Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Advice for Adjunct Faculty: The Teaching Demo

Make Sure You're a Good Fit
At some point during the hiring process, a school will usually schedule a teaching demonstration with a potential faculty candidate.  This teaching demonstration is a great way for the school to find out if the candidate will be a good fit for the school.  That's the tricky part for the faculty candidate, however.  What makes for a "good fit" for one school may not make a "good fit" for another.

The faculty candidate's best bet is to ask the right questions about the teaching demonstration and the school's teaching philosophy ahead of time.

Learning Objectives or Outcomes

Is there a particular learning objective or outcome you'd like me to cover?


The way an objective or outcome is worded can tell you a lot about the school and help guide your teaching demonstration.  For example, broad and general objectives indicate you have a lot of freedom within the classroom when it comes to meeting the broad and general outcome.  There are a lot of ways to get students to "understand basic principles of writing."  However, a detailed objective that covers a very specific action or subtopic may indicate less freedom and a more "lockstep" approach within the classroom.  Instead of having freedom to help students "understand basic principles of writing," you may be asked to help students "complete an annotated bibliography in APA format."

If given a broad outcome, be sure to narrow it down on your own and somehow show within the lesson how the lesson meets the outcome.  If given the more specific objective, be sure to stay within its parameters. Just remember that you want students to be able to do something at the end of the lesson, not just know something.  That may require a step-by-step lesson or a real-time example.  It will certainly require some sort of quick assessment to make sure students are meeting the objective or outcome.  Make sure to plan a complete lesson to meet the given time restraints.

Teaching Philosophy

Do your students in my particular discipline area respond best to curriculum-centered or more learner-centered classes?


In general, a learner-centered approach means the faculty is empowered to reasonably do whatever it takes to make sure the learners understand the material being covered and have proficiency in the basic skills detailed in the learning outcomes or objectives.  Schools that take this approach are often very hands-on, workshop, lab, and project-based.

In general, a curriculum-centered school wants students to understand the material being covered and have proficiency in the basic skills detailed in the learning outcomes or objectives,  but they are also very serious about deadlines and timetables.  These schools are often more lecture-based and there is an expectation that students have the will and ability to self-supplement knowledge on their own if there is something they do not understand.

Class Format

If hired, which class format will I be teaching most often: lectures, discussions, labs, or workshops, or a combination of these?


Because "learner-centered" and "curriculum-centered" are general terms and not terms always used consistently, please be sure sure to also ask for clarity about what type of course format your students might prefer or you might be assigned.

Lectures

If preparing a lecture, please be sure to add more to the lecture than what is in a particular textbook. Use any visual aids (PowerPoint slides if the classroom is equipped) to add to the information you are delivering instead of repeating it.  Use charts, graphs, and images on slides with appropriate citations. This will help you avoid reading the slides and thus better bring your lecture to life.  (No one wants death by PowerPoint).

Discussions

Plan a short short lecture, then expect students to contribute to a discussion about the topic.  This is kind of like teaching and assessing and mediating all at the same time.  It's hard, so if you've never done it, try to practice. Be sure to prepare open-ended questions to spark conversation, and create an open but respectful atmosphere for more meaningful conversation.

Labs

We think of labs when we think of chemistry classes. A lab is an action-based lesson. However, students must still receive information (knowledge about the topic, the lab, the goals, safety) before the lab begins.  At the end of the lab, they should also get a summary or run-down of what happened in the form of assessment and feedback.  Although you may not be able to complete a lab during a demonstration, you may be able to show a short video or explain a series of images in a slideshow.

Workshop

A workshop is when a teacher gives students a set of instructions, then allows students to practice a technique or work on a project or assignment during class time.  The teacher is there to assist and guide.  It's a lot like a lab, but we say "workshop" in discipline areas where you'd just be working in a classroom, not a "lab."

Summary

The teaching demonstration is an integral part of the interview process for new faculty.  The demonstration is the faculty candidate's opportunity to show how he or she can "fit in" with the other faculty members, the school, and with the expectations of a given student body.  However, all situations can and will be a little different. Candidates should ask a few questions before the demonstration so they know how to prepare effectively.




Want to read more about pedagogy and teaching?  Try

Teaching Advice for New Adjunct Faculty
Flipped Classroom: Before Making Videos
Motivate the WIIFM Student with a Learning Audit Assignment




Copyright Amy Lynn Hess.  Please contact the author for permission to republish.




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