Faculty search committees at many colleges and universities focus too much on candidates’ research and publishing portfolios, according to an essay published last week on Inside Higher Ed. Instead, the article suggests, search committees should pay closer attention to the teaching skills of their candidates, as classroom instruction comprises the lion’s share of faculty duties at most institutions in the U.S.

The essay, “It’s the Teaching, Stupid!” was written by Michael Ezra, professor of American multicultural studies at Sonoma State University. Ezra says that many search committees tasked with finding faculty for humanities and social studies positions mistakenly ask candidates for too much information on their research record and not enough information on their educational prowess. At all but the largest research institutions, he says, faculty members spend most of their time on classroom instruction, and the search process should focus more on materials and demonstrations that exhibit teaching skills.

“A teaching-centered approach to the process means that job advertisements and searches focus specifically on gathering information about candidates’ teaching abilities, interests, accomplishments, experiences, approaches, and skills,” he writes. “Search committees should require candidates to submit the university-generated statistical summaries of the student evaluations for all of their courses/TA sections as well as sample syllabuses and a statement of teaching philosophy.”

Ezra argues that most of what search committees need to know about prospects’ research portfolio can be found in CVs and cover letters. Instead of asking for more detailed information about research and publishing, he says, search committees should have candidates do multiple teaching demos on campus and engage them in detailed discussions about educational philosophies.

“I suggest that search committees ask candidates to do not one, but at least two teaching demonstrations, preferably for real classes,” Ezra says. “Somewhere among all the meetings with administrators and lunches and canned research talks, departments should carve out the time to dig into how candidates handle various classroom situations. It would even be appropriate to talk afterward with candidates about their teaching demonstrations, discussing the choices they made and how those choices reflected their approaches to teaching.”

The full essay from Inside Higher Ed is available here:

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