By Katherine Dugan, Ph.D.
Professor Katherine (Kate) Dugan is our Professor Is In staff specialist on teaching demos. You can work with her individually on all aspects of your teaching demo, from concept to planning to delivery. Just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Since March, I’ve worked with a handful of “The Professor Is In” clients to prepare for teaching demonstrations conducted via Zoom. This is obviously a COVID creation, but it’s going to be with us for at least the rest of this job market season (and, frankly, based on the cost of bringing candidates to campus, I wonder if it might have a longer life). I want to offer several tips for taking charge of your demonstration and making it work for you.
These Zoom teaching demonstrations are daunting. This is not (just) because of the technology or the inability of the format to communicate in the nuance necessary for high-quality teaching exchanges. A virtual teaching demonstration requires that you juggle fourteen things at a time. You also need to be more crisp in Zoomscape than in person. And you have to do it all from the kitchen table with the real chance that a child on a break from virtual school might wander past
We can go on all day about the limitations of Zoom and the scary implications of what we’re doing.
I want to lay out eight guideposts for this season of Zoom teaching demonstrations.
One: the same key principles of a good teaching demonstration apply, but things like time management, pitching your skillset, and preparation are even more pointed when it comes to Zoom demonstrations Virtual teaching has less fluff room around the edges because you don’t get the informal exchanges that make teaching spark. I find that students are not asking the same kind of helpful questions in Zoomscapes they do in person. There’s no filler chatter with students and committee members as you make transitions.
This means that you have to have your materials even more prepared in a Zoom classroom. If you use a shared google doc or jamboard, make sure the settings are right. If you share a virtual worksheet with your mock students, errors are going to jump out more than in person. If you plan break-out rooms, your instructions have to be crisp and you need to be very clear about what they will produce in their discussions.
Two: Demonstrating your teaching via Zoo not the same as in-person, so don’t pretend it is. BUT don’t let that lull you into thinking you cannot show off your teaching strengths. In fact, being able to do a masterful teaching demo via Zoom will highlight your strengths.
Here’s how to do that: decide what you are **best** at in Zoom teaching (NOT what you are best at in in-person teaching—that’s a moot point for this demonstration; save it for your interview discussions of your teaching). Plan you demonstration about this thing you’re best at. Choose your second-best thing and make sure to also do that. Depending on the length allotted, a good demonstration has three or maybe four parts to it (close to two or three for 20-25 minutes, you can have four parts for 40 minutes).
On the off-chance that you need some concrete ideas, here: This chart is a handy way of translating what you do in person to Zoom format. Google’s Jamboards are an easy for group brainstorms and collective thinking. Use multiple Google docs for small group work. Use Google slides for discussion questions (**make sure the campus where you’re interviewing has google suite access).
Three: Listen, Zoom is the worst. BUT. Some things **are **better in Zoom demos: the name and chat features. In a live teaching demo, you cannot use 15 minutes of your precious 45 minutes having students introduce themselves. But with Zoom, you can easily know their names.: Use change name function to have them tell you one thing about themselves. Rely on that Zoom Chat because that is when quiet kids chime in. These two Zoom features can show your ability to make the best of available resources
Four: Be creative with the format, but not too creative. Stick to one or two platforms because moving between too many things takes time and is confusing for your committee and mock students. I tell candidates to estimate that everything in Zoom teaching takes 1.5x the amount of time you plan it to take. You’re going to be nervous, you’re going to have to fight that thing where people “hum” while they hunt for the right window. Having too many tools to access will make that so much worse. (Also, and this #4.5: Make sure the interview team makes you co-host of the session!).
Five: Figure out how their Fall 2020 semester classes went. Were they doing synchronous online teaching? Do they draw a firm line between standard online asynchronous and this covid synchronous thing? Were classes hybrid or live-streamed? How able are students? If you visit the Teaching Center’s social medial page, you can get some clues based on what kinds of workshops were provided. Use this information to highlight how you adapt to the particular context you’re “walking into.”
Six: Be heavy on back-up plans: assume tech issues and do things like, send all materials in advance (in an easy-to-share Google folder), create things in multiple plans. I always encourage job candidates to plan for several different scenarios, but now you really need to be agile enough to switch between them as needed. That is necessary in person and perhaps more necessary in Zoom.
Seven: Do not assume because you have attended Zoom sessions and participated in countless Zoom things that you understand how to be in charge of Zoom. If you haven’t taught via Zoom, you need to start. Find your bored family members, start mock-teaching your friends, kids, pets, grandparents.
Eight: Practice. Get a free Zoom account (or Google Meet or Teams, as appropriate) if you don’t have an institutional one. Drag three or four trusted people in and practice. Or if you can’t find a few souls to help you out, log on and practice on your own. Do all of the pieces of your demonstration and then do them again. Figure out where you want your materials to be and how to move swiftly to them.
Everything is terrible. But your Zoom teaching demonstrations don’t have to be.