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I know this isn't on-topic, but I think a nuts-and-bolts summary and/or discussion on teaching demonstrations would be a good thing. (Though searching the site, it looks like you tried to get one going in 2013 and no one responded.) This is a topic that one finds much more meta-level discussion about than object-level discussion.

I've heard that some schools insert people into an existing class while others don't. A one-off class is kind of a strange thing. Does the university generally pick the topic, or does the applicant? Some kind of basic "in philosophy, this is what a teaching demonstration generally involves" summary would be a useful resource.


Hi Skef,

On all my interviews my teaching demonstrations were in real classes. Some let me pick the topic and others gave me the topic.

Trevor great post! One thing I try to remember is that given most students lives, there is NO reason they should care about my class much. I need to MAKE my class the sort of experience that they can't help but care about. Another thing I notice is way too many grad students are too hard on students, and expect them to be like the instructor was as an undergrad. But as you say those of us who go to grad school are very UNLIKE the average student. I try to be easy going with excuses, late assignments, and so on. My job is not to judge my student on how they live their life but teach them philosophy and then assess what I taught. Some professors pride themselves in hard grading. However, if students don't improve much throughout the semester, the problem is with the instructor.

recent grad

This is a very important post. I can't emphasize enough how toxic resentment is to my teaching--both to its effectiveness and to how enjoyable it is to me. Whenever I start to resent my students--for their phones, their work ethic, their anti-intellectualism, their inability to follow instructions, etc.--my teaching becomes a chore and the students begin to disengage. It is only when I have compassion for them that I find myself in a place where the course becomes worth my time or theirs. So I will be coming back to this post in the future.


David Concepción's article on how to read philosophy is gold.

I concur with Amanda's point that we need to MAKE our classes matter to the students (although we all wish our students were just like us...). One book I'm reading now, Creating Significant Learning Experiences (L. Dee Fink), is a nice How-To guide for doing just that.


On teaching demos: I had three of these last year. One was for a pre-existing class with an assigned topic, one was for a pre-existing class where I got to choose the topic, and one was for a made-up class full of students plus faculty on the topic of my choosing. So, with my limited sample size, I would say there is no one way that teaching demos are done.


Lauren: Did you find that the different situations called for different responses or emphases? My guess would be that an existing class is about the same regardless of topic, but the made-up class would be weird for the lack of any existing dynamic, and might need a lot more ice-breaking to get anywhere.


Thanks for a great post!!

Here is a technique I have used to generate empathy for students who may fall short of expectations or make my class a low priority: I try to think of similar areas in my life where I have chosen to take something which is objectively quite important, and make it a low priority for some reason.

For example, at various times for me, this has been the case with my finances, my diet, my exercise, etc. Even though the bank sends lots of updates (= the syllabus), I don’t read most of them and call the bank with questions which I am sure were explained in their materials. Even though health is of great importance, I sometimes skip exercise (= course assignments) for a few week, and then try to catch up.

This helps to remind me that I am not that different from my students...

Trevor Hedberg

@Chris -- one of the main points against student bashing made in that article by John Gottcent is that it's hypocritical. He argues that many of the same complaints we lodge against students could also be lodged against faculty members. Remembering that can indeed be a helpful strategy for empathizing with our students' circumstances.

Derek Bowman

"Remember that your class is not the top priority for most of your students. ... Be mindful of their circumstances, and do not be dismissive of the interests they have that go beyond your course."

This is an important point, but we should note that it cuts both ways. Acknowledging our students' other commitments need not mean cutting them slack on deadline or course requirements. It can instead mean recognizing (and helping them to recognize) that poor performance in your class is not a moral failing and may not be all that important to them.

Thus enforcement of the rules can be presented in a matter of fact way that is perfectly consistent with caring about and even liking the students as individuals.

Similarly, while it's certainly true that if (all/most) student don't improve that may reflect poorly on you as an instructor, some students may not improve simply because they have (perhaps quite reasonably) chosen to give your class less attention than would be required to improve.


Hi Derek,

I agree with you about not all students improving. I have a different view on deadlines and the like. I believe the world is better if we all cut each other slack on this. I know in the world of professional philosophy there is rarely any consequence for missing deadlines, at least in my experience. A number of employers are becoming more lax about this as well. And I think this is all for the better. An easy going world is a better world in my opinion. In addition, I just don't see it my job to judge students on things other than philosophy. There is a limit of course. If students consistently miss deadlines without any reason that won't fly. But basically on a first pass I give everyone a pass. I am not suggesting all instructors should be like me. And I make clear to my students the slack I am giving them would not be given anywhere. I believe we should each teach in accordance with our own judgement, and students benefit from a variety of styles. However I just wanted to offer my reasons for my own strategies.

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