I have an on campus visit for assistant professor position in CS department. The search committee sent me an email that they will soon send a topic for teaching demo. I am thinking of asking her to give a teaching demo about a specific topic. Is that proper to ask?

3 Answers 3


Generally speaking you can ask for just about anything as long as you do so in a professional way. If you suggest a topic, however, try to assure that it is one that would be interesting to them and at the teaching level they are interested in hiring you for. At a liberal arts college it would be undergraduate, but at an R1 type of university it would probably be at an upper level or graduate level.

And if you express a preference, don't make it a demand, they may have a reason for wanting to see you deal with a specific topic. And it might be better to mention a few topics than a single one.

However, once they have assigned you a topic, it would be a mistake to complain about it.

And, once you have the topic, make sure you understand the level of education of the likely attendees if they will be students.


If the search committee has decided to assign you a topic, you should teach the assigned topic.

If they ask you to choose a topic, then you should choose.

The committee makes the rules, not the candidate.

  • 1
    Seems a bit harsh. Why do you think that the OP shouldn't ask?
    – Buffy
    Mar 16, 2020 at 10:25
  • 3
    @Buffy Asking alone might send the wrong signal ("I prefer to show you how well I can teach that one specific topic, rather than the one you intend me to teach"). Mar 16, 2020 at 10:37
  • 1
    I tend to agree with this answer. In theory, asking should never be wrong, but in practice even asking might send a signal that OP does not want to send. Then again, the chance of this mattering are probably really slim.
    – xLeitix
    Mar 16, 2020 at 10:47
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    It could also send a signal that you act professionally, as a colleague. There is no way to read the minds of others, and no reason, IMO, not to express your preference. "Silence is Golden" only for children.
    – Buffy
    Mar 16, 2020 at 10:53
  • @xLeitix Interestingly, if the chance of this mattering are really slim, that would be a valid argument for actually asking. Preparing a decent demo lecture on a new topic might take a full day or more, and that time might be used more efficiently somewhere else. I think it depends on how urgently one wants that particular job. Mar 16, 2020 at 11:03

If they say they will send you the topic, then you should prepare and teach that topic.

This may well be because they are asking all candidates to teach / demonstrate that topic so they can see who has the deeper knowledge or those who "miss" or "gloss over" important points or concepts.

If you ask, they may find that curious as they have already told you they will send you the topic - that might send them the wrong impression...

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