it described as such on CVs. But my recollection as an undergrad is when a prof mentioned a "guest lecturer" coming, it was usually a bigshot, or some specialist, not some Phd student.

I have a feeling that the professor in the first scenario would use whoever is TAing as substitute, if the TA was at all competent. I have also heard those on search committees say it looks like resume-stuffing and can do more harm than good. On the other hand, a well-received comment by @DavidRicherby in this post suggests that it is a good idea to include substitute lecturing for your PI on a CV. Do folks on search committees (whether at more teaching-oriented or research-oriented institutions) have an opinion?

  • what kind of "institution" (and "search committee") do you have in mind? You mention "a typical engineering CV" so I am not sure whether you are looking to use it in academia or in industry? – WoJ Nov 12 at 13:15
up vote 38 down vote accepted

I would limit the term "guest lecture" to cases where you were specifically invited to give a lecture to the course, because of your ability to contribute something special that the regular instructor could not do. (E.g. you have special expertise on a particular topic, or experiences to relate, or notable achievements, etc.) I wouldn't apply it to simply covering a class (teaching routine material) because the professor is away.

However, you would normally have a separate section on your CV describing your teaching experience, which would include an entry showing that you were a TA for this course. Under this entry, you could describe your duties, which could include something like "occasional lecturing".

There are two different parts of the CV that you're confusing. One of them is "Invited Talks" (or a similar phrasing) which is part of the research portion of the CV and is intended to show that people are interested in your research. This would include colloquia, conferences, and seminars at other schools. If you're very early career you can include seminars at your own school, provided they're research talks.

A totally different part of the CV is your teaching experience. If you have very little teaching experience and you're applying for jobs that involve teaching, then it would make sense to include that you have lecturing experience substituting in a particular course. If the rest of your teaching experience is just grading or running recitation sections, showing that you have a little experience lecturing to a larger class can look good.

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    I think that there's yet a third talk the OP is referring to. At least in my UK University, what's sometimes referred to as Guest Lecture is a teaching activity, and refers to the situations where the course responsible invites a researcher from the department or school with a got topic fit with the course to usually close the course by showing them real-world applications of the course materials applied to their own research. Similar to the distinction @Buffy made. – penelope Nov 12 at 12:24

You are probably correct that Guest Lecturer and Substitute Lecturer aren't the same thing. But both could be listed on the CV as separate items. You want to make your best case there while being honest and informative. Just label it appropriately and, if necessary, provide a phrase of explanation. "I was honored by Prof Dimsdale to cover several lectures on mumble magic theory".

Normally a Guest Lecturer will speak on a topic of his/her own choosing, whereas a substitute will speak on the normal subject matter of the course.

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    "Honored" is a strange word to use on a CV. Just state what you did, not how it made you feel or how you think it should make others feel. – David Richerby Nov 11 at 19:43

Rather than asking "Does this count as X on my CV?", you should just describe it as what it is. State in the teaching section of your CV that you gave three lectures in advanced quantum widget theory, covering the absence of the usual lecturer.

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    I agree you can't go too wrong with being forthright. But much of the CV seems highly stylized, raising questions of etiquette. – Hasse1987 Nov 11 at 19:47
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    @Hasse1987 I'm not sure there's really much etiquette involved: just stay factual and everything will be fine. – David Richerby Nov 11 at 19:49
  • @DavidRicherby: I wouldn’t quite say etiquette, but there are definitely fixed terms with non-obvious conventional meanings. An “invited talk” doesn’t mean any talk you were invited to give; a “seminar talk” doesn’t mean any talk described as a seminar; a “guest lecture” in the teaching section doesn’t mean exactly lectures you gave while a guest. – PLL Nov 12 at 8:37

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