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I have a tenure-track interview in a prob/stats department (my research area is quantitative finance), and part of the process is a 30-minute teaching talk:

"...demonstration of how you typically teach a class of undergraduates, or a discussion of your teaching methods, or more ideally a combination of these two. The topic is up to you, but we suggest something aimed at a first or second year student. You are welcome to demonstrate a variety of innovations in teaching methods..."

I have some teaching experience, but I have not given a teaching talk before. I'm trying to choose a topic and find a way to structure my talk, what to avoid, etc. Any suggestions?

1 Answer 1

You only have 30 minutes so they can't expect this to be too deep. I would break the demonstration into two parts.

  1. 20 minute teaching demo
  2. 10 minute discussion of teaching methods

Actions speak louder then words so I would show them how I teach first. If you start with a discussion of your teaching methods, the committee will probably interrupt with a bunch of questions and use up all the time. If time matters this could be a serious problem.

For the demonstration, it's best to stick to a topic that I have complete mastery over and need no notes or textbook to teach anymore. I will already be nervous and don't need the cognitive overload of trying to teach a topic I do not totally own.

The actually teaching method that I would use would be a conservative one because I am trying to show mastery of teaching. I would not try to teach in a new experimental way unless I have already thoroughly mastered such a method. Better to lecture with perfection than to try cooperative learning with utter failure. Below is a sample lesson plan that would work for a statistician.

  1. Explain what the students are going to do today (2min)
  2. Demonstrate the new skill (7min)
  3. Practice the skill together (5min)
  4. Allow the students to practice the skill individually or in small groups (5min)
  5. Correct together (1min)

For the discussion on teaching methods, I think they want to know more than just what methods I used because they just saw that. I think what the may want to know is about my philosophy, which is why do I teach or use the methods that I use. So this provides me with an opportunity to explain what I was trying to do during my demonstration. Why did I explain to the students the purpose of the lesson? Why did I demonstrate instead of lecture? Why did I do practice problems together? etc. Please keep in mind that teaching methods are derive from various philosophical positions about teaching/learning so understanding your philosophy of teaching is providing a deeper explanation of the methods you use.

Again, putting the discussion at the end assures that I have time to demonstrate my teaching and allows the committee to ask questions during the discussion.