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I'm currently a post doc (in theoretical computer science) and the only teaching experience I had so far was to teach some tutorial classes for undergraduate courses and giving some "guest lectures" in some graduate classes. It seems that most positions for assistant professor require you to show some teaching experience, i.e. at least co-teaching some courses. The problem is, my current department is quite inflexible giving such assignments to postdocs.

On the positive side, I got some pretty good student evaluations for the tutorials I've been teaching, whether that is considered helpful without teaching a "real" course, is of course a different matter.

Overall, my research record (several tier-1 publications) beats my teaching record (by far).

Will my lack of teaching experience be a showstopper when applying for follow up positions?

  • I edited the title to reflect the body - please check if that fits your query. – TCSGrad May 15 '13 at 4:44
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I'm surprised to hear you say that "most positions for assistant professor require you to show some teaching experience, i.e., at least co-teaching some courses." If you are applying to positions in the U.S. where research will be your primary duty, your prior tutorial and guest lecture experience should be sufficient to get you past whatever minimum you need, especially if you have evaluations to back this up. Of the five colleagues of mine who received tenure-track offers at Reasearch I universities, only one of them had co-taught a class, and the others had one semester of TA experience which was, primarily, grading.

That said, there are other ideas for getting teaching experience:

  1. Creating your own course or seminar to teach in the summer or during a January term. If you pitch it as a non-credit course, it might be easier to convince your department to let you teach it.

  2. Look for adjunct work at a local community college. You'll probably be limited to introductory courses, but this gets you experience. You may need the buy-in from your faculty boss at your current school.

  3. Talking to individual professors about helping with their course -- I find it hard to believe that everyone has all the help they might like already, and you may have more luck getting your foot into a classroom without trying to be officially assigned to it.

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Chris and Suresh answer for research-intensive institutions. At a primarily undergraduate institution, teaching experience is more important, but search committees (being composed of people who went through the process before) know that most PhDs and post-docs have very little teaching experience, and most of it is the type that you have listed. What most committees are probably looking for is any evidence of teaching potential. Teaching experience does not always mean good teaching. If you do not have a lot of experience, then you should ask your references to address teaching potential in your letters (and you should have difference letters for primarily undergrad institutions than for research institutions).

Does more teaching experience help you get a phone interview?

Probably. It's one of the few things that can make you stand out on paper.

Does more teaching experience help you get an onsite interview?

No. Once you make it to the phone interview, it's all about you, your personality, and how you might fit with the department. In addition to teaching experience/potential, you need to show that you are interested and capable of starting a research program with undergraduates, and that you have a project reasonable to the resources of the institution. If your research requires use of one of only a half-dozen specialized instruments in the world, you will likely not get called back.

Does more teaching experience increase your chances of getting the job once you do the onsite interview?

No. The onsite interview likely will include a sample lecture. If you are interviewing at a primarily undergraduate institution, and you mess up the sample lecture, you're done. The sample lecture is how your teaching potential is measured. I've seen people with very little experience do a fantastic job (i.e. engage the class, work examples, answer questions, etc.), and I've seen people with 5+ years of experience stare at their PowerPoint slides, read them word for word, and never look at the class.

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    Does more teaching experience help you get a phone interview? — Just to be clear: Most research-oriented CS departments in the US don't do phone interviews. – JeffE May 15 '13 at 20:12
  • I hear that this might be changing. But your statement is certainly true right now. – Suresh May 15 '13 at 20:31
  • @JeffE - note that my answer is for teaching-intensive positions at primarily undergraduate institutions. While phone interviews may not be the norm, some departments do them. Mine does. – Ben Norris May 16 '13 at 0:39
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    I would add that at my (all undergrad) department in a directional state U, we're looking for an interest in teaching as well as some kind of evidence that the candidate can do it well. Our research has to be done around the corners, but teaching goes on all the time. You'd better like it! – dmckee Feb 21 '15 at 0:38
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It seems that most positions for assistant professor require you to show some teaching experience, i.e. at least co-teaching some courses.

Really ? We all ask for teaching statements, but it's rare to see committees in research-oriented departments pay more than lip service to this at application review time. For sure, if a candidate can't deliver a good lecture, it's unlikely that their job talk will be excellent. But that's only an indirect signal.

Now if you're talking about departments with a heaving teaching focus, then I'm sure they expect more in the way of provable teaching skills, and may even ask you to give a class lecture as part of the interview process.

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I'm not sure if it would exactly be a major hindrance, but at every school I interviewed at this past season, all of them asked me about what I've taught before and what kind of courses I would teach and develop at the school if they hired me. I believe that answers to these questions are things that you can work on even if you don't have teaching experience. It's not exactly difficult to say, "I want to teach topic 1 and topic 2" for courses if that's what your research was in.

That said, actually teaching a course is quite different from doing guest lectures and teaching assistantships. One professor advised me, "You might want to teach at least one course to make sure that you can, at least, tolerate teaching before you commit to academia."

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    +1 for "Actually teaching a course is quite different from doing guest lectures and teaching assistantships." Going from the planning stage through teaching all the classes, to the grading, tutoring, coordinating any TAs, dealing with feedback, and dealing with students with individual problems (not a complete list!) is significantly different than any other experience. But, many of us think it is also awesome and marvel that we actually get paid to do it! – Chris Gregg May 16 '13 at 3:19
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I have no experience in theoretical computer science. But in mathematics: it seems to me a postdoc position that has no real teaching responsibilities is a disservice to the candidate. For reasons such as those mentioned. They prepare that guy only for a research position with no teaching.

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    Postdocs in math are different from postdocs in (almost?) every other field. In fact, they are often called something like "visiting assistant professor" which indicates the distinction. – Kimball Feb 21 '15 at 4:09
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You don't have "a lot" of teaching experience, but what little you have is of "good quality," as evidenced by your good reviews.

Teaching is a "secondary" function at most universities, and will be judged on a "pass-fail" basis. Here, you have clearly "passed." You don't need to worry about "acing" teaching.

The thing that will get you considered for most positions is your research. If you had "no" teaching experience, that might be a handicap, but "limited" teaching experience probably is not. For your purposes, "tutorials" are as good as "real courses."

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