SUGGESTIONS FOR THE JOB MARKET IN SCIENCE EDUCATION
by David Rudge and David Sandborg
Going on the job market requires an enormous amount of preparation, in addition to the time you spend on the market itself, which can run anywhere from nine months to a year (August - May or later). The earlier you start to prepare, and the more preparation you do prior to going on the job market, the easier (and hopefully more successful) the process will be. In preparing this document, we were struck by how much preparation can be done by someone in their second or third year in graduate school--you have everything to gain from thinking through what you will do after you graduate and using the time you have at WMU to position yourself for the market.
One of the first things you will learn about the job market is that many aspects are beyond your control, either because they reflect the actions and decisions of people hundreds of miles away (e.g. Professor X decides to retire) or because of your own past actions/-inactions. This being said, there are many things you can do to improve your chances. Part of our motivation in developing this document is to help you make the most of opportunities you have available to you now, before you go on the job market, because once you do take the plunge, you'll presumably be so busy with looking for jobs and completing your dissertation that you won't have the luxury of taking advantage of the few opportunities you have left to improve your credentials/position.
If you go on the market before completing your degree, recognize that while it is possible to be hired ABD, it is still the case that, depending upon the school in question, ABDs are at a substantial disadvantage compared to other applicants. Not having the magic letters "Ph.D." after your name can be the cause of immediate disqualification, particularly for tenure-track positions at research intensive schools. Moreover, at the time you decide to go on the job market, it may not be clear to you what the major implications/conclusions of your dissertation are. People who examine your curriculum vitae (c.v.) or who interview you will be looking for a clear indication of what the major conclusions of your dissertation are and their significance. You will be compared to people who have completed their dissertations, many of whom may have been on the job market for years. If at all possible, you should indicate on your c.v. the expected date you will defend, and also state the conclusions of your dissertation as strongly as possible, even if the details of your argument are not yet entirely worked out.
The job market is littered with false hopes-- there will be times when you feel very optimistic about your chances, and (especially later in the job season) times when you question whether sending applications in search of all too elusive jobs is worth the effort. While the job market in science education has substantially improved over the past decade, it can still be a very stressful experience for applicants. Part of the stress arises from how drawn out the process can be - it is often months before you learn whether or not a department to which you have sent your application is indeed taking you seriously. Many departments wait until an applicant has signed a formal contract before informing the rest of the applicants that they are no longer being considered, and even then, it is generally only applicants who made the short list that are so advised. It's often said that an interview is only a source of negative information, a way of weeding candidates out. A good interview doesn't necessarily mean that you are indeed the candidate they are after. This is perhaps the most infuriating thing about the job market--your hopes are raised when they phone you for an interview, your hopes rise still further when the interview goes well, and then you sit by the phone waiting for a call that never comes. The thing to keep in mind is that, from the perspective of the hiring department, there is no reason to give any of the three candidates on their short list an indication that they are not the first person on their list: they are guarding against the possibility that their number one choice will bail for a better offer. There's no point in over analyzing the interview you had for reasons why they didn't choose you--their decision may not reflect any weakness on your part at all. They are making a comparative judgement based on their specific needs.
This document is divided into two sections, a calendar of what should be done when, and also a glossary of advice on particular items, many of which are highlighted in the calendar section.
CALENDAR OF WHAT SHOULD BE DONE WHEN
Prior to the year you decide to go on the job market (no particular order)
Meet with your advisor to have a candid discussion about the job market, what he or she thinks are your strengths and weaknesses, how best to position yourself for going on the job market.
Attend professional conferences
Take science and education courses outside your specialty to round out your academic background and allay the concerns of hiring departments that you are only capable of teaching courses in your specialty.
Consider refining a term paper for one of the graduate courses you take into a published article (see publishing).
Be on the lookout for opportunities to present your work in public at conferences, etc. There are numerous opportunities for graduate students to present "works in progress" at regional and even national science education conferences, such as the annual meetings of AETS and NARST, which are both generally held in March. Some regional conferences are not peer reviewed. There are also similar teaching-related conferences where you can present ideas and suggestions regarding how to teach science and science methods courses. Publications and presentations at conferences while a graduate student are what will make your curriculum vitae (c.v.) stand out!
Ask members of your department for information on trends they see regarding hiring practices. Check the Chronicle of Higher Education to learn what your average starting salary as a post doc, temporary or tenure track faculty member should be.
Attend local teaching and career workshops offered at WMU.
Take advantage of opportunities to develop your public speaking skills, which will help you prepare for both your present and future teaching duties, the possibility you may be asked to teach a sample class and also your upcoming job talk. Consider joining Toastmasters, a group devoted to assisting professionals develop their public speaking skills.
Decide where your career is headed--are you looking for a science education position in a science department or one in a college of education?
If you want a job in a science department (e.g. similar to Dave Rudge's at WMU), you need to develop your credentials to establish you are capable of teaching introductory science courses and of working as a liaison between the science department and their college of education. When you apply for such a position you will want to highlight your background in that science and any research you have done in that science. You will generally be expected to have at least an MA in the science in question. The department will generally expect your science education research to squarely address a question in the teaching/learning of that science (e.g. biology education, physics education). When you write up your curriculum vitae, your credentials in that science and the research you plan to do relating to the teaching and learning of that science should be prominent.
If you want a job in a college of education (e.g. similar to Marcia Fetters here at WMU), you will need to document your abilities to supervise student teachers, your ability to teach methods and pedagogy courses, and in particular, that you have some (e.g. 5 years) K-12 teaching experience. It's important to establish you have a strong background in science as well, but perhaps less important than if you were to apply for a job in a science department. Your science education research can be more general. When you write up your curriculum vitae, your credentials as a teacher and in particular your K-12 teaching experience should be made prominent.
Consider taking a masters degree in a particular science, particularly if you want to end up as a science educator in a science department. Most science departments probably won't even consider a candidate who doesn't have at least a masters degree or substantial graduate level work.
Decide whether you want to focus primarily on research or teaching--this will influence where you spend the bulk of your time looking for job opportunities and also what materials you send out.
Consider the ramifications of your choices on your success as a job candidate as you choose the members of your dissertation committee. Having well-respected dissertation advisor who is known outside of WMU is a great advantage, as it increases the likelihood that the members of the search committee will know and trust his/her opinions.
Make a point of applying for fellowships, grants, post docs and other awards (see finding grants, fellowships and post doc opportunities).
If you are considering a post doc, develop a generic post doc proposal for future research. Provide copies to members of your committee and get feedback.
Create a curriculum vitae (c.v.).
Assemble a list of names, titles, addresses, phone numbers and fax numbers of each person you list as a reference.
Develop a statement of your research philosophy.
Publish something from your dissertation (see publishing).
Develop a writing sample/dossier paper, a polished piece of writing that is assessable to a lay person, but nevertheless conveys your mastery of technical detail. (Also consider submitting two writing samples, one with each end in mind.) Alternatively, you might also consider submitting one piece that is more research oriented and another that is more teaching/learning related, or one that is more theoretical and one that is more empirical.
Create a teaching portfolio (t.p.)
Develop a statement of your teaching philosophy.
Choose teaching assignments that will supplement your teaching credentials, such as a science course in the discipline you plan to specialize in or a methods course in the College of Education.
Be sure to get any class you teach evaluated by your students, preferably by quantitative evaluation, as a way of documenting your teaching effectiveness. You should also invite your advisor to sit in on a class you teach, as part of his/her letter of reference will need to speak on your abilities as an instructor.
Start collecting copies of syllabi for courses you believe you are qualified to teach as well as developing your own ideas. Many syllabi are now available on the net. While it may not be wise to send these as part of your dossier (see dossier below), going through the process of developing syllabi to courses you anticipate you may one day teach will prepare you for questions during interviews.
Create a generic letter of interest/letter of intention.
During the summer before you go on the job market
Meet with your advisor with as full a copy of your dossier as you can. Discuss conventions in the field regarding how to best present yourself in your curriculum vitae (c.v.).
Request letters of recommendation for the job market in general (and also additional letters of recommendation with regard to post doc opportunities that comment on your specific research proposal)
Come up with a general strategy for finding job/grant, fellowship and post doc opportunities and begin implementing it. Though not much may turn up at that time, it'll be good to start developing the habits you will need latter when things get busy. There are several good web sites to check noted below.
Revise your generic letter of intention/letter of interest.
Revise your curriculum vitae (c.v.).
Revise your teaching portfolio (t.p.).
Finish revisions on your writing sample(s)/dossier paper.
Prepare stamped self-addressed post cards to insert in each dossier you or the department sends out.
Work on developing your job talk.
During the job market
Continue to search for job and post doc opportunities (see finding job opportunities and finding grants, fellowships and post doc opportunities).
Apply for jobs (see finding job opportunities). Be prepared to drop everything at a moment's notice to send off applications. The typical person on the job market in science education will send out between 10 and 15 applications. Postings for jobs will appear in the Chronicle of Higher Education, trade journals associated with the science disciplines, and major scientific journals such as Science and Nature. Post doc and grant opportunities are posted throughout the year, tenure track and temporary faculty positions are generally advertised in August - mid November and again in the early spring. The most reliable place to find jobs is in the Chronicle for Higher Education. Science education jobs are typically posted under the specific sciences and "other science", but may appear under the heading education. Study these entries for positions you are qualified to apply for, and then organize this subset chronologically with reference to the date applications are due. (When in doubt, dates referred to are the days your application should be received by the institution, not the day you send your application off.) Determine which schools will require special application materials, such as official transcripts and birth certificates, which may take time to be arrange in advance of the application deadline. Finally do homework on the schools with the most promising job opportunities and customize your letter of intention/interest accordingly.
Revise your curriculum vitae (c.v.) as needed to keep it current
Develop a system for maintaining your records--i.e. keeping track of whether and when you contacted the Institute secretary to send out letters of reference on your behalf, whether and when you have heard at all from the department you have applied to, and precisely what you sent that specific department (cover letter, syllabi etc.) will help keep you sane in a sea of insanity. This will also help you with regard to your global assessment later--you may need to go on the job market again, and as such, the more careful you are in keeping records now, the more they will be able to help you when next you go on the market.
Keep your advisor informed of which schools you are applying to. He or she may have suggestions, friends at that school, etc.
Be prepared to request that copies of both your graduate and undergraduate transcripts be sent to particular schools. Keep in mind that there is often a time delay between when you make your request and when they actually receive it.
Dust off your shoes and check to make sure your dress clothes are ready for the most important moments of your professional career. Plan against the possibility you will inadvertently spill food on your clothes- say by bringing an extra tie and shirt. (See preparing for interviews.)
Once you receive phone calls about interviews, plan on spending a few hours for each doing some research on the school, the interests of the faculty, and the department's teaching needs. (See preparing for interviews.)
Think through what you might do if you were called for an immediate interview with very short notice. (See preparing for interviews.)
Follow up activities
Send thank you cards to each place that grants you an interview. (If you are the last candidate, send a thank you email, as regular mail will be too slow to make an impression.)
Talk with your advisor about how the interviews went, what things in your dossier seemed to help, what things seemed to hurt your chances of being hired.
Take notes on how your search went, what seemed to work and what things you need to work on.
Once hired, keep in contact with your advisor! In addition to the obvious stake he or she has in seeing you publish some of your dissertation in the form of journal articles, and how helpful he/she can be in connecting you with people in the field, you should recognize that your advisor will be called upon repeatedly during your career to comment on your progress.
Applying for jobs: apply only for positions that you are truly capable and qualified to take on--don't waste your time and that of the prospective department if you do not meet the qualifications they have indicated as essential. You should decide early on if you are willing to teach at community colleges. If so, be aware that community colleges are notorious for making applicants submit additional materials that can take enormous amounts of time to complete (e.g. 4 - 6 page application forms that ask for much of the same information you have included on your c.v., official copies of your graduate and undergraduate transcripts, position statements about your teaching and research philosophies, a reaction statement to the college's mission, how would you respond to a student who inquired on the first day of class what he or she would get out of taking your course, etc.) Many church-affiliated schools require the same sorts of paperwork, and will only take you as a serious candidate if you indeed claim to be a member of that religion. Keep track of which schools you apply to, and in particular, what you send to each. It may be appropriate to send a tentative syllabus for each course specifically mentioned in the job advertisement, particularly when the advertisement makes it clear the acceptable job candidate must teach that course. Be aware, however, that if the department in question has a specific way that they teach the course, sending a sample syllabus could be seen as an indication you have a specific way you would teach the course no matter what.
Conferences: attending conferences may help you meet people who later down the road will make decisions about your candidacy, may provide you with a sense of what the hot topics in science education are, may give you a feel for how the interview process is organized, may help you meet fellow scholars who share your professional research interests. It is also not unheard of for institutions to post notices of new job openings at conferences. You should also consider submitting papers to conferences as this can substantially improve your job prospects. A list of upcoming science education conferences is located here: http://homepages.wmich.edu/~rudged/list.html.
Curriculum vitae (c.v.): Basically an academic resume that identifies your educational background, your research interests, your experience to date and also your teaching experience. At minimum it should include (1) basic information about how to contact you (postal and email addresses as well as telephone and fax numbers), (2) your current level of educational attainment and other degrees you have, (3) the title of your dissertation and an abstract, (4) lists of publications, presentations and awards, (5) a brief mention of what courses you are prepared to teach (and possibly a reference to your teaching portfolio, should you decide to develop one), (6) a statement of your general research interests that indicates you have specific projects in mind (details are your friends), (7) a list of references and how to contact them by phone, email and fax, and (8) a list of service activities if any that you have done. Your c.v. should indicate both that your work to date is significant and also that you have a clear idea of where you are going during the next two to three years. The abstract of your dissertation should identify the major conclusions of your study and why they are significant. Don't be afraid to share it with others, especially the people you are requesting letters from reference from (who will certainly appreciate having a copy and may need to refer to it as they write their letters), people who have recently gone on the job market (and thus have recently had to make the same sorts of decisions about what to include etc.) and anyone you think might be willing to read it over and give your advice. It never hurts to have a copy or two available during a conference--as noted above, the connections you make during conferences may well aid you in landing a job. Be prepared to back absolutely every claim you make--if one thing is inaccurate it will throw the legitimacy of the whole into question. Misspelled words also say a lot about you. There is a lot of stylistic variation in how to present yourself. Best Rule Of Thumb is to find copies of c.v.'s from people who has recently gone on the job market in our field from a position similar to yours and use this as a guide with regard to what to include. Make sure the type is easy to read - use 12 point font, not 10 point. Overly ornate c.v.'s may suggest you are trying to dress up weak credentials. Be brief and to the point--when possible, substitute lists for written paragraphs. Develop it from the perspective of an interviewer--what information would you need to decide whether to consider or reject a candidate? Imagine your dossier being the 200th one a search committee member has seen in a very brief amount of time--how can you make yourself stand out from the "noise" of all the other applicants for the same position? (For further advice see Anthony, R. and Roe, G. (1987) "Demystifying the Vita." Journal, pp. 57-60. Additional references are on the web.) You will revise it repeatedly as your credentials improve--there is no need to stockpile lots of extra copies. If you apply to both positions in science departments and colleges of education, you should consider developing two versions. One that makes your training in the science and the relevance of your research for that science particularly prominent; another that makes your K-12 teaching experience, background in educational theory and clarifies the general interest of your research for education in general. Consider the school to which you are sending your vitae - an undergraduate school that does not have a reputation as a center for research will not want more than a statement of your research philosophy. A lot of detail about your research could serve to convince them you are not the right candidate.
Dossier - refers to the complete set of your application materials. It minimally includes: a letter of intention, a curriculum vitae (c.v.), a statement of your teaching philosophy,, a statement of your research philosophy, and three or more letters of reference. Some people additionally send sample syllabi, a teaching portfolio (t.p.), graduate and undergraduate transcripts, a writing sample, and copies of recent teaching evaluations. Be warned that if you send a sample syllabus, while this may provide evidence you are capable of teaching a particular course, it may work to your detriment if someone on the search committee is enamored with another way of teaching the course. Hiring schools, especially community colleges and colleges affiliated with particular religions, may also require that you fill out generic forms or write reaction statements to a particular question as part of your total application.
Finding grants, fellowships and post doc opportunities: The NARST and AETS list serves share grant, fellowship and post doc opportunities throughout the year. The NSF and Department of Education also have grant opportunities for people who work in science education, as do societies associated with particular sciences. Many are offered on a yearly basis. Like job opportunities, email lists and net pages may give you additional information (see below). You will probably get more notice about post doc appointments than jobs--but you should be aware that they are increasingly requiring a specific research proposal which may entail a fair amount of work since part of the case you must make will be establishing that your research has to be done using their facilities.
Finding job opportunities: Subscribe to email lists: NARST, AETS. Lists often have associated net pages (see web sites). The science education faculty at WMU often receive notices of new positions in our field that they may pass on to you. The Chronicle of Higher Education is another place you can turn to--doing it via the net allows you to search much more rapidly. In general, you can count on only getting short notice before you learn about a job opportunity: it is vitally important for you to do as much preparation as possible before it comes out, by mid-end of September you should have everything ready to go except the final touches on the cover letters/letters of intention. As a general trend, most tenure track and research oriented job opportunities occur during the fall; jobs advertised latter in the job hunting season tend to be more temporary and more focused on teaching. Read the job advertisement carefully; it may be to your advantage to highlight your teaching for some job opportunities more than others (e.g. by using a teaching portfolio (t.p.) (below)).
Job talk: Ask questions about the expected audience (size, background, interests). Make it entertaining, use audio-visual aids, make it informative, representative of what your research is about; establish its significance for broader issues in science education; include references to recent literature; have a specific argument and a conclusion; be prepared to back each claim you make; put a face on anything audience sees as a straw man. Try to avoid the appearance of simply describing what you did and asking your audience to admire how great, creative, etc. it was. Your audience should leave with a clear understanding of what the major conclusion of your talk was, what evidence you had for this conclusion and why the result is significant. When discussing research involving curriculum development, it is particularly impressive to share how you systematically studied the problem, systematically thought through how you might resolve it, and systematically collected data that allows you to evaluate the success of whatever you used as your intervention. If you can, try to present it without reading it--in addition to considering your merits as a researcher, many people (appropriately or not) view the job talk as an opportunity to see what you are like as a teacher. Speak slowly and loudly. Remember to motivate and make your talk accessible to a lay person who has no background in science education and who may not readily appreciate the significance of the specific problem you have chosen to discuss--the vast majority of your audience will fit in this category and it is their opinion that you need to win over. Your writing sample is probably a better vehicle for demonstrating your mastery of technical detail, which can often come across as boring to people not in your field. On the other hand, if you give a talk that omits significant details of your argument, you run the risk of having your audience think that you have not substantially defended your position. Most job talks end with a question and answer period. You can probably predict what most questions will be about just by thinking through what someone who has never been exposed to a paper in your field would ask after hearing you; providing additional details or examples will help you, but if someone really does stump you, graciously agree you need to think more about that point and move on to the next question. Above all, don't get defensive. In science education, as in the sciences, it is increasingly expected that your presentation will involve power point presentation. Empirical studies work well with science departments, the faculty of whom may have some reservations about whether work in science education is genuine research. Listen to what the search committee tells you about the expected audience- avoid technical presentations when half your audience is composed of undergraduates, avoid "cutesy" presentations that involve passing around materials, avoid conducting your lecture as if it were a class unless they specifically ask you to teach a class.
Letters of intention/letters of interest. Basically a cover letter that indicates your: (1) status with regard to your degree, (2) your current position, (3) your current address and also an email address, (4) why you would be great for the job, (5) where you can be reached when schools call to request interviews in November-January. The letter of intention is the one item you must personalize for each school that you send your application to, although you should also consider revising how you present yourself in your curriculum vitae, teaching and research philosophies if time permits. Learn about the positions you apply for and tailor your letter to emphasize how your strengths meet their needs. Develop it from the perspective of a person on the search committee--what would you look for if you were hiring someone? Give them some indication that you have read and comprehended their ad, they you have done your homework regarding what their strengths and needs are, and that you are fully aware of what the position entails. There is nothing more infuriating to a search committee than receiving a generic application package from someone who is not qualified to apply for the job who doesn't even bother to make a show in the letter of intention of why he/she should nevertheless be considered for the position.
If they mention a specific class they want the person to teach, this is a red flag--mention your ability to teach the course in your cover letter and consider sending them a copy of a syllabus that gives them evidence you are prepared to teach the course. If the ad calls for a credential you do not have at present, mention this and indicate whether and how you think your other credentials might compensate. Often search committees will be guided by what you do not say as much as what you do say.
Letters of reference: at minimum you will need three, one of which must be written by the chair of your committee. You should indicate to the people you ask what sorts of jobs you will be applying for, and what aspects of your work you would like them to comment on (e.g. ask a person for whom you have taught to comment on your teaching, about your research, and about your collegiality). Try to organize this such that their letters complement one another, rather than being redundant. In the best of all possible worlds, each letter of reference would be tailored to the specific job you are applying for--in reality this is too much to ask of people. With regard to post docs, the search committees will expect the letters of reference to comment on your particular proposal--so if you do consider applying for post docs, be sure to get the members of your committee copies of it well in advance and clarify that you will need an additional letter of reference that directly refers to your proposal.
Post doc proposal: make sure it indicates how your dissertation has prepared you to execute the proposal and also that your proposed research is new and not simply a follow up from the dissertation. As noted below, you will probably get more advance notice about post docs than other opportunities. However, you will need to tailor your proposal to the particular school--they will evaluate it primarily on the basis of how well you have presented the case that (1) you are capable of carrying out the research, (2) that the research is important, (3) a specific goal (e.g. the development of a publishable paper or book), and perhaps most importantly, (4) that the research you plan to do will require the use of their facilities, working with colleagues on their campus, etc. The latter requires you to do a fair bit of homework--what facilities are available, who is working at the school, etc. Post doc applications are notorious for additional application materials that must be tailored to the specific school, e.g. individualized application forms that must be typed out, requests for non-standard materials like how you would teach a course in X, processing fees, who at their school would be someone you would work with, the names, titles, addresses and phone numbers of the people you are having write letters of reference etc. They will expect your letters of recommendation to comment on your research proposal. As much work as this is, it is probably good practice for writing grant proposals later in your career. Have your advisor check over the proposal and consider sending it on to the person you would like to work with at the school in question--there's no point in claiming you would work with Professor X in your proposal if you haven't checked with him/her, more to the point, if the committee does take your application seriously, they are certainly going to ask Professor X if he/she would be willing and available to work with you. Getting his/her advice before hand will give that person a chance to tell you what he/she would like to do with a post doc, and if those interests match yours, you have everything to gain by modifying your proposal to reflect that person's interests. Having a letter written by the person you would like to work with indicating his/her interest in your project will certainly make heads turn on the search committee.
Prepare for interviews: Do your homework with regard to any school that grants you an interview--check the web for their home page, look at Peterson's guide for specifics about student demographics, keep the members of your committee informed of who is allowing you to interview--they may have connections. The person who notifies you that you are being granted an interview may share with you which members of the department will be conducting the interview--this is particularly helpful as you can hunt down abstracts of their dissertations and search via WestCAT for recent publications. Focus also on what they are looking for in a successful candidate, and be prepared to provide an answer for how you would teach any of the courses their advertisement mentions. Dress up. The interview may take place at their suite in the hotel, or alternatively in a large room filled with tables with multiple interviews taking place. Although the latter is potentially distracting, once the interview begins you will probably become oblivious to the presence of anyone else in the room but your interviewers. Prepare to be asked very basic questions regarding who you are, what your research is about, and how you would teach a particular sort of course. Above all, know thy thesis. You should be able to state the thesis and conclusions of your dissertation in 2-3 minutes, what the relevance of your work is to broader issues in science education, and what specific projects you plan to work on after you complete your dissertation. Practice answering questions directly in the very first sentence of your response, elaborating as needed in additional sentences. If possible, try to present a common theme to your interests. It helps to write these out in longhand in advance, although you do want to avoid the appearance of giving memorized answers. Your questions may focus on the writing sample you submitted. You should do similar preparations with regard to the courses you claim in your c.v. (or teaching portfolio) that you can teach. One way to prepare for questions about particular classes is to begin by identifying the instructional goal/goals you would strive for in teaching that class, and how your choice of course materials, class format, and measures of evaluation meet those goals. Be prepared to generalize your specialty - show that you are familiar and competent to teach in more than just the one or two subjects addressed in your dissertation. For any area of competence you list (or course you claim you can teach) you may be asked a general question like "whose views on constructivism are you most sympathetic to?" Other questions to consider prior to interviews - "briefly discuss your best/worst teaching experience", "what do you see as the connection between your research and your teaching?", "how do you motivate students who take your courses?", and "what is the significance of your research in the broader context of science education in general?" Not everyone is a good interviewer--you should come to the interview with a set agenda of what you would like to cover and make sure you cover all the bases, without coming across as domineering. Have some specific questions in mind for your interviewers--to the extent that you can, you need to convey both that you are interested in the position and are enthusiastic about the prospect of working with them (e.g. do you have a undergraduate organization devoted to the needs of preservice math and science teachers? does your department have a colloquium series? what sort of committee work would you like the person you hire to do?). If you plan to travel in the area, consider rerouting a trip you were going to make anyway by way of the institution in question and ask to visit the department. At smaller schools, the day long interview may involve meetings with small groups of faculty for an hour over the course of a day, and will in addition invite you to meet with students. Take the latter meeting seriously - they may have more influence on the decision than might be apparent.
Publishing: Read articles in past issues of science education journals to get a feel for what sorts of articles are published in them, stylistic conventions, and whether the journal is the most appropriate place for publishing articles on your chosen topic; follow the guidelines to authors regarding length, formatting and general citation styles; write clearly and concisely; situate your paper in the existing literature; identify early on in the paper an outline of your argument; and most importantly, clarify to your reader that you have something new and interesting to say on the topic. A list of science education journals and their publishing guidelines is located here: http://homepages.wmich.edu/~rudged/list.html.
Sample class: If you thought the other aspects of the job market were difficult, this is without a doubt the single biggest potential minefield. There are things you can do to minimize the risks. Begin by pumping the person who contacts you about teaching a sample class (or better yet, the person who normally teaches the course) for every piece of information you can get about the class so far. Key questions: What materials has the course been using, and how far have they gotten into each? how does the instructor normally teach the course? (lecture/discussion/something else?) What content would you like me to cover? How many students are generally present? Do they normally speak up?
How large is the room? Will a blackboard/overhead projector be present? The students have no vested interest in seeing you do well and a host of expectations from previous classes regarding what their roles are in the class, and how the instructor should perform. You will also have one or more faculty members in the class observing you, which can certainly be daunting in itself. Key things to concentrate on are: (1) providing an organized session with a definite and explicit goal, (2) enunciating loudly and clearly, in a manner conducive to note taking, (3) provide students with opportunities to participate and ask questions or make comments. In general, you should try to encourage students to participate, but be prepared to return to a lecture format should your particular activity, question, etc. fail to elicit interest. A little humor may encourage students who normally don't speak at all in class to become more involved.
Search committee. A three to five member search committee is formed by hiring departments during or shortly after they have received preliminary approval for the hiring a new or replacement tenure-track faculty member by their institution's administration. They are responsible for identifying and winning agreement on what the department needs in a new colleague, for drafting the advertisement of the position, and for much of the process of sorting through candidates during the early stages. It is quite possible none of the members on this committee will have any background in science education--this is why they are considering hiring someone in our area. Picture them as a group of strangers who do not know you, who know nothing about your area of specialty, who may never have heard of the people you have identified as references and who are making a decision they will have to live with for a very long time.
Statement of Your Teaching Philosophy. In our field, this is a brief, 1-2 page statement of your general philosophy of teaching, which should identify what you believe to be the most important goals of your teaching and how you strive to meet these goals in practice. Share this with your advisor and others. Avoid the appearance of something you copied off the web, particularly if you are applying for a job in a college of education. Clarify that your ideas are based in reality, that you can provide examples of how your teaching exemplifies this philosophy, and that you are both reflective and genuinely committed to improving as an instructor.
Statement of Your Research Philosophy. In our field, this is a brief, 1-2 page statement that identifies your general area of research interest, with a broad outline of what you plan to do as a researcher during the coming years. It is essential that it go beyond what you plan to do in your dissertation, particularly if you plan to complete your dissertation before you start the job. It is an opportunity to tell the search committee what new research you plan to do if hired, and should be developed with a realistic appraisal of what resources and opportunities you can safely assume would be available to you at the school in question.
Teaching portfolio (t.p.): Basically an academic resume that focuses specifically on your teaching credentials. Like your c.v. it should be short--1-4 pages. (Nota bene- you are using the t.p. to get a job, not win a teaching award, don't let anyone tell you that it must include pages of documentation on your teaching effectiveness--prospective employers will not read it.) It is not yet standard in our field and may suggest to the person you send it to that you value teaching more highly than doing research. On the other hand, it may help you land a position at a school that values teaching and has fears about whether you will take your teaching seriously. At minimum it should include (1) basic information about how to contact you (postal and email addresses as well as telephone numbers), (2) your current teaching position and responsibilities, (3) your past teaching responsibilities, (4) a statement of your teaching philosophy, (5) lists of publications, presentations and awards associated with your teaching, (6) a brief mention of what courses you are prepared to teach, (7) a list of activities you have done to improve yourself as an instructor. You should also attach a sample of an instructional aid that you have/would use, such as a syllabus or other handout. When you write up your teaching responsibilities past and present, be sure to include details on the nature of the course, the composition and number of students taking it, their general level of ability, and anything else seems relevant. Be prepared to back absolutely every claim you make--if one thing is inaccurate it will throw the legitimacy of the whole into question--e.g. you should have a syllabus in mind (if not on paper) for every course you claim you are prepared to teach. Misspelled words also say a lot about you. There is a lot of stylistic variation in how to present yourself--best rule of thumb is to find copies of teaching portfolios from people who has recently gone on the job market in our field from a position similar to yours and use this as a guide with regard to what to include. Overly ornate teaching portfolios may suggest you are trying to dress up weak credentials. Be brief and to the point--when possible, substitute lists for written paragraphs. Develop it from the perspective of an interviewer--what information would you need to decide whether to consider or reject a candidate?
Writing sample/Dossier paper: should both indicate your ability to explain new material to a lay person and also convince your reader you have a mastery for technical detail. (You might wish to consider submitting two samples, one of which reveals you someone who can explain things well, another that shows your grasp of details.) It should be polished and brief (10-15 pages). It should also be indicative of your general research interests--they want to read something that gives them an indication of what your research is all about and the best example you have to offer of your ability to write well. It should indicate you are abreast of the current literature. You should make a point of documenting who adheres to any position you disagree with, put a specific face on your alleged opposition--this also clarifies to your audience that what you are doing is significant, rather than a made up problem. It should be a good read as well-- a pleasure to read. (See also Job Talk above). When writing the dossier paper, think about what it must accomplish. It has to get the attention of somebody who in all likelihood isn't in your area and has been reading tons of these papers. It must convince your reader, who you must presume is not in your field, that the problem you are working on is significant, and that you are competent to resolve it. This means that you have to write very clearly, and have a punchy point that gets made within a page. Also make sure your paper will satisfy all likely requirements, most particularly on its length (10-15 pages is not simply a good idea with regard to brevity, it may well be a requirement).
Some of the more important web sites for our profession are:
Association for the Education of Teachers in Science (AETS)
National Association for Research in Science Teaching (NARST)
AETS and NARST both have listserves that distribute messages, including job announcements. Go to their home pages to subscribe.
Sites where job openings are specifically listed:
Chronicle of Higher Education: Academe this Week
Higher Education Job Bank
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Last modified 3 Dec 2007