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As the title mentions, I am wondering how to approach an upcoming teaching presentation I will be giving as part of an interview. To be clear, this is a 30-40 minute teaching presentation on a topic related to the humanities-based field in which I work.

My main concern: I am fairly certain that the audience will be composed entirely of the committee, rather than students, so I am concerned about whether I will appear like I'm talking down to my colleagues if I give a standard freshman survey lecture. Or is this just part of the interview process, whereby professors sit back and act like they're teenagers again?

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    What type of university? The advice I would give for University of Michigan, Cal State Chico, Duke University, Carleton College, and Providence College would be all completely different. Apr 4, 2023 at 19:41
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    It’s a large public university with MA programs but no doctoral ones; it’s not ranked as a research university.
    – Parrever
    Apr 4, 2023 at 20:35

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I had a very similar experience when I was interviewed for a science position at a small liberal arts college. The audience consisted of a small number of students though, (about 5), and a lot of faculty members including the dean (more than 10)!

To begin with, the only adjustment I made to my normal teaching style was that I prepared a self-contained lecture, i.e., I talked about everything one needed to understand the lecture without assuming they had any prior knowledge of the subject presented. I.e., I briefly explained the mathematical background needed to follow the lecture, the physics background, etc. To prepare the lecture I consulted with YouTube and Udemy lectures on other subjects because usually they do a good job of preparing self-contained lectures. Moreover, I always use Wikipedia to find interesting trivia on a subject to inject into my lectures.

Now during the actual presentation, I assumed that I'm the one in charge of the room (it's a psychological trick I use when I teach), so I didn't care about the audience in the sense that I wouldn't talk down to colleagues but I wouldn't disrespect anyone either. I stopped to ask questions, I discussed major points, and overall I kept the whole thing relaxed and to the point. In my mind, I was teaching a freshman class if that makes sense.

Finally, pick something you find interesting to teach (if you are free to choose) and enjoy the process. It's very important to have a bit of fun in any type of teaching situation anyway. Don't assume that colleagues will know every single thing you'll talk about. You'll be amazed about how happy people become when you talk to them about something they already know or heard about, but take it a step further. Good luck!

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I think you should ask your audience to role play their students. When they ask questions as students you can both answer them as students and offer meta thoughts about what you chose not to say.

I hope they are willing to do this. If in your experience teaching you found it necessary to encourage students to participate, do that here.

I would avoid a standard "freshman survey lecture" unless that's been particularly requested. Can you start out saying this is small junior level class halfway through the term on [topic]?

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  • Is this common to ask the professors to “role play” as students? Some people might find that to be fun, but I know others who might find it patronizing. But specifying that the talk doesn’t need to be at a freshman level is also a good point.
    – Parrever
    Apr 4, 2023 at 20:33
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    (A tenured professor enthusiastically playing the role of a student during a teaching demo is one of the few times in my life I've had someone raise their hand and ask me "but sir, but sir, what do I do if I can't find the derivative?!" in crisp Australian schoolboy accent.) Apr 4, 2023 at 20:40
  • That’s really funny!
    – Parrever
    Apr 4, 2023 at 21:04
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    @Parever I've no idea whether it's common, but it's something I would do under the circumstances. Not because it would be fun, but because it would help both the candidate and the department evaluate each other. Apr 4, 2023 at 21:23
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    As I write below, I think it should be approached like a normal lecture, because if you start thinking (internally), that these are colleagues it might affect your overall composure. Who says that colleagues know everything there is to know about what you are about to teach anyway?
    – cconsta1
    Apr 9, 2023 at 8:32

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