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I will be receiving my Masters Degree in MIS this summer. I have a bachelors in Computer Science. I also have 3 years professional working experience. I am interested in teaching as an adjunct at community colleges. I have no training in teaching. I had an interview recently. One of the questions that came up was what is my teaching philosophy. I had no answer being that it was the first time had heard of the topic. My question is what can I do to prepare myself to be a better candidate for these positions. Do I need to take teaching courses or is there some reading that I can do to prepare myself. Are there any certifications for teaching at this level?

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I am a biology education researcher at a large public university, which means I spend a lot of time reading about teaching techniques and analyzing student outcomes. I teach college biology courses regularly. I say all this to emphasize that teaching well is a difficult skill set in itself. Being an expert in a field is only tangentially related to being an expert teacher.

So, I am assuming that you not only want to get hired, but want to become a good teacher. I'll suggest three ways to become an effective (and hireable) adjunct.

  1. Read a book on university teaching. Most are geared toward new faculty. Some examples are: Teaching at Its Best or How Learning Works.
  2. Google for the journal on education research in your specialty. For computer science, it looks like Journal of Computational Science Education. Read through several articles to get an idea of what the current issues in teaching in your field are.
  3. Get practice teaching. If there is a community college, liberal arts college, or university near you, email some of the faculty and ask if you can assist for free during recitations/labs and help grade exams. Effective teaching requires understanding how confused students think and lots of practice helping guide them over hurdles. There may be legal issues to overcome here, but hopefully someone will appreciate free support.

It's easy to Google "how to write a teaching philosophy statement," but a good statement requires you to have some teaching experience to use as examples.

To summarize -- read up, get practice, appreciate that this is a new skill.

  • Adrienne is exactly right. Becoming an expert teacher takes time and dedication -- and too many adjuncts seem to lack the latter. I've taught at the university level for 15 years and have hired a lot of teachers and always give the advice to give yourself three semesters. In your first you're going to make every mistake in the book. In the second you're going to over-correct for all of those mistakes and in so doing you'll make a bunch of new ones. By the third semester you'll have it down. And don't forget the most important part of being a teacher: Never stop learning! – Dave Kanter Jun 2 '14 at 20:55
  • Follow Up: @Adrienne I've already gotten invites from two professor after following your advice. One has agreed to allow help with grading. The other has invited me as a guest lecturer! – Antarr Byrd Jun 4 '14 at 15:39

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