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demo watcher

I don't ask this rhetorically:

If the purpose of the teaching demo is, roughly, to see how you approach teaching, then doesn't sharing teaching demo ideas kind of defeat that purpose? It might help the demo go more smoothly, but as a SC member I do not hold it against a candidate if a demo itself goes poorly (i.e., if students aren't engaged, etc.). I know that it's an artificial, high-pressure environment. What I'm looking for is the *approach* the interviewee takes and then I try to extrapolate from that context to see whether a semester of teaching could go well (when you know your students from day 1, you get to pick all the readings, etc).

The Other Marcus

@demo watcher: I think we can provides tips/advice that help someone refine their approach for the relevant situation without completely changing their approach. So, it does not seem to be inappropriate to ask this sort of question or receive this sort of advice.

As for the original question. I agree with (the other) Marcus that, in a teaching demo, it becomes even more important to have clear structure to any active components. I think this is always important, but given that you haven't had the opportunity to develop a culture of participation absent clear structure when you are doing a teaching demo, its vital there.

So, something like:
1. Have students reflect on a specific question related to the relevant material
2. Share some of those reflections
3. Get into presenting the material for a short bit
4. Hit a hinge point - a moment where you may expect students to raise concerns or want students to engage with the idea/argument - and have students respond to a specific question and then pair or group up to either discuss that specific answer or answer a new (more difficult) question.

Rinse and repeat as necessary.

One thing I will say, which may or may not apply to the original question asker, is that many people who think they run a "dynamic discussion-based classroom" actually don't. They have 3-7 students who regularly engage with them and the rest sit passively. The professor reads this as a discussion-based classroom, but it isn't really. That is why structured precise activities are much better - they encourage greater engagement.


OP here.
First, thanks for opening this up with a new post Marcus!
2) More context for the question. I'm not necessarily criticizing that model at all, but I'll say this, it does seem to be a "philosophy" model. I say this because that first teaching demo I did, I had a few sleepy students at the demo, not a full class. So I did my usual, start with lecture, shift into discussion questions at the end. So a non-philosophy faculty member who attended came up to me after and said it was good, but you're not going to engage them if you don't START with engagement activities. Now another faculty member, who is in philosophy, thought my demo was just fine and I did well. He came across as having the same views at "Demo Watcher".

3) More for Marcus. I've taught under 10 courses, half at a big state school with a lot of economically and racially diverse students and the other half a more elite school, and things have worked fine the way I teach. So on the one hand I worry I might have gotten complacent, on the other hand, stand-up comedians say you learn a lot when you bomb a set, so I am here after I had bombed a set (for one faculty at least!) trying to learn from it.

In 60 person classes I usually designate 15 students to be "in charge" of the material covered and then concentrate on them in discussion while in 20 person seminars I get half the class, then rotate the students in charge for the very reason that Other Marcus mentions, because I DID find in my first few classes I taught that 8 students would dominate.

I also get them to give me their reading responses the day before so I integrate their responses into my lecture. I think students know in the lecture when their own personal question is being addressed and so they usually speak up then and other people in class usually speak up to react and it becomes a discussion, usually I'm able to moderate it, plus add enough material that we cover everything I wanted to cover in the first place, but much more spontaneously and out of order than I planned (in a good way).

I have taught a few classes at 8:30 am (smh), for those classes of course it's a less spontaneous than this, so on days when student energy is low, I break them up into groups of four and discuss both sides of the argument we're usually covering, then bring them back together to compare their different intuitions.
Those two ways have served me well in the past.

Finally, I think what threw me for a loop was the idea of starting with engagement. For me good engagement always began with the students having at least a little professor mediated traction of the material.

Thanks other Marcus for your tips too.


Just a quick thought about starting with engagement: I do this sometimes, especially for the classes with sleepier vibes. It can surprise them in a good way.

I give them a handout with a central piece of the text (e.g. a thought experiment) and break out into small groups right away. Then the more lecture based part of the day is designed with that in mind, mostly slowly expanding on the positions I expect students to have ended up adopting in the discussion.


OP again,
Hello anon, I like that. I have to teach something particularly dense for the next demo so I may just start that as my opening gambit.
Thank you!


When I start with student engagement, I find it helps not to make the engagement "about" the assigned reading (because many of them probably didn't do it, and those who did probably didn't totally get it). Instead, I try to find a hook...a way into the material from experiences they've probably had in their own lives or questions they've probably encountered elsewhere, and I build the exercise around that. Sometimes it's playing with a thought experiment, sometimes a little poll, sometimes I ask them to think about and share stories about "a time when something like this happened to *someone you know*...". Other times, it's more structured. I'm a fan of empathy mapping exercises (https://ethicslab.squarespace.com/tools), for example, and have had a good experience with them in teaching demos.

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