I applied for a teaching position with a special focus on data science and artificial intelligence, these are the instructions for a presentation I will make:

Assume that the audience is a class of 200 Computer Science stage 2 Undergraduate students in their fifth week of term (i.e. midway through the term) on a programming module. Give a 15 min of delivery of a lecture as you would teach this in class. Follow this up with a 5-minute discussion explaining the delivery approach and why you think it is the right approach for this cohort.

I asked specifications on a typical weekly program and what exactly is a Programming Module, and whether I can present any topic (of any course) keeping in mind where the students stand, or whether I am obliged to choose from the list, noone specified these for me and I am afraid I need to send the presentation in 1.5 days from now.

All they did was to direct me to this page. More information about the program can be found here.

But these do not answer my questions, particularly what a Programming Module is, and whether I can pick any class (Does it have to be from Stage 2 list? Does it have to be a specific course on the list? Or can I go with data science for example, and just assume the kids will be able to follow considering their programme that far?)

I would be happy if you can let me know what you think if you are familiar with the UK system / computer science education.

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    I would refrain from referring to undergraduate students as "kids" -- they are adults. In case it helps, in the UK the term "module" refers to a "class" in the US English parlance: a course of study which typically lasts one term or semester, taught through lectures and seminars/labs and assessed with one or more pieces of coursework plus an exam. On the link you give, go to "Structure" then "Year 2". One of the modules listed there is "Programming in C++"; they are asking you to teach 15 mins from a lecture on this topic or similar. Commented Jun 6, 2021 at 17:46

2 Answers 2


Actually, I would slightly disagree with some points in the offered answer. While you could, as per the other answer, prepare for a "standard test that you can actually teach, speak clearly, prepare class material", I think you might give a better impression if you show that you have tried adapting your delivery to the specific requirements of the institution you are applying to.

Following the link you included, and looking under "Structure" (of the BSc in Computer Science), I find that students have Programming in Java in Year 1, followed by Programming in C++ in Year 2. I would assume that stage 2 means Year 2, and would prepare something that follows their general description of Year 2 programming module:

Programming in C++ (15 Credits)

The module focuses on introducing some basic aspects of the C++ language in a gradual manner so as to allow students to use it with confidence in follow-up modules and in their professional career.

For the topic, I would try to connect to their programme:

  • Stick to the programming language and concepts from the module description: a basic C++ concept (maybe pointers maybe exemplified with a linked list?)
  • However, they have a separate module called "Data Structures and Algorithms". You can show that you are aware of this by referencing something they have learned on a different module (e.g. those linked lists).
  • In their first year, they had "Programming in Java" (for twice the credits). So compare and contrast with that: talk about how linked lists are implemented in a language they should already be proficient (well, familiar...) with.

For teaching practices, you need to make sure your example presentation covers the requirements they set to you with saying "200 Computer Science stage 2 Undergraduate students in their fifth week of term":

  • There are 200 students in this class. Show how you teach a big class. (And then speak about the techniques you relied on in the discussion.) A standard follow-up question might be "And how would you change your delivery if the class had only 50 or 20 students?"
  • They are in their midway through their term. You should take this into account in your delivery, by referencing, or even better, interacting with the "students" about past lecture material (similar to some points above).
  • Most UK Universities are really keen on having interactivity in their lectures (rather than the dry "I talk you listen" lecture) anyway, so I'm repeating this point separately.

Finally, on role-playing:

  • You might be expected to role-play and pretend your committee are students. I have friends that totally get into it, while I cringe at the thought of treating a committee member as a student, even for a minute.
  • Best advice I got for how to cope with this is to "break the 4th wall", and instead of role-playing, announce "I would now ask the students for an answer, wait for a minute to let them think and pick somebody to attempt an answer" (or something similar).
  • But if you can get into it, use it. You have a 5-minute slot where you need to discuss "why your chosen teaching approach was right for this cohort". You could pretend you have a great cohort (probably boring) or a cohort that has shaky basic knowledge (due to a covid year?), or a cohort not used to public speaking (again, due to covid?), tailor your approach specifically to your pretend-flavour of cohort and explain it in your discussion.

Terminology note: in the UK system, a course is usually a whole study programme (BSc in Computer Science) while a student will take a number of different modules in a semester (e.g. Programming and Data Structures are often considered "core modules").

Additional note on the topic: depending on the teaching load at the institution you are applying at (and some UK Universities have quite a high one), the institution often values the ability (and willingness) to deliver "core modules" in addition to specialised modules from one's own field of expertise. They won't hire somebody developing the next C++ standard to teach the students programming. And consequently, as most staff is expected to be somewhat familiar with the content of most "core modules", they also tend to be the easiest to target in interview presentations.

Good luck with your preparation and interview.

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    Good answer with a lot more detail on the specifics of this particular example. Commented Jun 7, 2021 at 9:49
  • Thank you for your great insights, appreciated!
    – dusa
    Commented Jun 7, 2021 at 16:32
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    @penelope Update: I got the offer :) and was told I did really well, thanks
    – dusa
    Commented Jun 16, 2021 at 12:45
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    @dusa Congratulations! Did the interview make it any clearer how much of your teaching position will actually focus on data science and AI, and how much would you be expected to cover "core modules"?
    – penelope
    Commented Jun 16, 2021 at 15:16
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    @dusa Yes, "teaching-only" positions are tough, as they leave no time for research, which can be discouraging if teaching is not what you want to focus on. On the other hand, it is a "gateway" academic position (and it is much easier applying to an academic position from an academic position, rather than a PhD/postdoc, at least in the UK). Asking about how your teaching obligations would be divided between general and specialist topics would've been a great question to ask when they concluded the interview with "And do you have any questions for us?"
    – penelope
    Commented Jun 16, 2021 at 15:48

This is a role-playing exercise to determine if your teaching is suitable for their classes. You do not have to create an "actual" lecture which fits with their programme or curriculum, but you could if you wished.

They want to ensure that you can explain something from a computer science programming topic at a suitable level. This means you should not be delivering something at kindergarten level or delivering research results at a world class conference of peers. Something between those extremes.

So clearly they state you are not teaching the freshers and they will have had a year of programming classes already. Choose a topic that would be more advanced, but still in a programming text book.

Something like lambda functions, lazy evaluation, estoteric programming languages (just off the top of my head); or as @Astronat suggests some unique feature of C++ that may be new to the students.

This has nothing to do with the UK system specifically, but is a standard test that you can actually teach, speak clearly, prepare class material and so on.

We have just done a similar exercise a few weeks back. The fact that you have to ask in a public place might already show you do not have the capability they seek.

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    Thank you for the answer which is quite helpful but I feel that the judgment is a bit unnecessary. I am teaching juniors and sophomores on data science and AI, and the position I applied to is particularly for data science and AI. I think it is confusing that I need to teach a programming course and they don't even have syllabi on their websites (nor the lecturer's website)
    – dusa
    Commented Jun 6, 2021 at 18:02
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    @dusa Sorry, but the task is one that ANY faculty member in computer science should be able to handle with ease. You will not be teaching only AI and data science for every hour of every day. A lecturer role is much wider than that; we have to be both generalists and specialists. They want to test how much of a generalist you are. The specialist background will come from your CV and perhaps tested at interview. Commented Jun 6, 2021 at 18:11
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    @dusa Compared to the explanations for the task you'd get as a new lecturer, if successful, the instructions in your post are very clear and detailed.
    – Arno
    Commented Jun 6, 2021 at 18:26
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    @dusa I don't know if its the same across disciplines, but our module aims and objectives are generally vague enough as to be meaning less from a "what is being taught" point of view. In general modules can't easily be transferred to/from other intuitions - credit generally isn't portable in the UK. "it is not like you walk in without a clue when you start teaching" - thats exactly what it was like when I started teaching. Commented Jun 7, 2021 at 8:29
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    @BrianTompsett-汤莱恩 I got the offer and they told me I did really well after all
    – dusa
    Commented Jun 16, 2021 at 12:47

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