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Tips for Writing Effective Faculty Job Applications


Tips for Writing Effective Faculty Job Applications Dr. Morris Grubbs The Graduate School – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Tips for Writing Effective Faculty Job Applications

Tips for Writing Effective Faculty Job
  • Dr. Morris Grubbs
  • The Graduate School

Topics Covered
  • Principles of Effective Faculty Job Application
  • Principles of Effective Teaching Statements
  • Principles of Effective Research Statements

  • The principles presented here are general
    principles. Some of them may be slightly at odds
    with discipline-specific conventions. Ask
    colleagues in your department for disciplinary
    guidelines, especially when it comes to writing a
    statement of research.

Institutional Types
  • Research university
  • Regional comprehensive university
  • Independent or private liberal arts
  • Associates college (community college)
  • Various kinds of for-profit colleges and
    universities (such as Strayer University)

Research Universities(Includes public, private
non-profit, and some private for-profit
  • Divided into three categories
  • -- RU with Very High Research Activity
  • -- RU with High Research Activity
  • -- DRU (Doctoral/RU Moderate Research)
  • See Carnegie Foundation website for full list

Regional Comprehensive Universities
  • Also called Masters Colleges and Universities in
    the Carnegie classification system (e.g., Eastern
    KY Univ., Northern KY Univ., Morehead State
  • Many evolved from Normal Schools opened at the
    turn of the 20th century, designed to train
    public school teachers
  • Provide a comprehensive set of bachelors and
    masters programs some are beginning to provide
    doctoral degrees, mostly jointly with a research
  • See Council on Postsecondary Education

The Independent or Private Liberal Arts College
  • Emphasis is solidly on undergraduate teaching
    (e.g., Transylvania University, Centre College,
    Georgetown College, Asbury University, etc.)
  • Some encourage and reward research, especially if
    the research involves undergraduates
  • Many have a small number of masters programs
  • Twenty private colleges in Kentucky. See
    Association of Independent Kentucky Colleges and
    Universities (AIKCU) website

Associates Colleges
  • Also called two-year junior colleges, but now
    usually called Community Colleges
  • Proliferated in the 1950s/60s to expand public
    access to higher education and to enrich
    cultural, civic, and entrepreneurial
    opportunities, especially in isolated areas
  • For public Associates Colleges in Kentucky, see
    KCTCS website

Course loads for faculty at different types of
institutions(traditional semester system)
  • Research universities average of 4 courses per
  • Regional universities average of 7 courses per
  • Small liberal arts college average of 8 courses
    per year
  • Community college average of 9 courses per year

Know Thyselfand be True to Thyself
  • Are you a researcher who can teach?
  • Or are you a teacher who can research?
  • Or are you both at a high level?

Tips for Writing Effective Letters of Application
  • Tailor your letter very carefully and
    specifically to the position as described in the
    job announcement
  • Avoid sending out generic cover letters. Search
    committees can easily spot these, putting your
    application in immediate jeopardy.

The Faculty Application Letter
  • Also called the cover letter
  • Best to think of it as an argument (i.e.,
    assertions supported with reasons and evidence)
    -- a marketing essay
  • Should not exceed two pages
  • Should be carefully customized to match the
    institutional type, the character of the specific
    institution, and the character of the department.

  • Keep your audience at the center of your writing.
  • Tailor your letter very specifically to the
    institution and to the department.
  • Use your research skills to research the place
    and its people, the mission and the culture
    (insofar as this is possible from afar).
  • The letters that will stand out in the pile are
    the letters with a clear attention to the
    character of the place.

  • Foreground your experience suiting the type of
  • When applying to an institution that emphasizes
    teaching, foreground (that is, place up front)
    your teaching experience, while backgrounding (or
    subordinating) your dissertation and research
  • When applying for a position that emphasizes
    research, foreground your research experience and
    research potential.
  • The same advice applies to the curriculum vitae,
    which may also be tailored to the type of

  • Include a separate Teaching Philosophy Statement
    or Research Statement only if it is required in
    the job announcement.
  • Avoid rehashing your C.V. in your letter. Okay
    to draw attention to highlights, but let C.V. do
    its job.
  • Limit your letter to no more than two pages. Your
    readers will appreciate directness and concision,
    as well as language grounded in detail and
    examples. Avoid jargon and theoretical and
    abstract language.

  • Limit the use of the pronoun I, especially at
    the beginnings of sentences, to avoid giving the
    impression of self-absorption..
  • Dont underestimat they impotance of editing and
    proofing (including making sure you have spelled
    the recipients name correctly, you have referred
    to the institution and department appropriately,
    you have avoided gender-biased language, etc.).
    Screening committees may be looking for reasons
    to eliminate your application dont give them an
    easy reason.

Online advice on writing application letters
  • The Basics of Cover Letter Writing by Richard
    Reis. Chronicle of Higher Education, 3 March
    2000. http//
  • How to Write Appealing Cover Letters by Mary
    Morris Heiberger and Julie Miller Vick.
    Chronicle of Higher Education, 21 April 2000.
  • http//
  • Also
  • http//
  • http//
  • http//

The Teaching Philosophy Statement
  • Usually ranges from two to three pages (single
    space or space-and-a-half, but not double space)
  • Should be a mixture of your abstract beliefs
    about teaching and learning and some specific
    examples of how you enact your beliefs in the
    classroom. In other words, make general
    assertions and then back them up with some
    anecdotal evidence.
  • May address a set of implied questions

  • Prompts to Help You Prepare a Teaching Philosophy
  • Why is teaching important to you?
  • How do you see yourself as a teacher? What is
    your role in the classroom? Would a metaphor be
  • Why is your discipline important for students to
    understand and appreciate?
  • How do you think students learn best?
  • What are your learning goals for your students?
  • Do you have some overriding teaching goals or
  • How exactly will you accomplish what you state?
    Link assertions to concrete examples.
  • Is your philosophy statement reflective and
    personal, not superficial and generic?
  • What might set your teaching apart from your
    colleagues teaching? Do you apply a different
    emphasis or use a different set of strategies?
  • What is your plan for personal growth in your
    teaching profession?

  • Advice from Dr. Peter Fosl, professor of
    philosophy at Transylvania University (which he
    shared in my GS 650 course in fall 2007)
  • TPS should feature . . . .
  • A sense of voice (dynamism, personality)
  • A learner-centered focus (an interest in the
    needs of students, rather than your own needs)
  • Evidence that you are not just interested in
    conveying a body of knowledge or doctrine, but,
    rather, that you want to cultivate an enduring
    appreciation for the value of the subject or

  • In short, give your reader . . .
  • a clear idea about you as a teacher?
  • a clear idea about what you believe about
    learning? About teaching?
  • examples of how you implement your philosophy?
  • Keep your reader in mind always as you write the
  • Is the letter organized clearly into effective
    and discernable units? (See next slide)
  • Are transitions offered between units?
  • Will there be readers outside your discipline?
    Be aware of references, examples, and jargon.
  • What tone are you conveying? Confidence?
    Open-mindedness? A statement of your beliefs
    versus a set of absolute truths?

More general tips . . .
  • Write in first-person, but try not to overuse
  • Use paragraphing effectively that is, use
    paragraphs as units of thought. The convention
    of announcing the paragraphs topic in the first
    sentence or two will be appreciated (and noticed)
    by most readers.
  • Be mindful of the importance of your opening and
    your closing. Find a way to pull in your reader
    and to take the reader back out gracefully.

  • Readers will want to know that you value active
    learning (as opposed to the more passive learning
    gained through lecturing). Remember, though,
    that saying that you value and employ
    active-learning techniques is not enough you
    must also provide examples of an instance or two
    when you have used such strategies effectively.
  • Work toward becoming a student of the scholarship
    of teaching in your discipline and let your
    reader know about these efforts. Let the reader
    know you know the importance of keeping up with
    new theories and innovations.

Online resources on writing TPSs
  • How to Write a Statement of Teaching
    Philosophy, by Gabriela Montell. Chronicle of
    Higher Education, 27 March 2003.
  • Writing a Teaching Philosophy Statement,
    prepared by Lee Haugen, Center for Teaching
    Excellence, Iowa State University.
  • Four Steps to a Memorable Teaching Philosophy,
    by James Lang. Chronicle of Higher Education, 29
    August 2010. http//
  • Other Useful Links
  • http//
    /philosophy2.html (for samples)
  • http//

Consider . . . Certificate in College Teaching
and Learning
Research Statements
  • Much more than a summary of your dissertation
  • Allows you to go beyond your dissertation to
    describe your broader research experiences and
  • Invites you to give your audience a look at where
    your research interests and passions may lead

Research Statements, cont.
  • Should be tailored to the specific institutional
    type, the specific institution, and the specific
    department, insofar as possible and appropriate
  • Should address the value of your research What
    makes it innovative? How broad are its
    implications? To whom will it make a difference?

Research Statements, cont.
  • Should address how you will engage students in
    your research
  • May describe your ideas about sources of funding
  • May describe your ability to work on a research
  • Should not be too detailed or even too revealing
    give just enough information about your research
    to piqué the committees interest and leave them
    wanting to know more

Research Statements, cont
  • Imagine a general audience for your first
    paragraph or section gradually introduce
    complexity in subsequent paragraphs.
  • Organize in a traditional way, with opening,
    body, and closing use paragraphing effectively
    (moving from topic statement to explanation and
  • May organize chronologically or topically.
  • Use section headings if it helps with clarity.
  • Aim for no more than two pages, in single or 1.5

Research Statements
tHandout.pdf http//
als/trstatements.htmla3 http//