Ways to Professionalize Your Teaching


As we all know by now, professionalizing your scholarship is essential to getting an academic job; and professionalizing your teaching is also crucial in depicting the kind of teacher you are, the kind of teacher you want to be, and the kind of teacher a university or college wants to hire. Below are several suggestions for ways to not only document your teaching, but to also learn how to talk about your teaching to others, a fundamental skill when interviewing for jobs, in particular.
 
Be Able to Talk About Your Teaching like a Professional

What does this mean exactly? Here are some suggestions:
* Be able to offer a coherent rationale for everything you do in the classroom.
* Have a two minute statement about what makes your teaching yours, and not someone else's.
* Have a two minute statement on the glories, pieties, and wonders of teaching.
* Have concrete examples of pedagogical things (exercises, lesson plans, etc.) you do that you've developed, or better yet that other people do that you've developed.
* Know major current pedagogical issues in your field. Read The Chronicle of HigherEducation, among other journals, to find out what people are worried about when it comes to teaching. For example, in 2002, issues of assessment are really big as higher education at state schools, in particular, comes under scrutiny and must produce certain learning outcomes. When you interview for a job, you'll want to be able to join a conversation about the teaching issues most central to them.


Seek Out Information About the Effects of Your Teaching on Students

One of the best ways to do this is to use tools that find out what's happening to your students, in particular (as opposed to just assessing your performance). The Teaching Analysis Poll or TAP is a great example of an assessment tool that probes student learning. Generally, just get multiple kinds of assessment of your teaching whenever possible. Your ability to have an "open classroom," one where you welcome observation and feedback, will improve your teaching currently while simultaneously preparing you for the public sphere of your professional life which might include giving a teaching demonstration or delivering a paper. Having a TAP, for instance, is just one more tool in your knapsack that you can pull out and use at the appropriate time.


Here are a few others:
* Classroom Videotape (available from the UVA Teaching Resource Center)
* Teaching Analysis Poll (available from the UVA Teaching Resource Center)
* Class Visitations from colleagues
* Class Visitations from professors who can write you a "teaching" recommendation
 

Develop a Teaching Portfolio

(Handouts on how to do this and a workshop that walks you step-by-step through the process are available from the UVA Teaching Resource Center)


Enough cannot be said about how much developing a portfolio facilitates your thinking and talking about your teaching, even if you never show it to anyone (which is unlikely). It also prepares you for the tenure process where at some schools teaching performance is more crucial than others.

Remember, be fanatical about saving things. Also, when you use something in class, revise it the next day in your teaching notes so that you remember what you did. Just as you imagine your scholarly work contributing to a larger community, imagine that your pedagogical philosophy and praxis do the same.
 
Let Themed Writing Classes Work for You

Of course your first goal when selecting a theme, as with all things in your teaching, is seeking out what's good for your students, and not what's good for you. But you can serve your interests while serving theirs. Clearly, then, the themed component of ENWR at UVA is not an excuse to just teach your dissertation which would be a great disservice to your undergraduates (both because of course content and your ability to translate that material). Themed classes are a chance to experiment with areas of your "job profile" you'd like to enhance. For example, say you begin to look at the job list in 19th century American literature, and you notice that it's really important to have done some work with gender studies. So far, you don't have a specialty in that area, so teach an ENWR on gender and culture in the United States, or some variation. Not only is it a provocative and successful theme (others have taught variations so ask them), but on your CV, you can list this experience, and- this is important- you can emphasize the theme of the writing class. Choosing new themes after teaching them a few times gives you an opportunity to expand your repertoire: don't miss that chance! If you'd like more help on thinking about your theme in strategic ways, contact someone in the writing program.