By Katrina Gardner, Careers Manager for Researchers
At universities across the UK, we have seen in recent years a welcome expansion in teaching-focused and teaching-only posts. This can include Lectureships (Learning, Teaching & Scholarship) and Teaching Fellow, and Teaching Associate roles, as well as Tutor posts. Many of you who love teaching will welcome this opportunity to move into a teaching-track career and will seek to maximise your chances of securing a post in an increasingly competitive job market. Additionally, many of you will seek to effectively support and advise colleagues and PGRs who are looking to move into this type of role.
I regularly give feedback and advice to people applying for university teaching roles. At first glance, you may find the application much the same as for other academic posts. However, bearing in mind that the growth in teaching opportunities is motivated by the aim to ensure quality teaching, it is no surprise that employers want to assess the experience, motivations and suitability of applicants, to find recruits who have a passion for teaching, and are not simply looking to fill a gap until the next Research post or Research & Teaching Lectureship opportunity appears.
When recruiting for teaching posts, many UK recruiters have adopted the Teaching Statement (or Teaching Philosophy Statement) popular for many years with North American academic recruiters. As it has been in common usage in North America for so long, you will easily find information and advice on many North American university websites on how to write an effective Teaching Statement. However, this blog seeks to guide you towards approaching this appropriately for a UK audience, in addition to ensuring that you don’t inadvertently follow guidelines intended for (again, North American) ‘tenure track’ applications which also often require Teaching Statements, but which have different guidelines.
What is a Teaching Statement?
Your Teaching Statement should explain the rationale behind your approach to your teaching practice and give an insight into your effective delivery. Sounds straightforward enough, however, if this is new to you, then that is so often easier said than done! So, let’s consider what you can include and how you can structure it.
It is expected that you will adopt a narrative and first-person approach. So, this will more likely reflect your experience of writing a Cover Letter rather than a CV. As with any application documents, it will probably take a few drafts to craft this into an impactful statement. Although you may be tempted to look at examples before you start writing, I would suggest you don’t look at any until you have attempted to write at least your first draft. This will help you to achieve an authentic tone rather than just trying to emulate someone else’s statement. Your statement should encapsulate your unique experience as a teacher which will enable the recruiter to picture you teaching in the classroom and to picture your students’ learning experience.
You may also be asked to provide the other more common documents such as CV, Cover Letter or Supporting Statement. If this is the case, try not to worry about duplicating evidence as this is unavoidable. The different documents should all demonstrate your suitability but in different formats with different writing styles.
Typically, the required length is 1 or 2 pages. If they don’t specify this, then don’t be afraid to check with them.
As with your Cover Letter, be discipline specific as well as institution specific. Communicate how you can fit in to the specific department you are applying to work in. What makes you such a good fit to their existing teaching provision?
What should you include?
You do not necessarily have to include all points listed below but this is a good starting point to ensure you give a convincing account of your teaching:
- What you have taught and what you can teach here
- How you teach – using examples
- Reflections on why you take this approach
- The learning theories, and pedagogical methods, that have influenced your teaching practice
- The goals you set for you and your students
- How you seek to engage with your students
- How you approach giving feedback and guidance to students
- How you set up inclusive and welcoming learning environments
- How you assess and address diverse learners
- How you evaluate your teaching – formal and informal
- What innovative approaches, new activities or new types of learning you have adopted
Bear in mind that there are a range of teaching experiences you could cover in your statement. This can vary enormously between different disciplines so don’t fret if you are missing any of these:
Lectures, 1-to-1 supervision (PGRs, PGTs, UGs), leading field work, lab demonstration, pastoral support/adviser of studies, course design, assessment and feedback, online learning, mentoring, coaching, tutoring, training, and facilitating. Other relevant evidence can include teaching experiences outside of higher education (show how you draw on these experiences in your university teaching), and public engagement activities.
Trinity College Dublin’s useful guiding questions may help you reflect more fully on this.
The UK Professional Standards Framework (UKPSF):
This is a globally recognised framework for good practice within HE teaching and learning.
Those of you who have undergone HEA professional recognition (or equivalent) will probably recognise these as the criteria that were used to assess your application. You might find it useful to review your submission documents which could help you to create your new teaching statement.
If you have not undergone a teaching professional recognition process, you might find it useful to read through the UKPSF criteria to help you structure your statement.
Before you submit, consider the following points to ensure your statement will make a strong impression:
- Have you followed their instructions?
- Have you clearly and succinctly communicated how you meet the requirements of the role?
- Have you provided concrete and relevant evidence?
- Have you made a positive and lasting impression?
- Have you showcased your uniqueness (the ‘why you, why now’)?
- Have you demonstrated how you align with their teaching provision and priorities?
- Have you used their language?
- Has some else proofread the statement?
The Teaching Statement is an opportunity to showcase your teaching expertise and to enthuse about your passion for teaching. Yes, it can make an already time-consuming application process even longer, but if done well, it could be the key to making your application stand out from the rest!