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01/03/2019

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Demo

I am inclined to think that one should approach these teaching demos as they are. They are not real classes, so do not try to do what you do in real class. You can try to get the same feel. But for many good teachers, they work their magic by building a rapport. But that is precisely what you cannot do on first meeting. So do what works with new audiences.
If you ask the institution to prepare the students ahead of time, and the preparation requires some coordination, they will likely not do it. These are busy people, and you are but one of the candidates coming to campus interrupting their usual (busy) routine.

NA

You should also find out exactly what the conditions for the demo will be. I had a teaching demo last year, and there weren't actually any undergrads present. I was asked to teach a specific article to the entire department faculty (and a handful of grad students) who were *pretending* to be undergrads. It went fine, but I definitely think there were things that I do in a normal class (e.g. small group assignments or discussion) that wouldn't have worked in my favor in that setting.

So you'll want to get as much information about the conditions of the demo as possible.

Mercado

It would be helpful to know what folks think about the following.

In early November, I resubmitted a paper to a journal because I received an R&R from the editor. I resubmitted a revised version of the paper along with a letter to the editor. The letter is roughy 7 pages double spaced. In the letter, (1) I thanked the referees for their very helpful and detailed comments, (2) I explained how I addressed the referees' comments and (3) I explained how much better the paper is because of the referees' comments. And, to be clear, I really do think the paper is better because of the referees' comments.

It is now about two months from when I resubmitted the revised paper. Would I violate editor-author etiquette to send the editor an email to see how the process is going? Or to see if the referees have responded and are looking over the revised manuscript?

Amanda

Re the post - As long as you ask politely, there is no harm in asking if you could set up the class to some extent. But I would avoid asking them to do anything that would require much extra work on their part. Marcus is a very hard worker and someone like him would accommodate you - but I have my doubts about others! That said, be prepared that this might not always be possible. I have had teaching demos where *I was* the one assigned the reading and the topic, and had to teach it even though I was not any expert in that area and they were not even interviewing me in that area. So a lot of the times the topic will not be up to you.

Other than that, just teach the best you can. There is no secret strategy, other than showing you are clearly prepared, and clearly respectful to students.

Amanda

Mercado: Not sure if you meant to post this here. But anyway, I think sending an email after two months is fine. Responses to RandR's are usually quicker, but I have had some take over 4 months before. And it is not clear what you meant by (3) - but personally I think it is not the best idea to say more than a line or two about how much better your paper is (and that line should be something like, "I think it is...") The point of the RandR is for the journal/reviewers to make that judgement call.

Asst Prof

Building on Marcus's point about different committee members preferring different teaching styles, one strategy could be to include a mix of different teaching methods in the demo.

My inclination would be to not send a reading or other prep work in advance, since that opens the possibility that students will not complete it satisfactorily. If students are not prepared, this could be embarrassing for you (reading too difficult)--or for the host school (their students underperformed)--but either way, it would create a bad vibe for the demo.

More generally, I always tried to have a backup plan on hand in case my initial plans went poorly. For example, if I was planning for Socratic dialogue and got very little response, I would have a group work activity in reserve to generate discussion that way...

First time ABD

Thank you all for weighing in, that all makes a lot of sense. It doesn't hurt to ask, lean into what I'm good at, have a back up plan.

Gene

"I had a teaching demo last year, and there weren't actually any undergrads present. I was asked to teach a specific article to the entire department faculty (and a handful of grad students) who were *pretending* to be undergrads."

Wow. Can we take a moment to highlight the ridiculousness of this exercise? You couldn't possibly learn anything useful about a candidate from a scenario so artificial, except maybe that the candidate will be a good team player in the department, since they had the patience to put up with this kind of request.

I know this comment flirts with violating the comments policy here. But this kind of stuff should be addressed when we see it. I can't believe how much nonsense we put candidates through as a profession.

Editor

Mercado,
Given the situation you describe, it is not surprising that you have not heard back yet about your R&R.
Remember, these are people running the show, referees and editors. They will have taken a holiday as well - perhaps two weeks. Also, if you needed to write 7 pages in reply, then you are talking about MAJOR revisions. So it will be sent out again, almost for sure. That could really really things. Further, given that this is a thread related to hiring and campus visits, remember that your previous referees might now be must hosting visitors who are giving teaching demos, etc.

Mercado

Amanda, thanks! And, I didn’t mean to post this here!

Like Gene

Gene
I had to do one of those fake teaching demos over 10 years ago. It was ridiculous. One faculty member even pretended to be a stupid student who asks a really ill-informed question. yes for real! I did not get the job. But I later heard back from my mentor/supporter that they regretting hiring who they did.

Asst Prof

Gene - I agree it's a problem if the candidate was not notified in advance that they would be "teaching" to faculty.

However, I don't find teaching demos to faculty intrinsically problematic. I did one once, and it was fairly pleasant and constructive. The faculty "students" had a good attitude about it and got to see how I explain a certain topic, what kinds of questions I ask a class about it, what kind of printed group work I use for it, etc. So overall, it still had value for them.

I think this practice is sometimes used when there is no undergraduate class available at the time of the interview, or when a school wants more than 4 or 5 faculty to view the teaching demo. In my case, there were about 15 faculty present from a number of departments, which would not have been feasible in a regular undergrad class.

NA

Gene, yeah, it was an artificial environment to be sure, but I didn't find it ridiculous. I knew it was coming in advance, and I'm sure there were some valuable things that the committee learned from it (how a candidate organizes a lecture, explains key concepts in an accessible way, etc). My main point was just that it certainly changes the way one approaches the demo as compared to teaching a session to actual undergrads.

My sense is that this sort of arrangement is fairly common.

Amanda

Since faculty disagree so much about what constitutes a good teaching demo, it seems the purpose is to weed out someone who is horrible (there might be more agreement on that) Or, if not the intended purpose, that is the actual result. I think the same thing is true of writing samples.

D

I'd hesitate to assign the students readings for my teaching demo, primarily because, in my experience, different institutions have different cultures when it comes to students doing the reading and, since you're just parachuting in and doing a one-off class, you won't really know whether students will do the reading and, if some do, how many will. So you'll have to have different plans going in, which is more work. (Of course, if you're teaching a course, you can create your own classroom culture over the semester when it comes to doing the reading. But this is one way in which a teaching demo is very different than someone observing a class session of a course you're in the middle of.)

My advice is to start by settling on the things about your teaching that you want to show the faculty--a great powerpoint, a lively discussion, or whatever--and build everything else around that. So it may not end up looking much like a class session in one of your courses, but it'd nevertheless demonstrate your teaching, which is the point.

SLAC VAP

One very practical piece of advice, which was given to me by a faculty member who observed my teaching demo for the SLAC VAP position I now hold, is to make sure to explicitly invite any faculty members who are observing to take handouts and to join in with small groups, if you want them to do those things! I had (mistakenly, it turns out!) assumed the faculty would automatically join in during my demo, but they ended up waiting for an invitation from me, which I failed to give, since I was so focused on the students. My demo was centered around a very involved group activity (a jigsaw), so how relevant this advice is will of course depend on what kind of activities you decide to use for your demo. Whatever teaching methods/activities you settle on, I think it's helpful to let the faculty know ahead of time (briefly) what you're planning to do, and why, just in case you don't have an opportunity to talk more about your rationale for the demo with the SC.

Amanda

Interesting. If I was teaching real students, I'd never ask the faculty to join in the activities. I don't really get the point in this. Regular classes do not, of course, have faculty members doing activities. It also seems the faculty doing the activities would distract from them doing what they should be doing, evaluating how the activities are working for the students.

Lauren

I have had teaching demos that required me to teach on a particular topic (whatever the topic for the day in the class), demos where I got to pick the topic (though in some cases I was specifically advised on what type of topic), and one case where I taught to a bunch of faculty on a topic of my choice and then commented on my pedagogical choices. In cases were you pick the topic, I think there are a couple of things to keep in mind: first,: it is probably beneficial to select something that you can connect, in some way, to what the students have learned before. Second, I would not assume that you can ask the students to do a lot of prep-work in advance. Some instructors may not inform students that anything different will be happening and even if they do, students may be less likely to do it, knowing it isn’t on the test, as it were. Keep in mind also that the instructor of the class may not be a tenure-track faculty member, so he/she may have no vested interest in you doing well. And, even if you request it, it may not happen; I sent a short reading once for a class and it turned out the instructor never asked the class to read it, so I had to re-tool on the fly. Third, have backup plans in case something goes wrong (students didn’t read, don’t respond well to an activity, etc).

SLAC VAP

Amanda, I agree that the main point is for the faculty to be focusing on how the demo is going for the students. But something that I learned from my demo is that the faculty didn't actually get a very accurate read on how the demo was working for the students just from observing, in part because they didn't actually take handouts (!). Fortunately for me, faculty solicited detailed feedback from students about my demo to supplement their own observations. I've since been told that student feedback about how much they learned during the small group activities was a big factor in my being hired.

I should add that I use a lot of active learning strategies in my teaching and deliberately did so for the demo, but this kind of approach may not go down super well with faculty who are less convinced by the value of these sorts of methods, in part because what you're doing as the teacher (i.e. visiting small groups and having a lot of conversations that faculty may not hear rather than lecturing to the whole group) for much of the class seems less commanding or well-planned or whatever, even though what the students are doing in groups is very carefully planned. Also, it's not a given that every SC will solicit feedback from the students in the demo. So... clue the faculty in ahead of time about your plan for the class, invite them to join in if you think that will give them important information they can't get just from watching from the outside, and insist that everyone takes a handout :)

Amanda

SLAC VAP: sounds true enough!

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