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March 03, 2010


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A couple of years ago, I had an interview that included the usual job talk with faculty, and I also had to teach a class in one of the professor's classes to actual students. It was for a business school position. I think people mistakenly assume that if one can do a good job talk that it automatically translates into the ability to teach. The two experiences are vastly different, and it would be very illuminating to see law faculty candidates do both.

Anon Former Candidate

I had 4 callbacks this year after AALS. 2 out of the 4 wanted a mock teaching presentation instead of a job talk. 1 of the 2 was a new school, so I was not too surprised with that school wanting a mock teaching presentation. But the other was a highly ranked tier 2 school, so that school's request for a teaching presentation did surprise me (always assuming the higher ranked schools are more concerned about scholarship than teaching).

The mock teaching presentation was more enjoyable for me than the job talk. It was strange to prepare, however. I'm a VAP currently so it was not difficult to borrow from other class materials. But, it's not as if the faculty had read any class material before the presentation; obviously, I couldn't really use socratic method like I do in class. Still though, the faculty asked me questions during the presentation about the subject matter that I lectured. I think it gave them a good opportunity to see my ability to handle a classroom. And we did discuss my scholarship in other meetings during the day, but nothing as extensive as a job talk. And it all worked out - I got an offer and accepted.

Scott Boone

I've seen at least one school that required a mock teaching session with both students and faculty in the audience.

Calvin Massey

If a school is going to ask candidates to do mock teaching with faculty in the classroom, the faculty attendees have an obligation to read the assigned materials, think about them, and be as prepared as they would expect their best students to be. Otherwise, it's unfair to the candidate and the school alike.

Ben Barros

Way back when I was on the market, I had one callback where I did a sample class. There were about 10 volunteer students, and the faculty at the school sat in back. I was given a case or two to cover, and about 30 minutes of teaching time. It was a good experience, but it was extremely intimidating to teach with 25 faculty in the back of the room observing.


The mock teaching exercise would accentuate the already considerable market benefits of those who have Ph.D.s and have therefore taught as grad students, and those who have done/are doing VAPs. Not sure whey that would be a good thing.

Ben Barros

Anon - because this is a _teaching_ job? There are a ton of ways to get teaching experience. I was an adjunct before I went on the market. Ph.D.s might be overvalued by the market as far as scholarship goes, but they at least tend to have some formal teaching mentoring. That strikes me as a good thing. If more schools required some sort of teaching exercise, then candidates would be more likely to seek out teaching opportunities, just as they now have to make an effort to find the time to write.


I'm a fan of the traditional job talk and wouldn't want it displaced, but some thoughtfulness about *supplementing* it with better evidence of teaching quality might be in order. When I was on the market this year (with the benefit of a VAP and teaching as a PhD student), I mailed a link to the audio-file for one of my current law classes to my callback schools. (I also offered to send links for all my classes that semester in case anyone feared cherry-picking.) I didn't expect that many would be patient enough to listen, but at most of my schools at least one person mentioned listening and expressed their appreciation for the opportunity. I think a tape of an actual class is far more realistic than a simulation (tho' ideally it would be video, not just audio, and yes, this wouldn't help out those who aren't already teaching).


I think you hit the nail on the head, actually: we don't really care about teaching. We just say we do for marketing purposes.

Shox R2 Shoes

that simulates a classroom teaching exercise, rather than being a job talk. In other words, could we replace the lunchtime job talk with a session in an actual classroom where the candidate presents a mock class to faculty and perhaps even some students as well? I know the immediate objection to this will be that most schools in their hiring process are in fact not really serious about assessing good teaching and, to the extent that they are, they can see all they need to see from answers given in Q&A sessions in a job talk.

I just wondered if it could be more fun and provide a more rounded approach to hiring if we could think creatively about precisely what we ask candidates to do while they're on campus and if we could more clearly delineate

Shox R2 Shoes

evaluate both teaching and scholarly potential, couldn't we do it in more directed ways? For example, isn't the best way to evaluate scholarship to actually read the candidate's work and talk to the candidate in a more interactive format about the scholarship and perhaps also his/her scholarly agenda going forwards? I understand that this isn't particularly realistic given that most people won't have time to read the scholarship of the many candidates brought through during the hiring season and will be relying on an oral summary of the work at the job talk. But if that is the case, couldn't this be done in the in-office interviews rather than in a large workshop? (I know much of the in-office interview time is spent on scholarship already, but perhaps this is a more appropriate forum than a job talk for assessing scholarship for those faculty who haven't read the paper?)

But what I really wanted to say is that if we're actually trying to evaluate teaching and give more than lip-service to good teaching, maybe we should have candidates do a one-hour presentation that simulates a classroom teaching exercise, rather than being a job talk. In other words, could we replace the lunchtime job talk with a session in an actual classroom where the candidate

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