So I'm focusing my job search on SLACs and more teaching-oriented schools and am trying to choose my letter writers. Currently, they are (1) my graduate advisor, (2) my postdoc advisor, and (3) either a former student of mine, OR my minor advisor (an assistant professor). I'm trying to decide who my 3rd letter writer should be. On the one hand, my student (who was also my RA) can speak very highly of my teaching/mentoring abilities. Importantly, none of my other letter writers have observed me teach (although they've seen me give presentations of many kinds), so it would be good to have a letter directly about my teaching. On the other hand, my minor advisor is a professor who has prominent research in the field. Should my 3rd letter writer be the student or the professor? Is it weird to have a student as a letter writer? Any insight would be much appreciated!
Date: 07 Aug 2015 00:07
Number of posts: 4
RSS: New posts
I think even for a SLAC it's weird to have a letter from a student as one of your three. This student is your RA so you have authority over him/her. S/he also doesn't have that much by way of comparison, the way a professor would who has seen other students and faculty go through the ranks. Basically, there are a lot of reasons not to trust a student letter.
That said, I DO think that for a SLAC you need someone who has observed your teaching. I think that the student should write the letter jointly with a faculty member. Maybe that just means handing your graduate advisor a letter, and then the graduate advisor incorporates the information (or the postdoc advisor—whomever is your boss while you are this RA's boss.) So, I suppose, that would mean that you should get the minor advisor as the third letter if s/he can write a good one.
Student "letters" would be something for your teaching statement materials. Many LACs even ask for evidence of teaching excellence (course evaluations).
Definitely do not include a student letter as one of your recommendation letters
Speaking as a professor at a SLAC, I completely agree—a student should not be among your primary letter writers. Student letters could go in your teaching portfolio, but your third letter should definitely be from your minor advisor.