Vol. 3. No. 2 F-1 March 1998
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***TESL-EJ Forum***

Teaching Demonstrations

Guest Forum Host: Jack Carrel

I was asked to introduce this TESL-EJ Forum discussion about teaching demonstrations as part of job interviews. This discussion appeared on the TESLJB-L branch of TESL-L, and is reproduced here with the permission of the participants.

My reason for asking the original question was that our interview process did not include any kind of demonstration. We were ending up with teachers who sounded good in the interview but had problems in the classroom. However, the other issue for me was that demonstrations would add considerable time to our interview and hiring process. So it seemed like a good idea to ask advice from teachers and adminstrators who had used or been through such a process.

Honestly, the discussion developed into much more than I had hoped for, and provided me with valuable information. As a result, we are going to carry out our own experiment with class demonstrations, video, and lesson plans alone.

Interestingly, the discussion opened a number of side issues which, as a new academic director, were very valuable to me. I hope you find it as informative and helpful as I did.

Jack Carrel
Academic Director
University of Guadalajara
Guadalajara Mexico

Date:  Tue, 25 Nov 1997 10:54:00 PST
From: "Carrel ., Jack CORP"

I have just become the Academic Director of a school in Guadalajara Mexico and am looking at our method of interviewing prospective teachers. Currently, we do not have candidates present a lesson with students or the interviewers as part of the interview, but I am thinking of adding this. I feel we need to have some idea of their teaching style and competence. I know this would be an artificial situation but maybe it's better than nothing. [-1-]

Could others share their opinions or experiences with this idea?


Jack Carrel
University of Guadalajara
Guadalajara Mexico

Date: Tue, 25 Nov 1997 12:47:10 -0600
From: "Nicole S. Hastings"
Subject: Re: ADVICE: Example classes as part of an interview

On Tue, 25 Nov 1997, Carrel ., Jack CORP wrote:

> Currently, we do not have candidates present a lesson

> with students or the interviewers as part of the

> interview, but I am thinking of adding this. I

My only experience as an interviewer was as a member of a selection committee. We *did* have the candidates give demonstration lessons, and I felt that it was the most valuable part of the interview. It allowed the candidates to demonstrate their skills (or lack of skills) in many different areas, including selection of materials, use of time, effectiveness of communication, ability to adapt to each situation, etc. In some cases, my opinion of the candidate changed completely (either for the better or for the worse) as a result of his/her demonstration. In fact, after seeing these demonstrations, I cannot imagine ever hiring anyone without going through this step. I think it's the only way to truly know what kind of teacher you are getting.

In the real world, I know that other factors (like time and money) may make demonstrations impossible, but if it is at all feasible, I would highly recommend including that step in your selection process.

Nicole Hastings
Pittsburg State University
nhasting@pittstate.edu                                 [-2-] 

Date: Tue, 25 Nov 1997 13:45:47 -0600
From: AImee Stewart Mitchell
Subject: Re: ADVICE: Example classes as part of an interview
I agree wholeheartedly with Nicole's opinion that example classes can be invaluable and often can be the deciding factor.

I work at a private university/high school in Cuernavaca, Mexico and the example class is part of our hiring process. A group of teachers, a school psychologist, and if available, current students to make the experience as authentic as possible participate. I think having actual students there is crucial to the process to see how this particular teacher interacts with your particular students because as we all know someone can be a super adult teacher but a terrible kindergarten teacher, or even a great high school teacher in the U.S. but doesn't do well with Mexican students, etc. The teacher is usually given a theme or situation beforehand (a day or so at least) and told to prepare a 20 minute class. The themes or situations we have used have been from preparing a first day class for absolute beginners to teaching a lesson on a specific grammar point to preparing a conversation class on a particular theme.

One particular case which stands out in mind was for a Theatre Arts content course. We had several impressive curricula but one candidate came to do her model class (as we call them) and knocked our socks off with her activities, her way of interacting with the students, her way of getting all the students to participate, even in this artificial environment, etc. None of this would we have been able to get from any other means. Perhaps this was because of the nature of the course, but I believe many aspects carry over to all possible classes. For us, her model class was clearly the deciding factor. I highly recommend using the model classes.

Some caveats: obviously, nervousness is natural in the situation as is adjustments any teacher would make once they have their own classes and have established their own relationships and means of working with the students. It's important to keep this in mind and to try to evaluate the potential a candidate has to be successful teaching in your institution. We even had one case where we allowed a candidate to do a second model class because his first was a disaster and he turned out to be one of best teachers ever!

Good luck!

Aimee Stewart
ITESM, Campus Morelos                                 [-3-] 

Date: Fri, 28 Nov 1997 05:26:43 -0500
From: Karen Stanley
Subject: teaching demonstrations
In response to the question of the value of teaching samples:

In the last few years our Vice President of Instruction mandated teaching demonstrations for finalists for a full- time position.

I have found that I can learn a great deal from these demonstrations, which normally run 15-30 minutes. On one committee, all applicants were provided (about two weeks in advance) with the same photocopy of a section of one of our current textbooks and the same specific point of instruction.

We provided volunteer language students (not the hiring committee acting as students; we observed "real" students being taught by the applicant). On another committee, for a position which was to be filled internally, applicants could choose a segment of a class that they were currently teaching, and arrange to have themselves videotaped during that segment. We then viewed the videos as a committee.

I found that I did learn things from watching the demonstration that I had not found in the interviews. In one case, a teacher who had seemed quiet and slightly shy in the interview turned out to be a dynamic interactive teacher in the classroom. In another case, a person who interviewed very well turned out to be more conversant with talking about teaching ideas and methods than in putting them into actual classroom practice.

Of course, some people end up teaching exactly the way you expect that they would. And I assume that someone who was truly outstanding would most likely be outstanding in both arenas. But, as a community college which can't offer the kind of salaries (I believe community colleges in NC rank 48th among community colleges in the US in salary levels) that other colleges and universities can, we rarely get an entire array of all outstanding applicants to choose from.

I value teaching demonstrations, and would not want to be on a hiring committee without them.

Karen Stanley
Charlotte, North Carolina, USA                         [-4-]

Date: Sat, 29 Nov 1997 04:05:12 +1000
From: Melinda Gleeson
Subject: teaching demonstrations
Okay, I'm about to be politically incorrect - once again!

Ten years ago I applied for a position in an ELICOS school. They asked me to do a demonstration lesson. I had time to prepare it but I wasn't happy about the whole process. I did the demo, had an interview and got the job. But I still wasn't happy - I felt humiliated having to teach a demo lesson - and I didn't take the job. I ended up going elsewhere and stayed there for eight years.

Today I would still feel lousy if asked to do a demo lesson. I can see all the positive points people are putting forward for it and can certainly see that side of the argument. However, I've got a gut feeling objection to it which I can't quite rationalise. I'm wondering if my reasons are something along the lines of wondering who the assessors are and what their teaching skills are like. Perhaps I'd like to see them teach and see how they interact with colleagues and students before I decide if theirs is the institution I'd like to teach at.

I guess the underlying assumption in all the postings so far is that the interviewers have all the power and the candidate has none. I don't agree with this framing of the position. I certainly want to know about the institution before I decide whether I would like to take a job there. The interview is the place where I can find out a lot. If they want me to put my skills on the line with a demo lesson, then I want something more from them too that will help me to decide. (I'm just playing with ideas here, trying to work out what's behind my reluctance to accept the concept of demo lessons - when the arguments for seem quite good.)

Perhaps someone else has a similar feeling and can make more sense of it than me???

Melinda Gleeson
Brisbane, Australia

Date: Sat, 29 Nov 1997 00:59:03 -0800
From: Eli Hinkel
Subject: Re: Teaching demos
A few years ago, I had to teach a demo class that used the textbook and the materials prepared by the teacher who actually taught the class. I didn't like the textbook or the materials and would have prepared for the class completely differently if it had been a real [-5-]

situation. I didn't get the job of an instructor in that particular program. Three months later, I was hired as the director of an intensive program at a different university.

As the director, I've never asked anyone to teach a demo lesson. Life entails risks, and hiring someone based on a resume and a couple of interviews is a part of my job. Sometimes you win, and sometimes you lose--just like real life.

Eli Hinkel
Seattle University
Xavier University in Cincinnati at the time

Date: Sat, 29 Nov 1997 07:04:29 -0500
From: Karen Stanley
Subject: teaching demos
I have to say I'm really surprised at the negative reaction to being asked to do a teaching demonstration. After all, you have as much choice about how to do that as about how to answer the questions posed in an interview, don't you?

The whole hiring process is by definition one group of people judging another group of people, which is by nature an uncomfortable position for those "judged". Hiring committees are just as likely to have set ideas about how you should answer a question (about grammar instruction, say) as they are about how you should teach a particular point -- in fact, possibly more so. Hiring committees may also ask, "How would you approach teaching X?"

Could it be that people are simply less accustomed to being viewed and assessed on what they do in the classroom? Is there something about having the actual process of teaching "judged" that people are more sensitive about than being judged on their answers to interview questions about the same thing?

I have people come into my classroom to watch me teach on a semi- regular basis, and I have videotaped all of one course (a more content-based course, which renders it more useful in videotaped format) I teach on a fairly regular basis and put it in the language lab for students (or new part-time teachers who are going to teach the course) to use. (Of course, sections of it have changed since the original videotaping, and everyone knows that, but a lot of it remains relevant even when different.) Students are even welcome to take the videos home, and can make copies if they like.

It's true, I like it better when people come to observe something I've taught before than something I've never taught before, especially if I am working with a new textbook that I don't like. I do remember feeling embarrassed when someone dropped in to observe [-6-] me in a class where the new textbook had turned out to be very weak (a long story there), when the night before had been spent on work from other classes so I had spent little preparation time on that class, and I did a generally less than wonderful job that day. I certainly wished that the person had come by the day before, when I had been inspired and the whole class had been a model of learning & teaching (well, in my humble view).

I'm not sure exactly where I'm going with all this, except that it is perhaps the fact that we're more accustomed to (and therefore more comfortable with) being judged on interviews than on teaching demonstrations. It certainly underlines the fact that being allowed to choose your own video of your own class is a good idea. In fact, I now think if I were asked for a teaching demo tape, I would want to tape a bunch of my classes, view them, and choose the one I thought showed me at my best.

Maybe it would even be good for all of us to spend the same amount of time videotaping ourselves, and selecting and editing samples for public viewing, that we spend on writing & rewriting our resumes, or articles for publication. Maybe sample videos of our teaching should be something that we prepare and send with a resume as a matter of course.

As I said, several years ago our Vice President of Instruction MANDATED this part of the interview process for full-time teaching positions, and I suspect that it is a part of hiring that will become more and more common.

Karen Stanley
Charlotte, North Carolina, USA

Date: Sun, 30 Nov 1997 00:10:02 +0900
From: davidov@SANYNET.OR.JP
Subject: Re: teaching demos
Karen Stanley wrote:

Could it be that people are simply less accustomed to being viewed and assessed on what they do in the classroom? Is there something about having the actual process of teaching "judged" that people are more sensitive about than being judged on their answers to interview questions about the same thing?

I believe that we are, which is sort of strange, given that we are probably constantly being judged by our [-7-] learners/students/trainees/course participants. What does this say about our regard for their opinions?

Maybe it would even be good for all of us to spend the same amount of time videotaping ourselves, and selecting and editing samples for public viewing, that we spend on writing & rewriting our resumes, or articles for publication. Maybe sample videos of our teaching should be something that we prepare and send with a resume as a matter of course.

Preparing a commentary/critique of the lesson and submitting it with the tape might be a good idea, too, at least from the standpoint of showing the selection committee that I'd reflected on the lesson in some kind of systematic way.

Milan Davidovic
Sumikin-Intercom, Inc.
Osaka, Japan

Date: Sat, 29 Nov 1997 10:55:06 EST
From: Anthea Tillyer
Subject: Re: teaching demos
I can't see the point of teaching demos. They are totally artificial, the "teacher" has had no time to build rapport with the students or choose his/her own materials. I think it would be unfair to judge a person's ability based on such a thing. I also think that it is a waste of time for the search committee members. A video would serve the purpose better, and better still, some well-thought- out questions.

Thumbs down!

Anthea Tillyer    City University of New York

Date:         Sat, 29 Nov 1997 13:15:18 -0300
From: Ellen Butki
Subject:      teaching demonstrations
Greetings from Buenos Aires:

At the university-connected program I used to teach for in the US, we tried a variation on this theme. We asked prospective teachers who had passed the interview stage to visit one of our classes and talk with the teacher about the class afterwards. Depending on how that went, the prospective teacher (P.T.) was asked to teach a short [-8-] part of that class within a week or so of the visit. He/she could teach something from the textbook or a related lesson he/she was more comfortable teaching.

The value of this system is that the P.T. had met the students before being put on the spot and had an idea of their level and the structure of the class while preparing the demo lesson. Also, the students were familiar with the P.T. and were sympathetic to the P.T.'s situation. Students, of course, have a lot of power in these demo lessons and can make or break them. We can actually learn a lot from students as to how a P.T. will do with a similar class.

Ellen Butki
EFL Instructor, Brooklyn Bridge Institute
Buenos Aires, Argentina

Date: Sat, 29 Nov 1997 11:15:46 -0500
From: Karen Stanley
Subject: definition of teaching demo?
My definition of a "teaching demonstration" doesn't include the idea that it must necessarily be in an artificial environment. That is, a video of my teaching my own class is still, for me, a teaching demonstration. Perhaps some of the debate is based on different definitions for the same terms.

Karen Stanley
Charlotte, North Carolina, USA

Date:  Sat, 29 Nov 1997 19:32:42 -0500
From: "Geoffrey_Vitale@UQTR.UQuebec.ca"
Subject: Re: teaching demonstrations
Melinda Gleeson worried about doing a demonstration lesson before people whose own teaching postures and strategies she was unaware of. It sometimes happens in reverse - which is an interesting experience, when the biter gets bit.

A number of years back, I was sent out to the Comoro Islands - my job was to make some radical changes to the ESL programs: books and methodologies. I was armed with authority, but felt it would be better if I could discuss with the teachers on site (3 islands - 5,000 secondary school students - teachers from Belgium, Canada, [-9-] France, Binin and Ireland) as to what we were proposing to do. This meant amongst other things bringing along loads of books and stuff to look at and discuss.

The first group of teachers I met, on the island of Anjouan, looked at Dr. Vitale, university whatnot and said- in no uncertain terms- if you want us to cooperate, we need first to know if you can teach. So I found myself with a class of thirty 14-year olds: and in back, a dozen teachers watching every blink of my eyelids.

The class went off OK - and as a result I got cooperation and we worked out a new and pretty long-lasting new program. I believe they were perfectly entitled to check out that I wasn't just a pretty face (though that's a compliment I've rarely been gratified with). Had I messed it up, it would have been my own stupid fault. If I were asked as part of a hiring assessment to "do" a class, I would. And if I messed it up .... same conclusion.

Geoffrey Vitale, University of Quebec,

Date:  Sun, 30 Nov 1997 11:07:56 +0900
From: davidov@SANYNET.OR.JP
Subject: Re: Teaching demos
Anthea Tillyer wrote:

...teaching demos... are totally artificial, the "teacher" has had no time to build rapport with the students or choose his/her own materials. I think it would be unfair to judge a person's ability based on such a thing.

They might be good for positions where courses are very short, rapport has to be established quickly, and the syllabus and material are already set. These are fairly common in corporate-oriented TESP.

Milan Davidovic
Sumikin-Intercom, Inc.
Osaka, Japan

Date: Sat, 29 Nov 1997 19:48:27 -0800
From: Molly Farquharson
Subject: Teaching demos
Karen Stanley brings up an interesting point about watching our own teaching. It is especially interesting when it is a student who controls the camera. Someone else suggested including an edited and [-10-] annotated video as part of a portfolio. I think those are both excellent (and overlapping) ideas. It makes the teacher reflect very well on herself as a teacher, why she does what she does, and how she likes it from a different perspective ("Do I really look like that? I didn't know I had that mannerism." etc.)

At the same time, I would hazard a guess that most teachers do not go in front of a committee to be hired because they are part-time, and most p-t teachers are hired more casually. Another part of this is that when teachers are hired internationally (such as through this list), it is usually impossible to have the teacher demonstrate in front of you. A video, especially as part of a portfolio, would help introduce the teacher. I think this process of clarifying for oneself what it is about teaching that one does, likes, thinks, helps prepare for any meaningful questions that the committee or the interviewer would ask.

molly farquharson
farkie @teleport.com

Date: Sun, 30 Nov 1997 02:53:21 -0500
From: marchand@DIGITAL.NET
Subject: demos

I'm not at all surprised at the negative reaction to teaching demos. They can be, and are, abused by those on selection panels. At an interview for a position at a community college, I had to give a teaching demo on some point with very little preparation time, besides writing the standard "essay" on my philosophy of teaching. It may also be the case that teachers on the panel are threatened by someone who they may see as being more on the ball than themselves or who has uppity notions of "modern" approaches and threaten the status quo that way. I've also been surprised that any of us are turned loose in the classroom without having to demonstrate that we can actually teach, but still, I believe this is much fairer. This is what I have told teachers and observers I have trained: if you want to see if a teacher's any good, watch the students, NOT the teacher. -Marc Bergman

Date: Sun, 30 Nov 1997 19:00:51 +0900
From: Sharon Vaipae
Subject: teaching demos
My experience with teaching video:

While in Japan, I had applied for a full-time university ESL position, and a tape was requested immediately. It was over the summer break, and I had no students to be a class for a demo, so I ran through the video I had taken in the final class of teaching [-11-] methodology class in the past year. I found nothing that appealed to me as a an exemplary "lesson," but I did find a portion which showed me and the students in small group work as part of a year-end exercise in critiquing the class they were completing. The students said some very nice things about the way the material was presented, and also some not so complimentary statements about the way I handled the homework assignments. In one segment, a group is seen and heard criticising another professor's teaching. I am heard helping them further analyze what they are objecting to, and guiding them towards coming up with solid recommendations for improving that professor's instruction (no one wanted to bell the cat, however). The interplay very clearly showed the relationship I had built with the students, my effort to move their focus from criticism to constructive analysis re another professor, and the final discussion of their own recommendations to me as to how to improve my teaching.

This videotape must have gone over well, as I was offered the position during the subsequent conference call from the hiring committee. One member commented that the video was the deciding factor in selecting me, and partly because they felt that anyone who would share with a hiring committee such honest feedback from the students, had to have something good going for them as a teacher.

Thus, my only experience with a demo video was positive, and yet I would have reservations about conducting a demo lesson with students whose level, needs, and personalities I did not know.


Sharon Vaipae, Professor
Ohtani Women's University

Date: Sun, 30 Nov 1997 22:15:01 +0900
From: Bland merton

Subject: Re: definition of teaching demo?

On Sat, 29 Nov 1997, Karen Stanley wrote:

> My definition of a "teaching demonstration" doesn't
> include the idea that it must necessarily be in an
> artificial environment. That is, a video of my teaching
> my own class is still, for me, a teaching demonstration.

Karen, how would you have judged a video of a teacher sitting quietly in the back of the classroom, rarely making a sound, for an entire period, while a furious debate (entirely in English) raged around him. He was one of the students in my practicum and I gave him an A. [-12-]

Dr. Merton L. Bland
Konyang University, Nonsan, Korea

merton@soback.kornet.nm.kr [address invalid now --ed]

Date: Sun, 30 Nov 1997 16:54:45 +0000
From: "Dorothy E. Zemach" <3a2jwgc@CMUVM.CSV.CMICH.EDU>
Subject: PROFADV: teaching demos vs. videos
I think doing a teaching demo (with real students) is an excellent way to "check out" the institution you are considering. I was asked to do a teaching demo (having been recruited internationally from this list--it does happen!), and found I really appreciated the opportunity to see what kind of students came to this school, what the classroom facilities were like, etc. It didn't occur to me to wonder how the hiring committee themselves taught- -after all, I wasn't hiring them, they were hiring me. I think often hiring committee members are not going to be your teaching colleagues, so it would be odd to ask to see them teach anyway. I suppose if you were really curious about what sort of teaching went on at a given institution, you could ask to observe other classes (after you did your own demo).

This university had both outside and inside candidates, and made every effort to ensure that we all got the same breaks--of course, inevitably the teachers already here knew some of the students and/or books, but those of us from outside also had the advantage of seeming fresh, and we were not required to use the text. We were given the subject of the course, the subject of the lesson (if the current teacher were going to teach that day), and a copy of the textbook. I actually misunderstood the topic of my lesson, and found out the night before I taught--which gave me just an hour or so in the morning to create a new lesson plan. But the committee knew that had happened to me, and I assume were therefore, among other things, looking at how I could teach under rushed circumstances--which we do indeed sometimes encounter in our jobs, right? Of course they were not observing the rapport I might have built up with a class long in progress, but they were certainly able to observe how I would go about building rapport with a new group of students--which again I consider relevant to this job. They also could see how I would assess students' current abilities and how I would sort them into groups. I'm not sure they could have judged those sorts of things accurately, though, if I had been working with a hiring committee pretending to be students. I'd vote for real students every time.

Videos certainly have their good points, but I would think it would be hard for a hiring committee to judge them against each other. [-13-] Candidates could send in videos of new classes, on-going ones, ones with mixed levels, ones with different ages and nationalities of students, etc. Also, not everyone is able to video her own teaching. Where I worked in Japan, videotaping was not permitted, for security/confidentiality reasons. I can also imagine people who might be strong teachers who simply do not have access to video facilities.

If I were hiring someone to teach, I would certainly want to see him/her teach, if it were at all possible. Thumbs up!

Dorothy E. Zemach
English Language Institute
Central Michigan University
Mt. Pleasant, MI  48859

Date: Sun, 30 Nov 1997 10:59:38 CST
From: Theresa Pruetl-Said
Subject: demo lessons
I think demo lessons are becoming more common in the teaching field. My husband's sociology department at a small liberal arts college requires final candidates to give a demonstration lesson to a group of students at the college. The candidate is warned about two weeks ahead about this as well as being told what she/he will teach (the topic). But as someone who has been on hiring committees where we viewed videos as part of the process I can say I saw some problems. First, was that because we, the committee members, hadn't decided on any criteria beforehand as to what we were looking for in the video we often came away with very different opinions about what we had seen in the video. My advice to hiring committees would be to develop some criteria first with which to make judgements about the video. It seems it would also be nice, at least for the final candidates, to share that criteria with the person sending in the video or doing the demo lesson. Another point that was brought up by the university but never discussed fully was the fact that videos may allow us to hire or not based on visual prejudices. For example, in a society that has a great deal of bias against overweight people would we view an overweight teacher more negatively. Another good reason to set criteria. Also not everyone has access to the kind of editing equipment that might make for a slick tape. We received a wide range of tapes as far as quality and editing went. Interestingly, I found myself turned off by tapes that weren't slick whereas another colleague was turned off by edited tapes as she felt she wasn't able to see the whole picture. I would recommend if you are sending a video to send a running commentary with it because if you have dozens of tapes to go through AND you have to get everyone on the hiring committee together to do it fast-forwarding (perhaps through an interesting Part!) happens. There are also times when [-14-] teachers may not be actually classroom teaching while they are job hunting and thus be at a disadvantage as far as showing themselves in an actual classroom with real students. While I do see the advantages of demo lessons/video lessons another interesting point I noticed is that we rarely in the long run hired a teacher because of his/her video. Experience and good, reliable references usually won the day.

Terry Pruett-Said
ESL instructor
NE Iowa

Date:  Sun, 30 Nov 1997 19:47:39 +0000
From: lzangari@REDROSE.NET
Subject: teaching demos

I am a just catching up on the thread regarding teaching demonstrations. I can understand why there is a great response, pro and con. I'd like to add a personal response.

I was asked to do a demo for my current position. In a way, I was a guinea pig for this to be included as a regular part of the hiring process. I later spoke to the director and other staff about it and everyone agreed that, though it is a time-consuming endeavor, it can help to make a close call when candidates have equal standing, give those who do not interview well a chance to show classroom potential, give prospective employees a glimpse of what they're getting into, and can help to weed out people who interview well (and look great on paper) but do not perform well.

The demo helped me to decide if I wanted the job. Having had more time with other staff than I would have had after just an interview, and after meeting the students, I decided that I did want it. My employer and the instructor whose class I taught were impressed with what I chose to teach and how I presented it. It worked out well on both ends and has been a positive experience for our program since.

Lora Zangari
Lancaster, PA USA


Date: Mon, 1 Dec 1997 06:50:54 +0900
From: davidov@SANYNET.OR.JP
Subject: Re: demo lessons
Theresa Pruetl-Said wrote:

While I do see the advantages of demo lessons/video lessons another interesting point I noticed is that we rarely in the long run hired a teacher because of his/her video. Experience and good, reliable references usually won the day.

Clearly, then, given the problems Theresa mentions in her post (criteria, visual bias, quality standards of the video, etc.) that a selection committee really needs to consider their strategy: what do we want to know, what are the valid ways of finding out, what are the constraints on using those ways, etc. And ideally, this would be linked back to the organization's overall employee resourcing strategy and policies, etc. It seems that there is no simply saying "teaching demos are good/bad".

Milan Davidovic
Sumikin-Intercom, Inc.
Osaka, Japan

Date: Mon, 1 Dec 1997 08:47:40 -0800
From: Lucas/Andrea
Subject: Teaching demos
Hi everybody,

Just to add to the debate regarding teaching demos, I have one terrific and one terrible example of a teaching demo scenario. For a summer position at a community college, I was asked to prepare a lesson plan and five minute teaching demo based on one of the themes of the course. This gave me a chance to demonstrate how I would use authentic materials to develop a theme using communicative techniques, among other skills. I had a few weeks to prepare, taught the other job interviewees and the two interviewers, and actually quite enjoyed the experience. Taken as part of the interview process, it evened the field for someone like me who didn't have the academic background of other applicants (MA+) but was a pretty good hands-on teacher. It also gave me a chance to understand more about the program's approach before considering whether or not to accept the position. The teaching demo was a good experience because it was just one part of a well-thought-out and thorough interview process, which also included resume/cover letter, answering questions and participating in a group discussion on relevant topics of theory and practice. Yes, it was still artificial (as is every aspect of the interview process, to some extent) but [-16-] when considered along with a range of other factors I think it was beneficial for all. Now, the bad one...I know of a private language school here in Vancouver where prospective applicants are thrown into a class of students and told to "teach something" with no more than a moment's notice, with the director (not an educator himself) looking on. This seems to me to be ineffective at best and downright abusive at worst. Like any aspect of teacher evaluation/interview, the teaching demo can be illuminating or exploitative, depending on how it is executed. Perhaps it must be viewed in the context of each individual situation/interview process in order to determine its effectiveness.


Andrea Matthews
LEAP Instructor
Langara College
Vancouver, BC

Date: Mon, 1 Dec 1997 20:09:26 +0000
From: "Craig McL. Wallace"
Subject:  Re: teaching demos and Karen et al's advocacy
Subject: RE: teaching demos

Karen wrote 29 Nov:

> I have to say I'm really surprised at the negative
> reaction to being asked to do a teaching demonstration.

Well, excuse me, for feeling so passionately about yet another device to disempower ESOL teachers, but I feel I MUST address the attitudes of the (many) positive responders to this thread.

For your (and the newsgroup's) information, in Australia and New Zealand (despite the often glowing picture painted on this list of the Australian industry, and which I conducted a mail survey of a year ago), tenured positions have become scarcer and scarcer, with many (especially recently-trained) teachers having to continuously accept sessional contracts, if that. No chance of mortgages to purchase homes, paid leaves and other normal adult benefits most reputable industries offer well-qualified workers.

And that is why this demo lesson practice raises my hackles. As if many teachers don't already have most of the cards stacked against their achieving well-paid and satisfying terms of employment, this practice enables administrators to further stress them out, unrealistically (IMHO), by this unnecessary process. Surely a sensitive DOS (or Centre Manager or whoever does the teacher selection) has enough professionalism to ask the right questions to suss out the chaff from the wheat. From my experience in Australia, [-17-] 80% of CVs sent in show clearly that many applicants do not have the right qualities already, but then at least in Australia the industry does spell out fairly exactly minimum requirements for employment in industry-accredited colleges.

A video is fine, if it can be arranged, or a demo after a trial period of teaching the particular class (impractical mostly of course, unless a relief teacher applying for a permanent post) but teaching demo lessons cold is NOT fair

practice in my books.

Incidentally I was an ELS Centre Director (in Australia) for 2 years recently, and I got generally excellent staff without ever seeking recourse to such a practice. Proposing hypothetical teaching-point questions in an interview is fine, surely, as a substitute. And there's always the sample video that can be requested from an interviewee.

A class is based around the dynamics of HUMAN communication. I cannot accept that asking some-one to appear cold before strangers and create a good lesson is valid hiring practice. Thank goodness there has been some negative feedback to what I believe is a barbaric practice, and all of them with good justification.

My penny's-worth, and sorry to Karen if any volatility on my part was taken as impoliteness, which it was of course not intended to be.


Craig McL. Wallace
M. Ed Admin (ELT)(Adelaide), Dip SLT(ESOL), Dip. Tchg
LTCL(TEFL)(Lond), B.A.

Date: Mon, 1 Dec 1997 12:14:31 -0800
From: Isa Kocher
Subject: Re: teaching demos and Karen et al's advocacy
---"Craig McL. Wallace" wrote: > > Subject: RE: teaching demos

> Karen wrote 29 Nov:

> > I have to say I'm really surprised at the negative
> > reaction to being asked to do a teaching demonstration.
> Well, excuse me, for feeling so passionately about
> yet another device to disempower ESOL teachers, but I
> feel I MUST address the attitudes of the (many) positive
> responders to this thread. [-18-]

I too fail to see what relevance a 15 minute demo would have to a position as a professional TESOL.

It would seem to me to be appropriate to a Berlitz clone where everything is prepackaged to the least common denominator of mindlessness.

I recall an observer from the department of education at a community college where the ESL section was part of special education.

I was asked after the observation why I had not used the prescribed developmental lesson plan. I was not able to communicate the need for a skill like writing to be learned through a complex set of feedbacks requiring relationships built up over periods of time not neatly packaged into units of lessons. Writing skills are not built up from discrete unconnected units. A fifteen minute demo would do nothing to demonstrate the ability to develop a writing class where writing skills could be acquired.

However, if you are only interested in how a teacher gets though a lesson, and how personable or charming the teacher is or other gross characteristics of personality.

15 minute demos are best left to shopping TV.

Isa Kocher

LC-SQU Sultanate of Oman

Date: Mon, 1 Dec 1997 17:50:37 -0500
From: "susan.j.mcdonagh"
Subject: Re: Teaching demos

I have been following the discussion on teaching demos and have found it quite interesting. I agree with those of you who say it really depends on the situation as far as whether teaching demos are good or bad.

I once had someone ask me to do an impromptu teaching demo during a phone interview by telling me to pretend that s/he was the student(s). I must say it wasn't my most brilliant lesson ever. But, I do definitely see the purpose and agree with some of you who have made comments about its validity if 1) the interviewee is given some kind of notice and is not put *completely* on the spot, and 2) the interviewer or interviewing committee has thought about and agreed upon what exactly it is they are looking for in a teaching demo.

I also agree that it is a great opportunity for those people who either don't have an MA and get knocked out of the running just [-19-] for that reason, and for those who are quite nervous in interviews but can feel more at ease in actually getting to show their teaching skills.

We should remember that no interviewing process is ideal for all situations, and that, yes, it is a risk on both the employer's and the perspective employee's part.

Sue McDonagh
Common Language Program
Andersen Worldwide

Date: Mon, 1 Dec 1997 18:45:24 -0500 From: "Keith Folse (ELI)" Subject: Re: Teaching demos

If the place I want to work requires a teaching demo, I will do one. If the place I want to work requires a detailed resume, I'll write it. If what they are requiring seems unreasonable to me, then I won't apply.

A colleague of mine recently applied for a job and had a group phone interview. In the interview, they asked her several "real" questions in this form: They gave student sentences/utterances and had her say whether they were o.k. or not and if they were not o.k., she had to say what the problem was and then say how she would explain this to the student(s). Some of the sentences were very good: "She isn't like tea very much." or "Do you can to help me?"

The school was looking for someone who could teach a variety of classes in an ELI (in the US) and who had enough background to work with other teachers and contribute to the program.

In addition, they asked her a series of "Have you ever --- ?" or "What if a student ...?" questions regarding her own ideas about teaching.

For the record, she also had to submit a teaching demo of her own class.

My 2 cents' worth,

Keith Folse
English Language Institute

Univ of South Florida, Tampa

folse@quijote.lang.usf.edu Office: (813) 974-4230


Date: Tue, 2 Dec 1997 16:26:38 +0000
From: "Craig McL. Wallace"
Subject: Re: teaching demos and Karen et al's advocacy

After I wrote my heated reply/contribution to this thread, I too (like Isa) realized that I felt the notion best suited "Method" teaching, and the desire to see whether prospective staff adhere to a model that supposedly works for all classes. This then means that "teaching cold" is not an issue. But, God forbid, have I been refining and developing my professional knowledge and skills for the last 17 years in order to evaluate prospective teachers' abilities to perform like pre-programmed machines? Computers are waiting to do that for us already, aren't they? I had hoped we were seeking teachers who offer an individualised humanistic AND informed contribution to classroom practice. No-one in this thread yet has convinced me that teaching an unknown class in front of strangers in a one-off lesson is a valid use of my time, or a valid measure of a candidate's professionalism. And especially when there are other less potentially-stressful assessment methods available to worthwhile administrators, as have been mentioned (thankfully) by others. I'd better stop before I am seen as Ross Perot's successor for 1998!

---"Craig McL. Wallace"

Date: Mon, 8 Dec 1997 11:53:58 -0700
From: Michael Barraclough
Subject: Teaching Demos

While agreeing with many of the reservations many posters have about asking applicants to do a teaching demo, I found what I consider to be an acceptable approach.

The applicant would observe me teach one of my classes and then be asked two days later to teach the same class their next lesson. After this the applicant and I would discuss the lesson, with the applicant having the opportunity to comment first and so explain anything s/he thought had not worked well, or to highlight what went well.

I feel this was as fair as I could make it, in that the applicant had experience of the students(admittedly very limited), the materials and my own style of teaching and then after the lesson, s/he also had the opportunity to redeem any perceived shortcomings in our post-class discussion.

Mike Barraclough
Chiangmai University
Thailand                                              [-21-] 

Date: Tue, 9 Dec 1997 12:33:26 -0700
From: Michael Barraclough
Subject: Re: teaching demos

Perhaps I should have said that I was working in a very small teaching centre and applicants were mostly working part-time elsewhere, looking for more work, or were desperate to stay in beautiful Chiangmai. I therefore didn't need to go through this procedure very often and wanted to choose teachers to ensure our centre kept its reputation as the best in the city, in a country where rapport with the students is MUCH more important even than perceived learning success.

Teaching demos were also only done by applicants who had passed an initial interview, as Melinda recommends.


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