DISCUSSION for PROF-it Session: Teaching at a Community College Part 1: An Insider’s Guide to Competing for a Full-Time Faculty Position

Welcome to the post-session discussion board: Let’s talk!Empty Classroom

Objective: The most important part of any PROF-it (Professors-in-Training) seminar is what you do afterward. What meaning(s) did you make of the discussion? What do you plan to do with what you learned, either from our faculty leader or from your own reflections? The goal of this discussion board is to solidify and document your understandings and plans, and build upon what you’ve discovered with other participants as soon as possible after the session. We’ll try to keep the discussion going, so check back to see what others have contributed!

Session basics: Teaching at a Community College Part I: An Insider’s Guide to Competing for a Full-Time Faculty Position, featuring Dr. Alycia Marshall (Chair, Mathematics, Anne Arundel Community College)

  • For all TAs, graduate students interested in teaching, and postdocs
  • Date: Friday, October 3, 2014
  • Time: 12-2pm
  • Location: Comm329  (UMBC Campus)
Evaluate! Discuss!

Make the most of your attendance at each PROF-it event! Discuss what you learned with other participants in the comments section below. Your participation in the PROF-it community boards counts toward possible recommendations when you apply to teaching fellowships with PROF-it partner institutions, and posting immediately following a session helps you to document your immediate reflections and plans for your own use in the future. We hope to see you again soon.

27 thoughts on “DISCUSSION for PROF-it Session: Teaching at a Community College Part 1: An Insider’s Guide to Competing for a Full-Time Faculty Position

  1. I found this session useful, however, it would be helpful to hear from a Dean from a four year degree college, possibly contrasting a research focused program with a teaching focused program. I am thinking a undergraduate only department (for teaching focus) with a grad-undergrad department (for research focus). I know that looking for teaching position in a STEM field there is a high priority on your research and publications.


      1. I think that it would depend upon the institution and department. For example, as Trevor mentions, some departments might be graduate only while others might instruct undergrads and grads. That said, I would expect to be asked to talk more about which classes I could teach (and the syllabi I would develop for them) and my research interests. I would prepare for an interview by putting together a portfolio of draft syllabi and my research papers. By the way, I’m looking forward to Dr. Hodges’ seminar on October 29 about preparing a teaching statement and hope to get tips about teaching portfolios.


        1. Hi Cheryl,
          These are great considerations. As Dr. Marshall mentioned, you’ll have many more courses to cover in the community college model with less emphasis on research, so the flexibility to teach both higher and lower-level courses should show in your conversations.

          In contrast, as Trevor mentioned below (great reflections!), any grants (or ideas for new grant applications if you’re currently looking at some but don’t have one yet) and research that you’ve completed will be great for the research-focused institutions.

          Cheryl, I see your comments at the bottom, too – I’ll forward them to Dr. Marshall and follow up soon!


      2. I got to sit in on a few of the interviews when CBEE was looking for a new faculty and their research plan was a big part of their application. The department wanted to know that the new faculty member was going to be bringing in new ideas and possibly new grants to the department. They had to give a 30 minute presentation to faculty and students on their research that doubled as a screening for teaching ability. We are also having some debates between grad students in my research group about the value of professional certifications and experience in hiring in Engineering. All things to consider.


        1. Thank you for sharing your experiences with CBEE, Trevor! These 30 minute presentations are also common in education and social sciences, and the department is invited. In my department, both graduate students and faculty attend the talk and give their impressions via survey afterward, to be collected by the faculty representative who is hosting that particular candidate. Some candidates have incredible research but their comfort addressing the audience is lacking; some come across as disdainful. Others simply do not appear prepared for the needs of the department or interested in the job. So even at the research-focused colleges/universities, a lack of these teaching-related skills can be harmful, too.

          Unrelated: one of my undergraduate students talked about an idea for a project in my class that might interest you. As an engineering major, he wants to understand which experiences are best for preparing for a career in engineering, and some of his first ideas are about internships and other work experiences compared to classroom learning. Your ideas might add some sophistication to his project as he learns more. I’d love to pass them on if you don’t mind!


  2. This session was very informative for me. I had experience sitting on a Dean search committee as an undergraduate student representative. This discussion and the information shared helped fill in the gaps of how the whole process runs, beyond the perspective of a student rep. I feel more prepared after this session and more confident in my abilities to apply for teaching positions in the future.


    1. Hi Morgan, I’m glad you found the session informative. As someone who sat on a search committee for a dean, what did you find important about the process? What was supported in the session last Friday based on your unique experiences?


      1. Being on the search committee was a new experience for me. I enjoyed seeing the collaboration from all the departments in order to create the search criteria and how each application was reviewed and scored each person on the board. It was a time consuming process, but well worth it in the end. It was really important to stay on top of your application reviews! I enjoyed getting to the point of inviting applicants to the campus and having them meet with students and faculty and then attending their job talk/presentation. I was able to ask a lot of questions and get a clearer picture of how they would incorporate students if they were chosen to be Dean.

        What was supported in the session on Friday based on your unique experiences

        The session Friday gave a realistic overviewed the process from the applicant’s perspective which I appreciated. Talking about how to present during interviews and what to keep in mind and prepare when interviewing with the committee was in line with my experience and the top applicants did exactly that (came prepared, dress neutrally, had relevant questions). The only factor that really distinguished the applicants apart, and ultimately led to who was chosen, was how their plans and goals aligned with where the college wanted to be and the best way to get there.


        1. Wow, Morgan. That is a cool experience, and the selection process is definitely both time-consuming and rewarding. I especially like your notes about the subtle differences among the candidates. Like you mentioned, sometimes what makes the difference is that personal touch of considering the direction a college is going or trying to go, and having some ideas on how you can help it to get there. It might not be intuitive to do this, but if you spend some time researching and journaling ideas, you should come up with some good ones that others might not have considered. You might also be able to use your one-on-one conversations with faculty and chairs to confirm your understanding before the broader talk…


  3. This session was very informative! Although I am leaning towards a R1 institution the skills and thought process of this presentation are definitely transferable. In particular, preparing for the interview and some of the do’s and don’t’s were great things to think about!


    1. Ramon, you have tapped into the other side of Trevor’s and Cheryl’s conversation by focusing on transferable skills. How would you emphasize these kinds of skills in your 1) preparation now or your 2) application process?


      1. As I prepare now I have to think about how I present myself to the search committee with my CV and teaching/research statement. During the application process I need to be mindful of doing my research on the search committee to show that I have taken the time to understand the university as well as them individually. Also, an important aspect of the interview is the ability to answer a question concisely and with depth without spending too much time addressing the question.


        1. Yes! These are issues that many people overlook. The background research in particular is something we tend to know, but it was eye-opening to hear Dr. Marshall describe her experiences, especially when she was particularly impressed. Good transferrable qualities no matter where you are interviewing.


  4. Dr. Marshall’s seminar was very informative and helpful in my personal decision making process about the type of faculty position I may want to consider going forward. Also, her tips for the your CV, interviewing skills, and teacher demonstration were invaluable.


  5. For everyone, what one next step could you take to prepare for an academic job so that you are securing the position you want and able to teach effectively when you get there? What additional comments or questions can you think of to ask Dr. Marshall to benefit from her experiences and skill?


    1. I appreciate you asking this question because it prompts me take that next step, which, for me, it is to think more seriously about the courses I can and want to teach, and how I would teach them.

      I have two separate questions for Dr. Marshall: First, how welcoming would a school really be to a new way of teaching a course that is already part of the curriculum? Second, if she were interviewing at a new school, what questions would she ask to determine whether she is the best fit for the school/department; in other words, how would she try to gain an understanding of the “internal politics” and “unwritten expectations” that every workplace has other than doing background research?


      1. Dear Cheryl,

        Dr. Marshall replied a couple days ago with a thought-provoking response for you:

        I will attempt to respond to Cheryl’s questions.

        I cannot speak for other schools (and even not that well about other departments) but I will attempt to describe how we do things here in the math department and the culture of innovation at AACC. It has been my experience at AACC over the past 15 years that innovation is highly valued and supported. Faculty are funded for sabbaticals to research new courses and programs as well as new methods of delivery of content. Pilots are also encouraged. For example, as a result of innovation on the part of our math faculty, we currently have four different methods/formats for teaching one of our developmental math courses (traditional/lecture format, hybrid, online and computerized instruction format). Many new formats or teaching methods are tested through pilots and evaluated based on student success rates and other factors. The best way to expand a pilot to other sections and courses is to demonstrate through data and research that the new method is better than the old. This is difficult to do, but I would imagine that an institution where you would want to work would be one that integrates data into the decision making process. In other words, it should be a part of that institution’s culture to review data frequently and make data driven decisions. You can also determine that an institution is a good fit for you if you ask about academic freedom during the interview. Academic freedom (or a lack thereof) speaks to an instructor’s ability to bring in materials and utilize methods of instruction that they desire in order to deliver the course content to their students. In other words, a lack of academic freedom may mean that the instructor has no flexibility and is provided with assessment documents, lesson plans, etc. which they must utilize in the course they are teaching. At AACC, we allow instructors to create their own exams as long as they are reviewed and meet the standards of the course. If an institution has limited academic freedom, they may be less inclined to be open to new ideas.

        Much of the response to the second question was mentioned in my first response. In addition to asking about academic freedom, you may also want to ask how faculty are evaluated. This is not information that is generally easily accessible to the public, but it speaks volumes about what is important to the institution. For example, if an institution has a research focus, they will definitely evaluate faculty for promotion and tenure based on research products, grants, publications, etc. If the focus is more on teaching at an institution, they will likely place a higher value on evaluation of teaching (classroom observations, review of instructional materials, student opinion forms, etc.). If you are interested in bringing new ideas to a department, I would recommend being familiar with the literature and new and innovative ideas within the discipline. This is something that you can ask about during the interview and assess their response. This is also a great topic of conversation to bring up during the informal/meal interviews, campus tour etc. It will not only show them how informed you are regarding the literature within the discipline, but it can help you to see if they too are familiar with the trends and whether or not they are open to change. Internal politics are more difficult to determine unless you are already working there. An interview is like a first date. Everyone brings their representative. You don’t find out who they really are until you are there for a while. In these cases, it is best to speak with someone who actually works at the institution. This is the best way to get an idea of what is going on politically. I do however caution you to keep the source in mind and speak to more than one individual if possible. There are times when someone can have a bad experience at an institution which clouds their judgment.

        I hope this helps!
        Dr. Marshall


        1. Thank you Dr. Williams and Dr. Marshall. This response is very helpful. It has prompted me to add questions to my “interview questions” list.


  6. I appreciated sitting in this session with Dr. Marshall because it opened up my eyes to opportunities at community colleges. I think a lot of the information discussed can be relevant for setting up my resume for applying to faculty positions at community colleges as well as 4 year colleges.


    1. Hi Shariece, it was definitely a welcome conversation for thinking about teaching in a community college setting, especially on the faculty and administrative side of things. Was there anything in particular that you would really want to remember to use in the future?


      1. Learning about the way community colleges were set up and how faculty appointments work gave me some things to consider. In the future I could consider becoming a faculty member of a community college while considering if I really want to pursue a tenure-track faculty position at a 4 year college. I could also consider if I would like to pursue administrative faculty positions as opposed to research faculty positions. There were a lot of things that I can consider now after the talk. Also, I learned what things look favorable on a CV and cover letter that I should make sure to include when applying to faculty positions.


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