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One of the questions some academic hiring committees sometimes ask job candidates during the interview process is, "What courses would you like to develop and teach?"

How should a candidate respond if asked that question?

  • How many courses should they describe?
  • How detailed should their description of each course be? (Is the title sufficient, or should there be 2–3 sentences describing the content?)
  • Should they mention courses they could potentially develop -- but might not be an area of direct expertise -- given sufficient interest/demand?
  • Should they be prepared to discuss the curriculum of these courses in detail, or is it okay to leave that level of planning to the future?

I am the job candidate, and the institution emphasizes teaching. I have already started planning one course that I would love to teach, I have thoughts about another I'd love to develop, and could list another one or two that could be useful to their department and that I could develop and teach, given sufficient time to prepare them. I expect that I should try to answer this question in less than 90 seconds.

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Think about your audience. They are asking this question because they want to know how you'll contribute to the teaching of the department. Only listing the title of the course would provide a little information (what you'll teach), but probably not all of what they're listening for (how you'll teach or how your teaching interests will fit in their department).

So, for each course you would answer for, be ready to give at least two sentences that focus on any of the following:

  • Key learning objectives - what would you focus on?

  • Motivation - why does designing this course interest you?

  • Fit - how do you see this course fitting in? Is it for majors? Is it a core requirement? Is it a special topics course?

  • Key curricular approach - how would you teach it?

Which elements you choose depends on you, your field, and the program you're applying to. For me, if it was an established course that's part of their own major curriculum, I'd talk about motivation or curricular approaches, since it's not like I anticipate changing the learning objectives radically at the start. If I'm proposing something not in their major plan, I'd want to address fit, because it may not be obvious how I see the course contributing to their department. If it's a fairly broad course like a survey, I'd speak more to learning objectives or (again) curricular approaches, since people can approach surveys in a variety of ways. In other words, I explain what I think would be either most interesting or least obvious to my audience.

Also, consider the balance of speaking to what you'd like to do and what the department needs in the next year or two. They do want to hear the former, but it may also help if they know you'd be interested in teaching a workhorse course that's always in demand. If you can communicate that you'd teach that workhorse course in an interesting way, even better.

The number of courses to describe is dependent on field. In English, I had a freshman composition course, a sophomore-level survey, and an upper-division course ready to go, and I'd talk about 1-2 of them in any given first interview, and then add examples of other courses to teach at the end of a question. I'd take about 2 minutes total with that question, and select the courses based on research.

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    Great answer! I would also recommend reading what The Professor Is In says about this, which is similar. She has a 5 sentence template for these types of questions. – Dawn Nov 6 '19 at 5:29

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