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I am a PhD student in economics in the UK. Recently, I have been hearing how important teaching experience is to find a job in academia as a lecturer. One needs to submit teaching statements and may be asked about one's teaching philosophy.

Can you please share your experience about how important teaching is in becoming a lecturer? I suppose being a teaching assistent and leading example classes is a big plus. Of course, only if the research part of the PhD is going sufficiently well such that there is time for teaching.

What about schemes like the TSP (The Scholars Programme) of the Brilliant Club where PhD Students visit schools the odd times and give mini courses to interested pupils? Does this count as being committed to teaching or is it neglected due to the low level of difficulty?

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    At my school, we have no shortage of applicants with a wonderful research record. However, after shortlisting them, the overwhelming factor we use to hire an applicant is teaching. We've passed on some excellent candidates with a brilliant track record because they would make awful teachers. In short, at my school, research gets you an interview, and good teaching lands you the job. Note, in Australia, some universities are hiring teaching focused staff, usually non-tenure. So teaching will be the main consideration for these positions. – Prof. Santa Claus Oct 8 '19 at 0:06
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    "I suppose being a teaching assistent and leading example classes is a big plus." Not if every job applicant has done that. – Anonymous Physicist Oct 8 '19 at 6:47
  • @AnonymousPhysicist what about the mentioned school programme from Alex? Does teaching pupils really help in demonstrating your interest in teaching and attending an extra teaching workshop or doesnt it really influence university hiring decisions as it is not quite the same as teaching university students? – Kevin Oct 8 '19 at 10:08
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    @KeSchn I'd not heard of TSP before, but it sounds like it will demonstrate your interest in teaching secondary school, which is a good career path for a PhD, but not the career mentioned in the question. One teaching workshop isn't sufficient to be evidence. Do several a year, for many years. – Anonymous Physicist Oct 8 '19 at 10:13
  • I voted to close, because depending on the institution, the answer to the question could be "teaching is the only thing that matters" or "teaching does not matter at all." – Anonymous Physicist Oct 8 '19 at 10:19
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Even if the PhD research does not go as planned, I would strongly suggest you to get some teaching experience for a number of reasons:

  1. "One learns best when one teaches" as a translation of the German "Am besten lernt man, wenn man lehrt". Teaching gives you a deeper understanding of many topics, it helped me a lot.

  2. Character building: you as a person will benefit as well from teaching. Speaking publicly is not an issue for me since I taught during my PhD studies, this had a really positive effect on my work outside academia as well.

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For a lecturer (defined generically) it would be very important anywhere. Most of your competition for any teaching position will include many people with experience. Some will have a lot. It is good to get it wherever you can.

I have no experience with the program you point to, but it looks promising. But there are other ways. I'm surprised that you aren't getting some of that in your doctoral program, but that depends on funding. One way to easily get a bit of experience that may be open to you is to ask a professor who also has undergraduate teaching duties if you could give a lecture or two on some topic in that other course.

When I was an undergraduate, my professor actually asked each of the students (very small classes) to deliver a lecture on some topic. It didn't give him the day off, however, as he was there and gave us some feedback on how we did. The first try can be pretty miserable, actually. Especially for an introvert.

You can develop a teaching philosophy of sorts by watching the professors you admire and giving some thought to why you think they are effective. What is it that they do, not just in the lecture hall, but overall, that makes you appreciate them. You can even ask them about it.

But many new PhDs have a lot of misconceptions about teaching and learning. The biggest misconception, I think, is to believe that students are all like yourself. They aren't. And you need to adapt to that if you want to be effective. Effective lecturing, for example, is only a very small part of teaching.


However, since the term lecturer (descriptive, generic) may be different from Lecturer (an entry level academic rank in UK) your mileage may vary. How important it is for hiring into a specific rank depends on the university hiring. For some, teaching would be very important. For others only research really counts. For some even research isn't enough unless you attract grant funding for it.

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  • Would a hiring board base their decision equally on teaching and research or does research dominate the hiring decision of new lecturers? – Kevin Oct 7 '19 at 21:21
  • If lecturer means teaching faculty then research will play a small part. If lecturer means an entry level position with teaching and research then research might dominate, depending on the institution. My interpretation of "lecturer" was the former. In some places it is expected that you will (eventually) "pick up" some teaching skills but research and grant writing dominate everything else. If you make the position a bit clearer in your question I'll edit as needed. The terms aren't the same everywhere. In my world "lecturer" = "teaching primarily". Yours? – Buffy Oct 7 '19 at 23:48
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    The question specifies UK, so this is probably a good start: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Academic_ranks_in_the_United_Kingdom – Tommi Oct 8 '19 at 7:15
  • @buffy it's quite common for UK phd students to get little to no teaching experience. At my Uni, PhD students cannot deliver lectures to undergraduates and they are not allowed to grade master's level assignments. They are left with marking undergraduate essays as their only teaching experience...and only a limited number of them get that job. I delivered one lecture to undergraduates as a PhD student and that was notable...and was because the actual lecturer was hospitalised. – GrotesqueSI Oct 8 '19 at 8:29

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