I have an on-campus interview next month. Being my first time to make an on-campus interview, I have no experience on how to properly do that. I was asked to give a teaching demonstration for 30~45 minutes. The university is focused on teaching and they have only a master program (no PhD ). I am planning to present my research work as "a teaching demonstration". Is that okay?

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    I am planning to present my research work as " a teaching demonstration" --- My guess is that you should not do this, but instead pick a topic likely to be in a class that you would be expected to teach. The degree of mismatch between one's research work and teaching is somewhat field dependent, but it's hard for me to imagine any request for a teaching demonstration being satisfied by a presentation of your research work unless the department explicitly says so (which has actually been the case for me a few times). Did the department provide any guidelines for what they want to see? Commented Jan 14, 2020 at 6:39
  • No. But I contacted the search committee chair and he sent me the following "just make sure you will be teaching the subject, instead of presenting it like a research talk" Commented Jan 14, 2020 at 7:11
  • What is your field?
    – Buffy
    Commented Jan 14, 2020 at 11:59
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    @HebaMohsen I think that's a polite way of saying "this is a dangerous approach".
    – Bryan Krause
    Commented Jan 14, 2020 at 14:26
  • @buffy Computer scince Commented Jan 15, 2020 at 1:33

3 Answers 3


If you want to mention your research at all, consider the following plan. The think you really want to avoid is being overly pedantic and going over the head of the likely audience. Pitch the talk at undergraduates.

In such a talk, you don't want to try to impress people with your brilliance. It is more important to stress that you are inspiring. Save brilliance for the later session in the faculty lounge with Sherry instant coffee.

You don't give your field, but your profile suggests it might be mathematics or similar.

In the talk, rather than going through details of the research, you can talk about what it is that got you started on it. Make it relevant to some undergraduate course, if possible. How does this connect to, say, elementary topology, or even Calculus. In some math fields this is easy. You don't have to draw all the connections, but just give a hint that what they are now studying has extensions and that those are "interesting."

Talk about the main result just a bit, but mention why it is important. If possible, talk about what future explorations might look like.

Your goal is to show insights into the field, whether math or not, and not details.

But the main idea is to leave the typical fairly good undergraduate with the idea that "I can do that, too."

If you can make it interactive, all the better. If you can ask questions, for example, you can get them engaged. Leading questions, actually.

And even if you skip talking about your research altogether, do the above things in your talk.


I do not suggest this. You should probably be tailoring the presentation to be aimed at 1st, or maybe 2nd, year students/classes and you should attempt to make the lecture be understandable to non-majors. You should be pretending that the audience of the class is a general elective audience. While in actual practice a lecture in a class does not need to be self contained, a teaching demo should be.

Getting back to the question, almost anything that would be considered research related would be too advanced for a general elective audience. Now this does not mean to go completely away from your area of research. If you are electrical engineer whose research is biomedical in nature and are interviewing at a joint EE/CS department, it probably doesn't make sense to give a CS lecture on compiler design or even EE lecture onpower enginnering. You would be better served by giving a biomedical lecture. Of course, if the job advertisement asks for someone who can teach compiler design, well then, there is your lecture topic. Similarly, if the search chair suggests a topic, follow that advice.

The biggest thing to remember is teaching schools are not inferior to research institutions, they are simply different. They want to make sure you care about teaching and not your research. They generally tend to look at research as a way to get students to learn. Focusing on your research will probably send the wrong message.


In my lecture series, I talk about my research too. So it is not necessarily forbidden to teach about your research work. However, the presentation must be tailored towards a student audience. Whenever you give a research presentation to an audience of your peers, you can typically assume that your audience is up to speed with the state-of-the-art work in your research field. This obviously does not hold for Master students.

If I were you, I would familiarize myself with the entry requirements of the Master students at the university, and the program they are supposed to follow. I would start your teaching demonstration by briefly breaking the fourth wall, and sketching to the committee / audience which context you envision for this lecture. For instance:

"I imagine this lecture as the seventh lecture in a series on the general topic of [x], to be taught in the first semester of the master program. Students are supposed to have knowledge of [y] as entry requirements of the program itself, and have acquired knowledge of [z] in the first six lectures of the series."

And then you start the lecture. Make sure you clearly indicate when the fourth wall is broken, and when it is restored again. By making an introduction like this, you can show the committee that you take the context of your course in the wider program into account, and you can build on the topics [y] and [z] as prior knowledge in your lecture.

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    This seems just like doing what the chair has said not to do. Seems dangerous to me.
    – Buffy
    Commented Jan 14, 2020 at 12:01
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    Giving a graduate level teaching demo would likely be a really bad idea. Breaking the 4th wall and putting the lecture in context (both what they are expected to know and what would follow in the next class) is useful.
    – StrongBad
    Commented Jan 14, 2020 at 14:01
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    Just because the department has a Masters program doesn't mean that much of your actual teaching will be to Masters level students. But again (as in my earlier comment), this is field dependent. Certainly in the case of mathematics, if your teaching will be mainly precalculus and beginning calculus (as can easily be the case at many Masters granting departments in the U.S.), you probably don't want to discuss the idea of universal properties, despite the fact that the notion often shows up in first year graduate abstract algebra courses. Commented Jan 14, 2020 at 16:11

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