7 Factors to consider as you prepare your teaching presentation for a campus visit

A doctoral student contacted me asking for my advice as she prepared for her first campus visit for a faculty position. Here’s the situation:

They haven’t told me which class I’ll be teaching, but I wonder if I will create my own lesson or if the search committee will tell me to present on a certain topic. 

She and I have emailed about her upcoming campus visit, and I’m also sharing my advice with you.


The number of students in the class, the classroom design and the technology all will be factors in your teaching presentation. And remember that the course’s instructor (and other faculty members) will be observing you. Photo from Yale Teaching Center

Teaching presentations are a key component of most faculty campus interviews.

Your goal as the candidate is to demonstrate that you will be an effective instructor – if hired.

If the search committee chair hasn’t talked with you about your teaching presentation, ask. What you want to find out is what the course is and who the instructor is — then agree that you will contact the instructor for specifics.

You may be able to find the course syllabus online for this semester or a previous semester and learn more about the course.

I’d suggest that you talk with the instructor if possible to get your questions answered and to, perhaps, do some negotiating on the teaching topic. Coordinating a time to talk can be challenging but a real-time conversation can be faster for both of you than an on-going exchange of emails.

Here are seven factors to consider as you prepare for the teaching presentation that you’ll be making as part of a campus visit as a faculty candidate:

1. Find out about the class

How this course fits into the curriculum? Where are they in the progress of the course? How many students are in the class? What are the students’ career goals?

2. Find out about the topic for your class presentation

You typically will find one of three situations:

1) You are to teach the topic that was on the syllabus for that day.

That can be a challenge for you if that’s not an area you have expertise in. If you have enough time, you could prepare for the topic. Another option is to see what other upcoming topics are and see if you could teach one of those topics.

Here’s the reason for the specific topic – Often the job candidates are all presenting to the same class. That can be because the course is one that you actually might teach if you got the job. Or it may be that the course is at a convenient time for the candidate interview schedules. Or it may be that this instructor is on the search committee and is trying to help facilitate the presentations. Because the candidates are all presenting in the same class, the instructor wants the course topics presented rather than having three or four interesting but perhaps not relevant-to-the-course presentations. Students can become annoyed if they feel like their class time is being taken just for the job search process.

2) You can teach on a topic related to the course but of your own choice.

This is where the information about the course – and seeing the syllabus – can help in determining what a good topic would be. You might be able to adapt something you’ve already taught.

3) Teach whatever you want.

Although that sounds like a great opportunity to save time and teach something you’ve already developed, beware. Part of how your teaching effectiveness will be evaluated is based on student reaction. Even if you make a great teaching presentation in terms of content, if the class isn’t with you because they don’t see the relevance of the topic to them, then you aren’t coming across as well as you want to.

So what you are hoping for is to teach on a topic that you have some expertise. But, if you are given a specific topic and you want the job, then you will invest the time in preparing for that topic.

3. Decide how you can use technology in your presentation

You will want to use some form of technology during your presentation. The technology should enhance the presentation. You could visit a website or use presentation slides or watch a short YouTube clip. One of the main reasons you want to use some form of media is to show that you can use technology and use it effectively, as technology is an important tool in teaching. So find out about the computer, Internet connection, etc. You may decide to take your own laptop – but then you need to have the correct connector for the projection unit. You should have your own wireless laser presentation remote.

When you talk with the instructor, you want to agree that the instructor will be at class early to help you get set up. For example, with our classroom computer system, you have to logon with your user name and password, which a job applicant won’t have. So arriving early to get set up wouldn’t help if a faculty member wasn’t there to logon to the computer system.

4. Think about the job position as you design your class

As you read the job announcement and see what the expectations are for the position, can you use your teaching presentation to help position yourself for the job? A doctoral student of mine was going for a job interview for a position that was looking for someone who could teach mobile media. With his iPhone, he filmed and edited a video clip that he incorporated into his teaching presentation. (He was offered the job.)

5. Design a class that gets the students involved.

Your teaching presentation will show what you know about the topic, demonstrate your ability to use technology effectively, but your presentation also should show that you can get student engagement and promote active learning.

You can ask students to raise their hands in response to your questions – taking a poll on a topic, like where they get their news. From there, you can call on individual students to elaborate.

You can use a think-pair-share activity, asking students to think about an issue, then talk with a classmate. From there, you can call on partners to report on their discussion.

6. Talk with the search committee chair about your schedule and your teaching presentation.

Ideally, you don’t want to walk out of your meeting with the dean and right into your teaching presentation. You’d like to have, say, 30 minutes between whatever you are doing previously and your teaching presentation. That gives you time to review your notes and then arrive early for class to get set up – with the instructor there to assist you.

You also want to be in class early so you can talk with students informally. That can help you develop rapport, which will be helpful when the time comes to get the students participating.

7. Remember that the teaching presentation is a great opportunity for you.

In getting ready for the presentation, you’re focusing on how you will be performing and how you will be perceived by the students, the instructor and anyone else from the search committee or faculty who might attend.

Remember the teaching presentation is a great opportunity for you, as you will be able to learn about the curriculum and about the students. The teaching presentation can be a good way for you to evaluate an important part of the faculty position – teaching these students.

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