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Author Topic: Teaching demo advice (education/social science)  (Read 3377 times)
meandering_through
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« on: May 01, 2012, 7:57:29 AM »

I'm in the process of planning a teaching demonstration for an upcoming interview, and am torn between a tried-and-true lesson about a topic sure to be on any introductory syllabus or an edgy, ripped-from the headlines lesson I haven't taught before.  Any thoughts on this?  I've gotten very little guidance from the SC, other than that the students coming to my demo are a "good" group, may or may not have taken the introductory course for which the lesson is intended, and will participate in my lesson.

In terms of the two lessons, I've taught the tried-and-true many times with positive results in introductory classes (uses creative pedagogy, students learn from and like the lesson), but I'm worried it may seem too safe and/or feel like old news for students who have already taken the course; the edgier lesson is on a very hot topic in my field, sure to spark discussion and controversy, but I haven't taught about it before and might end up opening a pandora's box I don't have time to fully unpack in the time allotted.

As I've thought about it, I'd be more interested in hiring a future colleague who is teaching to the margins (the edgier lesson) but it is taking a risk for an interview.  Thoughts/experiences?
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petunia621
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« Reply #1 on: May 01, 2012, 11:15:34 AM »

Meandering,
I'm no expert, but I would vote for the tried-and-true. My demos have always been for the SC only (in CC's), but I find the situation so nerve wracking that being comfortable with the material is key. I can imagine that a 4 year school is veeeeery different, though.
Best of luck! when is the demo?
-P
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msparticularity
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« Reply #2 on: May 01, 2012, 12:32:26 PM »

While imaginative is good, keep in mind that as a field, education can be very, very conservative. Even if you are coming from a department where edgier topics are taught and discussed regularly, you need to remember that this is not the norm nationally, and it may make some members of the SC at this institution edgy. Unless your interview is at a place known for its critical approach (U of Oregon, for example), do something that will show off your competence and demonstrate your usual style in the classroom, rather than taking a risk to demonstrate that your pedagogy is timely. 

Good luck, and feel free to PM me if you'd like to discuss this more specifically.
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"Once admit that the sole verifiable or fruitful object of knowledge is the particular set of changes that generate the object of study...and no intelligible question can be asked about what, by assumption, lies outside." John Dewey

"Be particular." Jill Conner Browne
meandering_through
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« Reply #3 on: May 01, 2012, 1:36:05 PM »

Thanks, Petunia & MsP, for your suggestions; after speaking with a couple of colleagues (and accepting the reality that just because I think the margins are exciting doesn't mean the SC/students will), I decided the edges within the tried-and-true are "edgy" enough for an interview.  That said, I can imagine myself as a SC member who would hire the candidate who (successfully) took a risk during the demo over one who played it safer...

I'll let you all know how it goes next week!
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havernell
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« Reply #4 on: May 01, 2012, 1:40:14 PM »

I have not been on any search committees (but I have done teaching demonstrations during interviews), so take this with a grain of salt.

To me, teaching demonstrations are not really about the topic you are covering; rather they are to show how you approach teaching.  Even though students will be in the room (and their feedback may be solicited by the search committee), you are really doing the demonstration for the faculty in the room so they can see how clearly you communicate ideas and how you interact with the students.  Furthermore, the feedback the search committee will gather from the students will likely be more along the lines of "Did Meandering present ideas in a clear way so you understood the lesson?" rather than "Is Meandering's chosen topic cool?"

Due to this, I would go with your tried-and-true lesson plan.  In fact, showing that you can be engaging while covering a more routine topic might look even more impressive- anyone can make a ripped-from-the-headlines topic seem interesting, but it is a good teacher who can make a run-of-the-mill topic something undergrads enjoy learning.

If you still want to demonstrate during your interview that you are up on current hot topics in your field, you can always talk about how you want to incorporate those topics into your future classes when you are talking with the faculty members you meet over meals or during one-on-one meetings.  That way you get the best of both worlds- a solid teaching demo AND a chance to communicate to the department that you won't shy away from covering more controversial topics in your classes.

Edited to add:  I see you posted a reply while I was typing.  Anyway, my last paragraph still stands as a way to demonstrate to future colleagues that you are willing to take risks when appropriate.
« Last Edit: May 01, 2012, 1:42:57 PM by havernell » Logged
melba_frilkins
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« Reply #5 on: May 01, 2012, 3:10:30 PM »

Another vote for the tried and true.

Edginess aside, the problem with a brand new lesson is that regardless of teaching experience, you still get surprises where the thing you were certain was gonna work, it just doesn't. Also with an already-taught topic, you can anticipate and be prepared to answer common questions.
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zuzu_
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« Reply #6 on: May 01, 2012, 3:56:11 PM »

I have not been on any search committees (but I have done teaching demonstrations during interviews), so take this with a grain of salt.

To me, teaching demonstrations are not really about the topic you are covering; rather they are to show how you approach teaching.  Even though students will be in the room (and their feedback may be solicited by the search committee), you are really doing the demonstration for the faculty in the room so they can see how clearly you communicate ideas and how you interact with the students.  Furthermore, the feedback the search committee will gather from the students will likely be more along the lines of "Did Meandering present ideas in a clear way so you understood the lesson?" rather than "Is Meandering's chosen topic cool?"

Due to this, I would go with your tried-and-true lesson plan.  In fact, showing that you can be engaging while covering a more routine topic might look even more impressive- anyone can make a ripped-from-the-headlines topic seem interesting, but it is a good teacher who can make a run-of-the-mill topic something undergrads enjoy learning.

If you still want to demonstrate during your interview that you are up on current hot topics in your field, you can always talk about how you want to incorporate those topics into your future classes when you are talking with the faculty members you meet over meals or during one-on-one meetings.  That way you get the best of both worlds- a solid teaching demo AND a chance to communicate to the department that you won't shy away from covering more controversial topics in your classes.

Edited to add:  I see you posted a reply while I was typing.  Anyway, my last paragraph still stands as a way to demonstrate to future colleagues that you are willing to take risks when appropriate.

Yep. Well put.
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meandering_through
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« Reply #7 on: May 04, 2012, 10:04:40 AM »

Update from the OP: I went with the tried and true, and it went great; the department was indeed a bit more conservative (in practice, not necessarily in philosophy) than I anticipated.  Plus, by choosing a topic I had taught many times before, I was able to correctly anticipate misconception and effectively bridge new content to students' prior knowledge.  Thanks for all of the advice!  (Now, to decide what to do if I'm actually offered the job!)
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msparticularity
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« Reply #8 on: May 04, 2012, 11:55:27 AM »

Congrats on the interview, and good luck!
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"Once admit that the sole verifiable or fruitful object of knowledge is the particular set of changes that generate the object of study...and no intelligible question can be asked about what, by assumption, lies outside." John Dewey

"Be particular." Jill Conner Browne
petunia621
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« Reply #9 on: May 04, 2012, 4:46:54 PM »

MT That's fantastic! Congratulations!!
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maddy08
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« Reply #10 on: May 04, 2012, 5:52:50 PM »

Congratulations to you!

My teaching demo was really interesting. It was mostly to Native American students, for which I was pleased, and I scored a major homerun. This liberal arts college is very activism-oriented and my demo really got them motivated. In any case, I am very happy for you!
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