Thursday, November 8, 2012

Auditing Courses?

An anonymous Smoker writes:


How important is course work to SCs? More specifically, does auditing (say) half a dozen courses add any value to one's CV? Does it look bad to a SC if a job candidate specializes in X but hasn't taken a course with a prominent X specialist on X from his or her department? Auditing courses is fun and often helpful for developing one's own ideas, but I'm wondering whether my time is better spent elsewhere.

I could be wrong, by my guess is that auditing courses adds nothing of any value whatsoever to one's CV. At my Ph.D.-granting institution, there were literally no requirements of any kind involved in an audit--you didn't even have to show up. The seminars you actually take for a grade, and for which you must do the reading and the writing and participate in whatever other ways are required, don't count for much of anything on your CV--you wouldn't think that someone was prepared to teach an upper-division undergraduate course on ancient skepticism based on the fact that she'd taken a seminar in grad school (would you?)--and audits are worth even less.

So--and again, I could be wrong--but I would say that auditing a seminar here and there might be good for your personal edification, or good for your dissertation when the topic connects with your research somehow. And some people (and I include myself here) do well with a little added structure in their lives, and having a seminar or two to plan things around can really help them stay organized and on task. But as a line on the CV, I can't see how an audit would be worth anything at all.

--Mr. Zero

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

Is this much use in graduate students listing coursework on their cv at all? Should we be including a full list of courses (for grade, audit, whatever), or should it be selective?

Anonymous said...

One man's opinion, having served on 3 SCs:

"How important is course work to SCs?"

Pretty important, to me anyway. I want to know that you have the background in an area you are claiming some degree of fluency in. You can show that fluency in other ways - such as presenting at conferences and publishing - but part of the purpose of your application is to show SC that you have the appropriate background. (Note: if you have done no coursework in an area, and have no evidence of work in that area, do not list that area on your CV. I have seen an increasing number of applicants list areas that they have no evidence for. In my opinion, it reads like reaching.)

"More specifically, does auditing (say) half a dozen courses add any value to one's CV?"

No. There is no consistency to how one audits a course. In my MA program, auditors had to attend classes and produce a final paper to get the official audit. In my PhD program, they only needed to register for an audit and could (in theory) never show up again. Because there's no ability to judge the kind of work (if any) that you did, they mean almost nothing to me. Hell, I can't even tell if you showed up for the lectures. (I say "almost nothing" because auditing does have value. If you audited some courses outside your areas, this pleases me, as you then appear curious and interested in broadening your knowledge. If it's evident from your other materials that what you learned in those courses has impacted your research, even better. It's not a deciding factor, but it could help me feel more favorably about your application in general.)

"Does it look bad to a SC if a job candidate specializes in X but hasn't taken a course with a prominent X specialist on X from his or her department?"

Yes, because I will wonder why that is. Sure, maybe there were reasons (she was on sabbatical, or the course wasn't offered in the small window you took for coursework, or there was a personal issue that I am unaware of), but it will raise a red flag, and it will be taken into consideration. (Unless, of course, you worked with that person on your dissertation, and/or she wrote you a letter.)

I have no idea if this applies to your question, but I'd like to note that I am seeing an increasing focus on "the little things," where people hope for any slight advantage to help put their applications over the top. In my experience, these little details (auditing a class, adjuncting an extra section of something you already teach, serving as a student rep on university committees) mean almost nothing. And for all the talk I hear from colleagues (in my department and elsewhere) about the desire for "good university citizens," or "broad experience," or whatever buzzwords people want to use, I always see the same results on SCs: prestige of PhD institution, quality of published work, experience teaching in the areas we are hiring for.

Anonymous said...

I second 9:58s excellent answers. Though I might add:

If you're newly minted *or* ABD then coursework matters. If you're a few years out (or more) then the courses you have actually *taught* along with papers or conferences are better indicators of AOS and AOC.

Audited courses = not really worth mentioning.

Anonymous said...

A graduate seminar is, in a sense, public property.

FemFilosofer said...

I listed coursework on my CV when I applied ABD and my first year with the PhD -- I have an AOC in the history of philosophy, and my research projects wouldn't bear this out in the very clear way my coursework did. If all schools requested transcripts, I think this would be moot.

I also included one course that I audited, in my AOS, but my adviser also spoke about my participation in that course in his letter (this is why I included it). So, I think it is justified if it may come up elsewhere in your work.

If I wasn't so tired from teaching today I'd develop some sort of formalized principle to give you on this one, but conclude what you will from anecdotal evidence.

Anonymous said...

I always figured coursework was listable a] to prove your AOS or AOC if (maybe only if) you have no better evidence (although coursework seems like poor evidence for an AOS to me), or b] to show off if you go to a swanky school and you took a bunch of classes with swanky people.
no?

Anonymous said...

Another man's opinion, having served on many SCs:

"How important is course work to SCs?"

It is completely irrelevant. I essentially never look at that part of the CV. If someone has a slightly unexpected AOC, I'll look for some sort of confirmation in the letters.

"Does it look bad to a SC if a job candidate specializes in X but hasn't taken a course with a prominent X specialist on X from his or her department?"

No. I couldn't care less. I will judge your degree of mastery by how well you present yourself in your writing and by looking at your letters. On the other hand, if the prominent specialist isn't on your committee and writing you a letter, that -will- raise a red flag.

Anonymous said...

I want to see Femfilosopher's formalization. When she gets the time.

Anonymous said...

How do people feel about the following two scenarios: a. Someone who has never taught a course (or perhaps never even TA'ed in her AOS). Is this okay for someone who is a recent graduate but not okay for someone a couple of years out?

and b. Someone who has no coursework in a particular area but has taught several courses in that area (for whatever reason). Is this definitely an AOC even though the person didn't do the coursework?

Anonymous said...

Hi 423

My thoughts:

If you wrote your dissertation on it then it is an AOS regardless of whether you have ever taught in it. The proof, in that case, will be in your writing sample/dissertation abstract/letters.

If you've taught something a few times, especially more than one course on the topic (i.e. not two instances of 'feminist philosophy' but maybe 'feminist philosophy' and 'gender and sport' etc) then I, at least, would feel entirely comfortable with that as an AOC. If you've published in the area it would probably be an AOS.

As always, others may disagree. If there's anything certain about search committee thinking it's that nothing is certain.

Anonymous said...

Off topic but that APA graduate guide seems very useful indeed. What do others think? It will be super helpful for advising. It would be nice to search by areas of specialization.

zombie said...

I was advised my first year on the market to list my coursework on my CV. I took it off my CV my third year, having gained several pubs and other experience.

Anonymous said...

In my experience hiring Visiting Assistant Professors for a Liberal Arts College, the list of courses taken is often important. It helps us decide whether the person would be prepared to teach a particular course (maybe outside of their AOS) and it gives us a sense of how much breadth there is to their graduate education (important in thinking of how the person may teach intro to philosophy, for example.) It may not be as important for tenure track jobs where the person would have time to prepare new courses over time but we find it helpful in deciding on visitors where there isn't as much time.

Lists of courses taken often include audited courses. I don't think auditing a course just for the sake of putting it on your CV is a good idea as it is unlikely by itself to help much so the time is better spent doing something else. But if you have audited a couple of courses (because you found it a good way to learn more about something that you were very interested about), then you might as well put it in your CV, I can't see how it could hurt and it could potentially help with some jobs.

Dr. Free-Ride said...

I agree that the ambiguity of what is actually involved in "auditing" a course means that a job seeker will not get tremendous oomph out of listing audited courses in the CV.

That said, from the perspective of someone who has read CVs as a SC member, I find that including audited courses sometimes conveys useful information -- e.g., that the candidate has broad enough interests to engage with particular philosophical topics even after completing required coursework, or that particular areas of interest and/or expertise that would not be obvious from the candidate's thesis and teaching experience to date are legitimate areas of interest and/or expertise. This might matter in terms of perceived "fit" with the hiring department -- which courses beyond the obvious AOS could you comfortably teach, and what topics might you fruitfully discuss with colleagues of very different AOS?

That said, a good rule of thumb: If you list an audited course on your CV, you should be prepared to discuss the content of same (and possibly the pedagogical strategies you encountered there), in loving detail, with members of the interviewing department. If a SC member gets excited because of a course you indicate you audited and you *can't* demonstrate that this is actually a meaningful (if small) part of what you're offering them, it will bite you in the ass.

Anonymous said...

Much like every advice thread on phil smoker, enough hedging and disagreement has here been registered by the 15th comment or so for any answer to the question at hand to be all that useful.

That being said...

Anonymous said...

unrelated question:

phylo sort of got eclipsed as a job listing, but are people still going to be using the wiki?

Mr. Zero said...

Much like every advice thread on phil smoker, enough hedging and disagreement has here been registered by the 15th comment or so for any answer to the question at hand to be all that useful.

I don't totally disagree with you, exactly. It would be easier if there was some full-throated consensus on a univocal set of procedures. But the fact that we don't have one doesn't mean the advice offered here (or in a bunch of other threads here) is useless. There are some clear trends:

1. Some people will not give a fuck about your audits under any circumstances.

2. The people who might possibly care about your audits will care less about them the longer it's been since you left grad school.

3. The people who might possibly care about your audits will be skeptical of the idea that your audits are of any real value whatsoever unless there's something else in your file that connects with it. There should be some independent evidence that you got something valuable from the experience.

3a) If you can't even answer questions about the topic of the audited course, that will be bad. You'll look worse than if you'd never listed it in the first place.

4. So, an audit shouldn't play any important role in justifying an AOS, and shouldn't do too much of the work in justifying an AOC.

That's what I sort of glean from the discussion, and it doesn't seem totally useless. There's no real upshot for me, since I didn't do much auditing in grad school and I haven't listed that information on my CV in a long time, if ever. And I imagine I'm not alone. But I feel like this would be helpful to someone who was on the fence about listing her audits, or wasn't sure how to demonstrate that her audits weren't bullshit.