Teaching Statement, Sample Syllabi, and Course Evaluation Tips

Teaching Statement, Sample Syllabi, and Course Evaluation Tips

Watch a 20-minute video by CTL Associate Director Risa Sodi on preparing a teaching statement!

Watch a 90-minute video by CTL Associate Director Risa Sodi on teaching portfolios, including teaching statements!

Click here for Risa Sodi’s slides

Click here for a sample teaching portfolios

Click here for sample teaching statements

I. Teaching Statements

Does your teaching statement
  1. Demonstrate what gets you excited about teaching?
  2. Explain how do you accomplish your goals?
  3. Give examples of what do you do in the classroom?
  4. Answer these two questions for your future interviewers
    1. “What is it like to be in class with this person?”
    2. “What do students who take a class with this person get out of it?”
  5. Show “this is what I do, and this is the result”?
  6. Provide examples of the following sort: “I notice that students often have problems with [insert issue here], and this is what I do to help them understand the concept”?
  7. Present itself as a teaching statement (about you, as a classroom teacher, i.e., concrete and explicit) rather than as a statement of teaching philosophy (about the nature of knowledge or the discipline of teaching, i.e., abstract and implicit)?

What is a sample structure for a teaching statement?

  1. An introductory paragraph that presents you as an enthusiastic, skilled, and dedicated teacher.  Grab your reader’s attention right away.

  2. Three “narratives” (paragraphs), each one of which presents

    1. an issue you came across during your teaching (for example, students didn’t have the proper math background for your engineering course; a primary source proved difficult for students to interpret; a student or students were dominating the classroom discussion, etc.)

    2. the strategy or activity you came up with to address that issue, giving enough specifics so that your readers feel that they are in the classroom with you

    3. the successful outcome, including wherever possible an objective assessment (did students’ grades go up on the next test or quiz and, if so, by how many points on average; did subsequent writing assignments demonstrate mastery of the primary source; did students report in their online course evaluations that this classroom discussion was the best part of your course?)

    4. N.B. Consider including in the teaching materials section of your CCTP portfolio handouts, instructions or other materials that relate directly to the three “narratives” presented in your teaching statement

  3. A concluding paragraph that reinforces your opening paragraph and that explicitly mentions applying your teaching skills in your future department or unit and in your future career as a teacher.  You may also wish to state the name of the university or other institution to which you are applying in your concluding statement, but this isn’t a must-do.

What should you include in your teaching statement?  A check list:

  1. Have you opened the statement with goals and strategies for students and for yourself, and then moved on to how you do it (activities, techniques, etc. — even “style”)
    1. If you open the statement by saying “My teaching style is…,” can the paragraph order be revised to emphasize goals first and “style” as a technique to accomplish the goals?
  2. Can you provide there examples to back up and illustrate your “theory”?
    1. Do these examples mention what students were struggling with or the problem you were trying to address?
    2. Do those examples make explicit what you, as the teacher, were trying to achieve?
    3. Did you develop a pertinent activity and will you include it in your “handouts” section of your teaching portfolio?
      1. If so, at this point of your teaching statement, explicitly state that you have included a pertinent activity
  3. Have you referred to specific courses you taught?
  4. Have you mentioned specific outcomes of your activities or assignments, such as a problem students explored (sciences) or the title of a final paper (humanities)?
  5. If you mention that something in your teaching is “important,” have you elaborated on the “why”?
  6. Have you presented yourself as a teacher throughout, rather than as an aspiring teacher?

►For additional pointers, see the Nov. 18, 2013 blog post, on “Crafting a Stronger Teaching Statement,” by Erica De Bruin (Ph.D. Political Science ‘14, and former CTL Graduate Fellow Coordinator).


II. Sample Syllabi

What should you include in, or exclude from, your sample course syllabi?

Eliminate references to yourself as a graduate student, a teaching fellow, or a teaching assistant

Keep in mind that yours are not actual syllabi to be used on a daily or weekly basis by students, but rather sample syllabi meant to be read (quickly!) by a search committee.  Aim for a two-page document.

  1. Consider formatting strategies to make your syllabus easily readable
  2. Consider eliminating sections that would appear on an actual syllabus
    1. Plagiarism or anti-cheating statements
    2. Elaborate descriptions of written work (papers, final projects)
    3. Attendance policy
  3. Do, however, include sections that would be of interest to a search committee or support the content of your syllabus
    1. Course description
    2. Learning goals
    3. Grading policy
    4. Texts and readings
    5. Daily/weekly work breakdown (though this section may be less elaborate than that of an actual syllabus)
    6. If including introductory and advanced-level syllabi, the introductory syllabus should usually be listed first
      1. Consider that undergraduate syllabi need to “reach” students in a way that content-focused graduate syllabi often do not
    7. Eliminate Yale-specific email addresses, course numbers, etc.
    8. Eliminate unclear abbreviations (EBE, MCDB, EPE, etc.)
    9. Does your syllabus include a description of the course goals?
    10. Does it include a description of the course format (e.g., “This class will be a series of lectures with weekly discussion sessions”)
      1. Will students be working in teams?
      2. Will they be completing regular writing assignments?
    11. If a “standard” course (“Intro to Biology,” for example), have you included something that makes your course stand out from the pack?
    12. Is the syllabus annotated for your readers at the top of the first page?
      1. For example, “I’ve designed this course specifically for non-physics majors…,” or “This is a junior-level course for physics majors”

III. Teaching Evaluations

What information should you include when annotating your teaching evaluations?

  1. State the type of evaluation(s) is included (mid-semester, end-of-semester, anonymous, etc.
  2. Are you copying and pasting Yale online evaluation forms?  If so, check to see if they include the following information and, if not, add in a top-of-page annotation:
    1. Semester & year
    2. Name of course
    3. Sample size of the evaluations
    4. How many students in course?
    5. How many students filled out evaluation?
  3. Do you plan to include emails or other unofficial evaluation statements? If so, include an annotation indicating whether they were solicited or unsolicited.