Why Professional Development?
Even though it may not seem obvious, developing as a teacher has a huge impact on your career trajectory. Embarking on a developmental path of teaching not only makes the enterprise of teaching more interesting to you as an instructor, it gives you something to strive for by helping you think about ways to improve and next steps to take in that process. But most importantly, what a difference it makes for your students if you are actively invested in your teaching practices!
Unfortunately, institutions are not always good at laying out a professional development path for graduate students and faculty, so the motivation to develop as a professional, especially as a teacher, rests largely with the individual. We believe that it is helpful to think about professional development in these ways:
- Actively improving teaching skills
- Assessing the effectiveness of those skills
- Articulating a compelling narrative about your development as a teacher
This section will focus on the first and third categories. For more on #2, “Assessing the effectiveness of your teaching skills,” see our pages on Course Design and Assessment of Student Learning.
Actively Improving your Teaching Skills
Programs and Workshops
To begin to improve your teaching skills, consider attending programs within your department, at professional meetings, or those offered by the CCT that are designed to support teaching at all levels of your career. If you have an idea for a pedagogy program, consult with your department or come to us to develop one around the needs of your department or colleagues. Many graduate students also participate in the Certificate in University Teaching offered by the CCT to organize their professional development activities.
Soliciting Student Feedback
Another way to improve your teaching is to solicit feedback both from your students and from outside parties. With your students, you can ask them as often as every week or a few times a quarter what they think is contributing to their learning, and what, if anything, they would change. This kind of assessment can help instructors manage the course in a way that most effectively contributes to student learning.
See “Acquiring and Using Student Feedback,” by Chandani Patel, Program Development Specialist at the Chicago Center for Teaching.
Objective third-party observation is one frequently used method of obtaining feedback about your teaching as well. There are many people who can help you think critically about improving and evaluating your teaching. Faculty instructors can consult with their department chair, a colleague in their department, or the CCT to arrange a classroom observation for their course.
If you are a Course Assistant, the faculty member in charge of the course routinely evaluates many graduate student instructors. If this is not an integral part of your instructional assignment, you can still ask to be evaluated or you might want to approach someone who has an interest in undergraduate education and whose teaching you respect. Alternatively, many beginning instructors find it easier to be evaluated initially by a fellow beginning teacher.
The CCT offers Mid-Course Reviews and Individual Teaching Consultations for instructors as well. People outside your field can often provide extremely valuable information about your teaching, especially with regard to those parts of the material that will be the most difficult for your students to understand, so we encourage you to sign up for these observations. The CCT’s team of Teaching Consultants are available to observe graduate student instructors and the CCT’s Directors are available to observe faculty-taught courses.
Articulating a Compelling Narrative about Your Development as a Teacher
A key component of professional development is being able to articulate a narrative to others about your development as a teacher. In order to do so, we recommend preparing a teaching portfolio, with support from the Center. The portfolio provides an opportunity for instructors to reflect on their teaching and assess what has and has not worked for them in the classroom. It also provides an opportunity to bring together the various kinds of feedback you have received on your teaching practices to determine the next steps to take in the process of improving as a teacher.
Statement of Teaching Philosophy
The Statement of Teaching Philosophy is your opportunity to explain how you approach the classroom. What motivates you as an instructor? What strategies have you used that have been effective? How do you measure student learning? These are some of the questions to keep in mind as you write this piece. This statement is often the first glimpse a hiring committee or tenure review/promotion committee has about your approach to teaching, so we recommend spending enough time on it to produce a polished version.
Assessment of Teaching Effectiveness
As mentioned earlier, instructors acquire a variety of feedback on their teaching, known generally as “evidence of teaching effectiveness,” which can include:
- Examples of student work
- Student evaluations
- Third party feedback
We find that distilling this information into select annotations that assesses the strengths and weaknesses of your teaching practices helps committees understand the kind of thinking you have already begun to do regarding your teaching. These annotations should precede the supporitng materials included in the portfolio and should reflect on strategies and activities that worked well, as well as plans for improvement in the future.
Job Market Reports
For those seeking first-time jobs or seeking to change jobs, see the series of job market reports that the Center released last year. As the research indicates, teaching is a vital component of the job search process.
View our reports using the links in the right sidebar
- “Developing a Philosophy of Teaching Statement,” Nancy Van Note Chism, The Ohio State University
- Writing your Teaching Philosophy, Allison, Boyne, Texas Tech University
- Sample Philosophy of Teaching Statements, Yale University
- Teaching Statements, Center for Teaching, Vanderbilt University
- Teaching Philosophy Statement, Cornell University
Graduate Student Programs Offered with Graduate Student Affairs
- Academic Job Market “Summer Camp”
- Careers in the Academy: Visiting Chicago-Area Institutions (see link in the right sidebar above)