Teaching Demonstrations

Teaching demonstrations are an integral part of the interview process for academic jobs where teaching responsibilities are a part of the workload. Even if you are not on the job market, teaching demonstrations can be a helpful exercise in analyzing your instructional practices and identifying areas for improvement. Many four-year institutions require a teaching demonstration in addition to a research/job talk while two-year or teaching-oriented institutions may only require a teaching demonstration (Gannon, 2019). However, the structure, format, and length of teaching demonstrations differ between four-year and two-year institutions. Furthermore, depending on the discipline, teaching demonstrations may or may not be required; but, the majority of institutions seem to require them. For example, in a survey of 113 biology faculty from a variety of institutions across North America, 62% of biology departments require a teaching demonstration (Smith et al, 2013). The rest of this article will explain what a teaching demonstration is and how to prepare for one.


What are Teaching Demonstrations?

An empty classroom. Shutterstock.com credit: hotsumOften featured as a portion of a day-long interview, candidates are asked to synthesize their expertise with pedagogical know-how to teach unfamiliar students. The synthesis of content and pedagogical knowledge is the goal of a successful teaching demonstration! Job candidates should show that they are able to deliver a presentation that engages the audience in the learning process. Think of teaching demonstrations as a performative extension and embodiment of your statement of teaching philosophy and diversity statement, as well as the persona you demonstrate with your teaching portfolio. Put simply, job candidates are expected to show, not tell, how they teach. To help you design and structure your teaching demonstration, consider these points below:

The audience of teaching demonstrations are often undergraduate students from the institution, departmental faculty, and the hiring committee. Sometimes, the department asks the job candidates to play the role of a guest lecturer in an existing class with the hiring committee and other faculty observing in the back. Other times, the department will compile a blend of students, faculty, and the hiring committee (or sometimes just the hiring committee themselves) to comprise your audience. Regardless, the department is looking for a sneak peek into what your future classroom might be like if you were hired. 

Consider the teaching demonstration as a chance to show your ability in getting others to actively learn, which is a unique part of the interview process. During research/job talks, candidates share their research with the departmental faculty and the hiring committee, who are typically other experts in the field. As such, discipline-specific jargon and commonly-used abbreviations in the field are welcome during these talks. On the other side, teaching demonstrations are meant to show how well a candidate can teach those discipline-specific concepts and skills to students who are novice-level thinkers in the discipline. In a survey of 113 biology faculty about teaching demonstrations, Smith et al. (2013) found that the candidate's ability to create a "presentation understandable to students" and ability to "pitch the talk at the correct level at for the intended audience" are two of the top 5 most important attributes of a successful teaching demonstration. Prepare your teaching demonstration as if the whole classroom, faculty and hiring committee included, are a mix of undergraduate students who may be in the major. 

Questions to consider: 

  • Who is in your audience? Is it a pre-existing class, just the hiring committee, or a self-selected mix of undergraduate students, a group of faculty, and the hiring committee?
  • How large is your audience?
  • Be mindful of where your lesson may reside in the course calendar. Is your audience of undergraduates realistically able to engage in the material if your lesson is in the first half or second half of the semester?
  • Which parts of your lesson are appropriately building rapport with your audience and sparking their interest in the material?

Graphic of a presentation given to a class. Stockphoto.com credit: z_weiJob candidates are recommended to research the target institution to best tailor job materials to that specific institution. The teaching demonstration is no different! Research the institution and the department, looking for a preference in teaching styles and for the makeup of the student body.  If the institution/department features active learning, for example, a teaching demonstration that is lecture-heavy may not be well suited. Knowing the demographics of the student body can help shape your teaching practices. If an institution is featuring their diversity initiatives to promote increasing inclusion, you may ask how your teaching demonstration matches. Lastly, if a certain course is the audience of the teaching demonstration, job candidates can also research that specific course at the institution. Faculty who already teach that course may have uploaded lessons, activities, and course syllabi that can reveal standard departmental practices.

Questions to consider:

  • How will your teaching demonstration be mindful and inclusive of a diverse student body?
  • Does the institution/department take pride in certain teaching styles? Does your demonstration fit?

The physical space of the classroom can affect the learning dynamics of your audience, as well as what teaching strategies you choose to implement. For example, a large pillar in the middle of the room may disrupt your plans for free-flowing discussion. Similarly, a demonstration with awesome instructional technology may not launch if the classroom has limited Internet or technological tools. As Gannon (2019) explains, the more you know about the room where you'll be demonstrating your pedagogy, the better. Here are some factors to consider about the classroom set-up:

  • Do your plans to use instructional technology complement your teaching demo?
  • Can the audience rearrange seats, desk, tables to suit your lesson?
  • Is there a chalkboard, or white board? How many? 
  • How many projectors and projector screens are there?
  • If you have a presentation/video/digital media, bring it on a flash drive, just in case.

Depending on the type of institution or on departmental preferences, job candidates may be asked to either design a lesson from scratch or be given a prescribed lesson. Two-year institutions tend to be more teaching-focused rather than research-focused (Smith et al, 2013). Hiring committees from two-year institutions may give a prescribed lesson or instruct that job candidates cover a certain chapter in the textbook (Gannon, 2019). Four-year institutions can be both research- and teaching-heavy. The instructions and contexts for teaching demonstrations may vary more here at the preference of the individual departments. In general, job candidates should follow instructions from the department. If told to deliver a lesson to an introductory class in your department, make sure the content and activities are appropriate for students at that level. 

Typically, the teaching demonstration is not judged on the amount of content, but in how well a thoughtful selection of content is taught (Jenkins, 2017). Helping the audience to realize the importance and relevance of your topic may be more useful. The easiest way is to relate the class material to something your audience may be familiar with. However, be careful of references to popular culture because your class will contain a diversity of individuals. Here are few guiding questions as you form your lesson:

  • What guidance, context, or materials was given to shape the teaching demonstration? 
  • Are the lessons, activities, and content thoughtfully selected to suit the level of students in your teaching demonstration?
  • When explaining your content, do you have examples or analogies that do not rely on exclusive popular culture? 

A person giving a presentation to a class in stadium seating. Pexels.com credit: ICSANo matter your level of comfort in the classroom, practicing your teaching demonstration is a crucial step! Gannon (2019) suggests practicing until it's "almost muscle memory".  Get feedback from a variety of individuals: colleagues, mentors, students, and your instructional consultants here at the CITL. We can help you with your teaching demonstration at any phase of your planning process and at any stage of your professional career. Practice and keep practicing your entire teaching demonstration, activities and timing with peers and our instructional consultants. 


Smith, M. K., Wenderoth, M. P., and Tyler, M. (2013). The teaching demonstration: What faculty expect and how to prepare for this aspect of the job interview. CBE Life Sciences Education, 12(1), 12–18. Retrieved from http://doi.org/10.1187/cbe.12-09-0161 

Jenkins, R. (2017). The Teaching Demo: less power, more point – The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from https://www.chronicle.com/article/The-Teaching-Demo-Less-Power/241893

Gannon, K. (2019). How to succeed at a teaching demo | Chronicle Vitae. Retrieved from https://chroniclevitae.com/news/2161-how-to-succeed-at-a-teaching-demo