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I'm curious if anybody here has ever transitioned from a teaching-strong academic career to a curriculum assessment type job (in calculus, for example)? If so, what would you be able to say about that? That is, what do you think a successful applicant to such a job should have on their CV, coming from academia? What would you be able to say about the types of tasks you were involved in, once hired? How did the lifestyle differ (or not differ) from your past academic experience? You know, the works. (If it matters, I'm coming from an American context.)

I should perhaps say a bit about myself to help clarify this question more.

I graduated with a PhD in mathematics in 2017, having worked as a part-time graduate teaching assistant for six years (two semesters as full instructor-of-record). I have now completed two years of an intensive teaching post-doc, with one more year to go. This position has given me the ability to teach a wide range of undergraduate courses: calculus 1, 2, and 3, linear algebra, complex analysis, topology, real analysis 2, abstract algebra 1, and four semesters of an active-learning/group-work/IBL style logic&proof course for non-math majors.

These last two years, I have employed various teaching styles running the gamut from teacher-centered to student-centered. In graduate school, I was fortunate to serve as a TA for various instructors who I observed, and assisted with, employing techniques like flipped classroom, IBL worksheets, group work, etc. I have written several creative quizzes, exams, and interactive proofs (further details upon request) in all of my classes, and have come to quite enjoy this part of the job. I am preparing a conference talk and paper about work I did this past spring semester to revolutionize my department's logic&proof course for non-math majors.

I know that I would like a math education-focused career, but I am lately considering the possibility that perhaps being more behind the scenes rather than constantly in the classroom might be a better fit for my temperament/personality. Assuming that a transition to a curriculum assessment/specialist type job (still learning the lingo) is even feasible for someone with my experience, would it be advisable? Assuming, down the road, that I wish to return to university teaching, would it be possible? It strikes me that having experience in developing unique, cutting-edge curricular materials might actually be a benefit for a university instructor. Anyway, this is a new idea that I'm beginning to explore, so I'm gathering all the information and perspectives that I can at this stage.

  • This can be very rewarding, especially if you have capable and knowledgeable colleagues (i.e. not those identified by HR on the basis of buzz-words in a resume), but for someone with your background the pay is typically less than for teaching and your job security is also subject to fickle market trends. I'm reluctant to say more here, but possibly this could provide some useful search ideas. – Dave L Renfro Jul 16 at 8:22
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    Could you edit the question for length? I'm very curious what a "curricular assessment type job" is. If it is not at a university, your question might get closed as off topic. – Anonymous Physicist Jul 16 at 8:28
  • This seems like an extremely narrow career path. There are employees of the College Board, of course, and editors of textbook publishers, but I don't know of others outside of academics who mostly do this as a byproduct of doing other things. Perhaps getting employed by an online course delivery system might work. But still, narrow, I think. Where there are thousands of universities, there are only a few jobs at places like Coursera and similar. – Buffy Jul 16 at 12:43
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    Possible google searches are math + consultant + education and curriculum + math + coordinator, but opportunities at the post-HS level are virtually non-existent, since as @Buffy said, this is the kind of thing that faculty take on according to need and interest. Perhaps you could gain entry as a college math lab coordinator, and then try to expand your job duties after you're in such a position. – Dave L Renfro Jul 16 at 17:02
  • There's a role at many schools called "program coordinator" which may be either a service position held by a faculty member (perhaps in exchange for a reduced teaching load), or it can be a non-faculty job help by staff member. In the latter case it seems to be a good bit lower on the food chain and pay scale versus faculty. – A Simple Algorithm Aug 15 at 13:07
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I suggest the following course of action when thinking about any non-standard career path:

  1. Identify people who already have the job you would like to have. Get in touch with them, and ask them as many questions as you can think of (about their job, how they got it, etc.). If you can't find anybody, chances are that this job doesn't really exist in your area. For instance, I am not sure if my university employs anybody for "curricular assessment", although we have a few people who more or less work fulltime on program management and development (which may be close to what you have in mind).
  2. Find out what qualifications these people have, and which qualifications they had before starting their job. It's well possible that you may need additional training before you can realistically apply for the job you are looking for (e.g., to become a program manager in my department, you typically want to be a mid-career academic with considerable pedagogical training and some publications in education-focused journals and conferences).
  3. Let everybody and their dog know that you are interested in transitioning into such a position. One challenge with non-traditional career paths is that most people in your network may not even be aware that you might be interested in such a job if they happen to come across one. The only solution for this is to make sure that your entire network is aware that you are not looking for a standard faculty position.
  4. Volunteer for every opportunity to take on a role in your department that comes close to what you want to do. Besides giving you valuable experience this will also help you become known as the person doing program development in your department (and, hopefully, beyond). If a suitable job opens up, you should be the first person that people are thinking about.

In a nutshell, it's really not all that different from how engineers transition into management positions in industry. First, you make sure that people know you are interested in a management position in the first place. Then you get the necessary training and take over more and more management tasks, until a suitable opportunity arises and you get asked to transition.

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One possible option is to do this at the university level, where a possible career path would be as follows:

  1. Get a tenure-track faculty position at a university that cares about teaching. Your qualifications should make a very positive impression on the job market, especially if you have a respectable math research record as well.

  2. Once hired, continue to invest time in your new department as you've been doing. Volunteer for leadership, service, and administrative roles.

  3. Once tenured, try to transition into an administrative role. You could work as your department's undergraduate director, seek a role in the Dean's or Provost's office, etc. Alternatively, you could seek a job in an accrediting agency, or in a national organization like the AMS or MAA.

But beware (as you might already be aware) that many professors have a habit of tuning out "curriculum assessment". Your influence will be a function of your ability to persuade people; even if you obtain a lot of formal power, that doesn't mean that anyone will listen to you. "Assessment" has a reputation for being useless busywork, which you might have to fight.

That said, if you want to work in higher education, this is probably your likeliest career path. My impression is that, for better or worse, no one outside universities has much influence on college-level pedagogy.

There might also be options at the K-12 level or elsewhere; I don't know anything about these and so won't comment. Good luck!

  • In Australia for primary and secondary education you’d probably want to get in touch with ACARA - the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority. I’m not sure where the OP lives, though, since this question doesn’t have a location tag - and I’m not sure if primary/secondary education are within the scope of this Stack, anyway. – nick012000 Aug 16 at 0:10

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