Should job applicants always submit teaching letters?




In our newest “how can we help you?” thread, a job applicant writes:

A question about teaching letters (i.e. letters of recommendation speaking to your teaching abilities). I’ve not seen any job ad specifically asking for a teaching letter, but for something like 3 letters of recommendation. Is it just expected that applicants submit a teaching letters along with their other letters?

I’m very curious to hear what other readers, but my impression is that in general, yes, applicants are standardly expected to submit at least one teaching letter, and that it would look very strange not to. Now, perhaps there are some exceptions to this (postdoc positions without teaching expectations, etc.), but in most jobs one will be expected to teach–and my experience is that some search committee members think that teaching letters provide vital information about what a job applicant is actually like in the classroom. After all, student evaluations can be misleading, and–absent teaching letters by other faculty describing the applicant’s performance in the classroom–all that a hiring committee otherwise has to go on is the applicant’s own teaching materials.

So, I think that in most (if not all) cases, it would be a huge mistake not to include a teaching letter when applying for jobs. However, when I think back to my time on the job market, I also recall that this can generate something of a conundrum. Suppose that one has, say, 5 letters in total–maybe 4 ‘research’ letters and 1 ‘teaching letter.’ In my experience, many job application portals only permit an applicant to upload three letters. This means that an applicant in the position just described has to (somehow!) send their teaching letter along with only 2 research letters. But, how in the world is one supposed to decide which research letters to send? Obviously, one might worry that leaving out not one but two of one’s research letters might put one at a disadvantage (at least compared to how competitive one might be if one were able to send all of one’s letters). So, this might lead one to wonder: should I perhaps leave out my teaching letter so that I can at least submit one more of my research letters?

Perhaps this is the situation the OP is in–I don’t know. But what should applicants do in these kinds of situations? Is it possible to ask search committee chairs to submit additional letters? Or, perhaps, if the job is at an R1, might it be advisable to ask the search chair whether it would be better to submit 3 research letters (leaving out the teaching letter)? I’m curious to hear what readers in the know think!

Originally appeared on The Philosophers’ Cocoon Read More



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