The Job Market: Teaching Demonstration

Many colleges and universities have their final round of candidates come to campus for various meetings, interviews, and presentations. One of the most underdiscussed components in the interview process is the teaching demonstration. For instance, Allen Wood’s series of posts on this blog giving advice to job candidates contains only a short paragraph and a confession to having no first-hand experience with a teaching demo to offer advice. While nearly every part of a campus visit can be stressful, the task of demonstrating passion and effectiveness for teaching can be especially daunting for young philosophers who may not have much teaching experience themselves and are being asked to teach in front of a class they have never before met, and sometimes on subjects that they have never before taught.

The American Philosophical Association’s Committee on the Teaching of Philosophy invited teaching experts to apply to give advice about the on-campus teaching demonstration to philosophers headed to on-campus job interviews, to their advisors — and to campus hosts of such demonstrations. Four panelists were chosen to participate in a panel on the teaching demo at the 2016 Eastern APA meeting. The panel included philosophy teachers whose pedagogical work has been recognized as excellent, who are trusted on their campuses to conduct teaching assessments for tenure and promotion, and who have published in the scholarship of teaching and learning. The panelists have been asked to provide summaries of their advice for the Blog of the APA, which can be found below.

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David W. Concepción, Ball State University

Excellent teachers have disciplinary expertise, pedagogical expertise, and they love students. Graduate classes, preliminary exams, and a dissertation produce disciplinary expertise. Teacher training and hard work (including peer review and subsequent innovation) refining one’s craft should produce pedagogical expertise. I’m not sure what produces a love of students, but indispensable it is.

From my idiosyncratic experience on 14 search committees, I offer the following advice. (1) Become as excellent a teacher as possible before applying. (2) Achieve vita-worthy teacher training before applying. Work with your university’s teaching and learning center or the American Association of Philosophy Teachers. (3) Illustrate that your teaching is scholarly (informed by evidence-based best practices) by talking about texts regarding teaching. (4) Demonstrate that you are learner-centered. A learner-centered teacher asks her/himself daily: What do these particular students need me to do or ask them to do so they can make significant progress toward our rigorous learning objectives today? (5) Be humble. Indicate that you learn from your teaching mistakes to show that you intend to continue to work to be a better teacher. During the teaching demonstration: (6) show that you love students – learn some names, do something active, and make sure they walk away with something valuable. (7) Never think of a teaching demonstration as a place to show research expertise. It is a place to give something to students.

Stephen H. Daniel, Texas A&M University

In a standout teaching demonstration, a candidate reveals how she is tuned into online practices in which students express what they know in ways that make others want to know more. We want to see teachers who care enough about their students that they not only learn their names but also ask why students should care about the topic. We want to see where a teacher stands in the classroom and how she moves around the room in order to include as many students as possible between herself and a speaking student. We want other students to be engaged in the conversation, so rather than directly answering a student’s questions, we expect a job candidate to turn to others for possible answers before giving her own. A candidate should identify three questions on the assigned reading that students should be prepared to answer, and she should try to ask everyone in the class at least one. PowerPoint presentations should be kept to a bare minimum, and candidates should be prepared to explain how this shift from the teaching paradigm to the learning paradigm enhances higher order learning skills (e.g., analysis, evaluation, synthesis). Indeed, they should try to provide students with an online video on the class topic even before they arrive on campus. The teaching demonstration should not be not an opportunity for the candidate to reveal her mastery of the literature as much as an opportunity to show how students can benefit from the learning opportunities she presents.

Jamie Phillips, Clarion University

When entering the job market in philosophy, an aspect that often gets missed by prospective applicants is the political nature of the search process itself. To remedy that oversight I critically examine here the nature, purpose, and constitution of faculty search committees at mid-size comprehensive public universities, how candidate pools are created, filtered, and ultimately whittled down by these search committees, and how final candidate selections are typically made by these committees. The goal of all of this is to emphasize to prospective job applicants how personal, social and political features of search committees can very heavily influence candidate selection and to provide frank advice to applicants how best to maneuver their ways over and around these features. Job applicants need to research not only the curriculum of the schools to which they are applying, but to research the faculty who are likely to be making recommendations regarding their hiring. They need to know what these faculty teach, what their research interests are, what books they use, and they need to ensure that their presentations during job interviews–whether by phone, Skype, or on-campus–incorporates this information in a political savvy and compelling fashion. Ultimately, job applicants need to realize that search committees are comprised of normal human beings with very specific human interests who are hiring whole persons and that they need to present themselves to these individuals as a person these individuals would desire to have as a long-term colleague.

Anne-Marie Schultz, Baylor University

The 2008-2009 television series, The Sarah Connor Chronicles, tells the story of Sarah and John Connor shortly after the events of Terminator 2. In this rendition of the Terminator tale, we learn that future John Connor has sent a female cyborg, Cameron, back in time to help his mother and himself navigate the complex terrain of a world soon to undergo apocalyptic destruction. Throughout the series, Cameron offers present John enticing glimpses of what future John is like. While I can’t offer you the opportunity to travel back or forward in time, I do want to present the idea of the teaching demonstration as a bit of time travel. It is a rare moment in time. Your present self can craft a compelling image of your future self to your future colleagues. Here are six simple things to keep in mind as you prepare for your on-campus visits. 1.Take the teaching demonstration seriously. 2.Be yourself. 3.Be engaging. 4. Have a plan. Have a plan B. 5. Embrace the relationality of teaching and collegiality. 6. Brush up on your conversational skills.

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Do you have further advice for job candidates on how to best tackle the teaching demo? Please share it in the comments below. Or consider submitting your advice as a post to the blog through our submission form.

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