Thursday, November 29, 2007

Teaching schools and interviews...

Since they asked so nicely....

I'll weigh in on my experience on hiring committees at teaching schools...

First, you'll probably be doing a teaching demonstration.

The topic choice here is key -- make sure you ask who you'll be teaching to and how long you'll have -- and adjust your material accordingly. At my CC, the committee is usually made up of a couple of members of the discipline, maybe one or two other faculty members and a couple of administrators. The key is to take the teaching demonstration as a way to demonstrate your ability to teach to bright and attentive freshmen -- who haven't done the reading. Being engaging and interactive is good, but make sure you remain in control and within your time limit -- while not going above the heads of the non-philosophers.

In terms of questions asked - I can be pretty general, but even at my CC the questions change a bit from year to year.

General areas:
  • Your vision for 'normal' philosophy courses and your methods for teaching logic. Here you'll want to explain the kinds of exercises you'll do to keep students engaged. You'll also want to explain your assessment methods for those courses.
  • Your methods for adjusting to different preparation levels in the classroom. Here is where you'll have to explain how you'll deal with the kid who can't read and the kid who had to come home from Princeton sitting next to one another in your freshman Ethics course.
  • Your most challenging teaching situation and your most rewarding experience. Here is where you tell the story about little Jimmy who was sure he couldn't do logic -- who had talked himself out of being able to pass the class and who finally ended up passing the class.
  • Your use of technology in teaching. If you've used or TAd for classes using technology, make the most of it.
  • Your experience with diversity in the classroom. You should discuss both your experiences with populations that are ethnically diverse, but also you should discuss diversity in terms of age. It is quite possible that your teaching college will have students from 16-80, in your classroom.
  • How you would deal with a few students who are doing badly in the class -- and how you would deal with a significant portion of the class that is doing badly. The key with the student is to offer more help and to understand what resources are available to help students who need more assistance. With the class who is doing badly, discuss how you'd do some review to reinforce some important concepts AND to do classroom assessment techniques like asking about the 'muddiest point' etc.
  • Your professional development. Here is where you'll want to talk about the teaching seminars you're attending via your grad university, how you are a member of APT etc... This is not where you give details about conference papers, publications etc -- unless there is a research element to your position. Then you make it about 50/50.
You should do some digging before your interview.... especially to find the following information:
  • The normal class size is for your discipline. Make sure you have answers as to how you are going to adjust your teaching to either large or small classes.
  • The array of classes taught in your discipline. Make sure you have at least an outline of a syllabus for each of them in your head, if not on paper.
  • Where your students go when they are done at your potential school... this will let you show you you can connect to the students and help them to get where the school thinks they are going.
You should also do some basic on-line research into teaching jargon and trends... A few you should look for:
  • "Active learning" -- which is a very vague term, but means that you don't do 100% lecture, but rather you have means of helping your students get and stay engaged.
  • "learning styles" -- the idea that some people are visual learners, others are logical etc... if you can figure out what kind of learner you are, you can explain how you'll vary your teaching methods to help the other kinds of groups.
  • "Assessment" -- another very vague term, but something that seems to be coming to higher ed. Think about a project you could use to figure out if your students are increasing their critical thinking skills -- a pre/post test on logical fallacies or something... anything that could be standardized and assessed.
I hope that helps -- if I've missed something, feel free to leave a question in the comments and I'll do more :).


Pseudonymous Grad Student said...

Wow. Thanks a LOT. This is much, much appreciated.


Bardiac said...

Great post, PF! For folks who might be interviewing at schools where the "liberal arts" terms are tossed around, visiting the AAC&U website, and being at least minimally familiar with the ways that organization thinks about such things (GEs, too) might be useful.