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Whether teaching experience in graduate school is necessary or at least optimal for securing a post-graduate teaching position at a college or university?

As a newly minted graduate student, I was wondering whether colleges looking to hire post-graduates for teaching positions generally place extensive weight on teaching experience? Once I finish coursework in graduate school, is it advisable to teach classes while working on a dissertation or on comprehensive exams? Or is it recommended to focus on the exams and dissertation singularly? It is unlikely a graduate student will have extensive teaching experience upon completion of the degree, but I am unsure whether schools are generally looking for at lease some if not a good deal of teaching experience.

university-teaching graduate-school dissertation

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Gizem’s Answer

Hi Joseph,

If you are interested in strictly teaching or teaching-focused positions, I would definitely recommend getting teaching experience while in graduate school. I don't know about your institution/program specifically, but most PhD programs provide opportunities for students to gain teaching experience. Apart from serving as a teaching assistant for undergraduate courses during initial years of your PhD, you can also consider teaching a short course during intersession in later years. In some institutions, there are teaching-based fellowships available to senior graduate students to create and teach a new undergraduate course during the semester as well. Of course, these activities will undoubtedly reduce your time available for thesis research so discussing these options with your research advisor beforehand would be extremely important. If your advisor is supportive, I think, with good planning and time management, you would be able to be gain valuable teaching experience and build a CV.

Especially in STEM fields, teaching-based positions, which require establishing a research program for undergraduate students, generally require some postdoctoral experience also. In that case, although your teaching experience (and "teaching statement") will carry the most weight, hiring committees would like to see some research output (published papers, patents etc.) as well.

Wishing you all the best in your studies and future career!
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Sean’s Answer

Teaching experience is necessary because this allows the graduate student to hone his or her craft. Although, if one is professional that is working on a graduate degree, then it is easier to apply real world knowledge with newly acquired academic knowledge. Moreover, to teach a subject, it is important for the graduate student teacher to gain more understanding from the students' prior knowledge because this better prepares the teacher to adjust the curriculum to meet the needs of the student (Bringual, 2016). For example, if I am teaching about military life, it is necessary to understand the needs of the student because military life is diverse and should not be generalized, just as the students' lives should not be generalized.

Sean recommends the following next steps:

Think of teaching as community learning process.
Do not fall into the trap of "use against them." Learning and teaching are an interconnected process that requires teamwork.
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