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I am applying for PhD programs and some of them ask for a teaching statement for TA positions. However, as a graduate student, my only experience related to teaching is working as a grader of a graduate level class. I only worked closely with the professor and never communicated with any student.

I've read some teaching statement examples, but it seems nearly all of them are for people applying for faculty positions with or without teaching experience. My question is: should I follow this kind of examples talking about teaching philosophy/methods? Or is there another way for graduate students to write the statement? I think the department know that the possibility of graduate students having teaching experience is not high. So I am worrying that if I imitate the faculty way of writing may look very naive and doesn't work.

Thank you!

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  • Does the TA involve actual teaching or only assisting in courses taught by others? Help sections and such.
    – Buffy
    Commented Dec 28, 2022 at 21:37
  • If you mean the phd school asking for the statement, they don't mention it. But many other schools require actual teaching. So I guess typically the TA position for phd student is actual independent teaching.
    – yan xi
    Commented Dec 28, 2022 at 21:52
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    In the US, actually, it isn't independent teaching until you've done the other for a few years. Mostly it is in "breakout" question/answer sessions and grading. No course prep or curriculum design. No lecturing. In Europe it could be quite different.
    – Buffy
    Commented Dec 28, 2022 at 21:54
  • You should learn about the requirements of the job before you write this.
    – Buffy
    Commented Dec 28, 2022 at 21:57

2 Answers 2

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I think you should just be honest in your statement. Don't copy a format. Explain the work you have done. And don't undersell yourself! Marking is hard, and your department might be very pleased to have someone with experience. But also explain that you are keen to develop a bigger teaching portfolio and are eager to learn. Many courses that take on PhD students as TAs know that the PhD students won't have tonnes of experience and are happy to train them up.

Good luck with it!

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First, don't try to write it without knowing the requirements of the job. You should be able to find this online or by asking students, professors, or administrators.

Second, think about how you fit those requirements. You don't need to say more. In the US, you would probably need to say very little since most of the work is grading and responding to questions. The questions are mostly about hints on homework and about misunderstandings from the professor's lectures. Even the grading is (hopefully) guided by a rubric.

You need to be honest and the statement should cover the intersection of your skills and the job requirements.

I suspect that even in the case where you are expected to do independent teaching, the curriculum is set, the courses are introductory and you already know the material well - especially in the first couple of terms. They aren't hiring an experienced teacher and the system likely recognizes and accommodates that.

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