Tips for Writing an Effective Teaching and Research Statement
A compelling teaching and research statement can make the difference between getting the academic job desired and having the profile ignored with dozens of other job seekers. One may not actually be asked to present a teaching statement during the job application process, but the action of writing one will help to clarify one’s goals and how to talk about them. If asked for a statement of teaching and research, then it will be a useful resource to have completed.
Writing a teaching and research statement
Take the time to write your statement correctly, for it is not something that can come “off the top of your head.” Teaching and research statements are a summary of work and teaching philosophy, both of which can be very complicated statements.
The research statement discusses a person’s work in a way that helps people understand one’s interests and focus in his or her work. It should address several points clearly and concisely:
- What is the importance of this work in the field or industry?
- What impact has it had or is expected to have?
- How does it line up (if it does) with other work being done in the field?
- Who is impacted most by this work?
- What changes might there be in a person’s life as a result of this work?
- How might someone be challenged to make use of this work?
- What are the key concerns that this work addresses?
- What additional questions have come up as a result of the work?
- What are the future plans for this work?
- What is the timeline and what resources are required to make this happen?
The research statement could be several pages, but be prepared to create a one to two-page summary that can be presented on demand. One can speak with the facility to which they are applying and get an idea of the length and format of the research statement they wish to see.
The teaching statement presents one’s philosophy on teaching. This should not only talk about the techniques used, but the motivation behind choosing those particular methods. Some of the points that a teaching statement might cover are:
- What are one’s goals for teaching and the reasoning behind the particular methods used?
- What are the methods used for teaching?
- How have they been adapted to one’s own style?
- How effective are these techniques compared to other techniques in the field?
- What tools and technology are used for teaching?
- How has one’s implementation of a particular tool been influenced by his or her teaching style?
- How does one’s method of teaching take into account the various ways in which people learn?
The teaching statement should communicate a person’s vision for teaching and describe how and why the methods selected improve the teaching experience for people. This is a presentation of how the teaching methods of one person have influenced the teaching profession.
Both the teaching and research statements are created for the employer to determine what kind of teacher or researcher a person is and how he or she will fit into the organization. Especially in the academic role, one must be able to work within the policies of the institution and with the various philosophies of his or her co-workers. Tenure often depends on this.
When creating these statements, there are some guidelines applicable to both:
Focus on the how, not the what
This is not a laundry list of the research work or teaching that’s been done. It may be helpful to present a short list of topics to emphasize the focus or diversity. But the real purpose of these statements is to discuss why those classes were taught, or why that piece of research was done.
Back up statements with evidence
There is often the tendency to make positive, but very open-ended statements in teaching and research statements and CVs. Those get glossed over unless there is a statement of proof accompanying them. One might say “I create a safe learning environment for students,” but the real question is how is this done? Make sure to reword those statements as “I create a safe learning environment for students by…” which covers the obvious question.
Create good writing examples
These statements will give some insight into how well a person can write. They should serve not only as the tool for communicating teaching philosophy and work accomplishments, but as a piece of writing that demonstrates how one communicates through the written word. Do not ignore spelling and grammar checking. Even when making simple revisions, recheck spelling and grammar when done.
Express confidence, not omniscience
Do not let these statements sound as if one knows all there is to know about teaching and research. The tone should not present that mistakes never happened. It is more useful to talk about successes mixed in with some failures and how one learned from those times. Show how one continues to become a better professional by learning from mistakes.
Keep the focus external
These statements should express how the teaching and research efforts were done for the benefit of the students or other researchers. A tone of humility is preferred over a selfish one. This helps to emphasize the motivation for which these tasks were done. Both of these statements give insight into what drives the person and helps the employer see how he or she will work with the existing staff and in the organization.