What made your teaching demonstration successful?
May 2, 2016 1:39 AM   Subscribe

What can I do in 30 minutes to demonstrate my teaching skills in an unfamiliar context?

I'm up for a faculty position and have been told that I'm an attractive candidate because I can fulfill the campus's need for someone who can teach interdisciplinary courses. That sounds exciting, except that I've never before taught such a course. All of my teaching has been in one very skill-focused discipline. What can I do in the time allotted to show my interdisciplinary chops (breadth) and my ability to focus on a single concept/skill/question (depth)?

The disciplines in question are the humanities and social sciences, and I've been told to pitch the demo to advanced undergraduate students, if that helps.
posted by anonymous to Education (6 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
My sense is that a lot of it is to do with demonstrating the generic/transferable teaching skills -- enthusiasm, speaking clearly, using good examples and having a clear structure and goals for your talk. I think it's easier to demonstrate the core teaching skills, in a short time span, if you focus on a problem-solving type exercise: set up your question to start with, with some good practical engaging-to-undergrads examples, and then talk through the elements of the problem and how to solve it (building in discussion as appropriate). If you have been asked to focus on just one concept/skill/question, how about picking a methodological tool or paradigm or key concept from one of your disciplines and showing how it can be used to deal with a problem/question from the other discipline?
posted by Aravis76 at 2:06 AM on May 2, 2016 [2 favorites]

Thanks to being on many search committees, I've watched a fair number of these.

What's the context? Are you doing a "faux" demo, in which you're actually talking to just a group of faculty who are pretending for the moment to be undergraduates? Will they round up random UGs for you? Or are you teaching in someone's course?

If you're teaching in someone's class, then if at all possible, get a look at the syllabus and see if you can develop something that pivots off assigned reading. Are you allowed to require reading beforehand?

The technique that has usually proven most successful for our students, at least, is brief lecture overview + hands-on individual or small group activity + group discussion. For example: discussion of a new poetic form + having students work closely with an example; discussion of the interaction between text & image in book illustration + handing out books to students and having them do their own analysis. In other words, the candidate models an activity, then asks the students to try it on their own.
posted by thomas j wise at 3:48 AM on May 2, 2016 [3 favorites]

I don't know if I can give you any useful advice, but I can warn you of something I found very odd when doing a teaching demo (for a job I eventually got). You know when you're teaching a room of undergrads, and can kind of get a feeling for how much they're following, how interested they are, etc? I really rely on that feeling, and when I gave a teaching demo to a room full of faculty who had all just sat through 5 demos on the same topic, I got none of it.

I found it really disconcerting to explain a thing, and then turn to the "class", and get absolutely no impression of how they felt about it. If that happens in an actual class, it means that something has gone very wrong, but apparently in the teaching demo, it didn't mean anything of the sort, but just happened because they were trying to be impartial.

Good luck!
posted by magicicada at 5:07 AM on May 2, 2016

I'm an attractive candidate because I can fulfill the campus's need for someone who can teach interdisciplinary courses.

Do you have any sense for why they think you can teach interdisciplinary courses if you have no experience teaching interdisciplinary courses? Is it something specific in your background, some work that you've done? If so, I would build a lesson around that work, but approach it as you usually approach your teaching. An interview is not a place to try out a teaching technique or style that is unfamiliar to you.
posted by BrashTech at 6:20 AM on May 2, 2016

Do you have any guidance on the actual topic for the demo? I would see if you can select a topic within that which can speak to both the humanities and the social science discipline that you are speaking to (for example, if it was political science and philosophy, choose a political philosopher as your topic). But, mostly I would just focus on doing a good demo and then supplement with a sample syllabus for your proposed interdisciplinary course.
posted by rainbowbrite at 8:09 AM on May 2, 2016

Teach a concrete skill in a short period of time - if it wasn't also a requirement to show your knowledge, I'd say origami or a card trick.
Based on colleagues' experiences teaching interdisciplinary courses, it seems like having a variety of deliverables is a win. For example, if it is mixed computer engineering and social science, have them build an app that has a pro-social outcome and has to take some social research to develop. Or have them do a user experience thing where they have to actually see how people use something and adjust their design accordingly. Neither of these would work in a demo, I know, but perhaps talking about deliverables like this in your interviews could help.
posted by k8t at 9:12 AM on May 2, 2016

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