Advice For Interviewing at a Teaching College

Time Spent on book: 2 hours
What I did: More Deerfoot
Grade for the day: B-

Because it's a Hulk Throws Bear kinda Friday

If you are on the job market, I suggest bookmarking Kevin Gannon's advice for interviewing at a "teaching college."

Professor Gannon teaches history at  Grand View University and his other title is that of Director of the Center for Excellence in Teaching & Learning. So he is uniquely qualified to speak on this topic because, well, a teaching college stresses teaching. 

I know that this sounds obvious. But I have sat on my share of hiring committees. And far too many cover letters mention teaching as an afterthought. And far too many discussions about research never circle back to the classroom.

So here are some highlights from the article:
Tailor your cover letters. That may be evergreen advice, but I’ve seen it honored most often in the breach. In the Internet age, there’s no excuse for not knowing something about the institution and department to which you’re applying and making that clear in your letter. At a teaching college, your letter needs to speak to the position, which means foreground your teaching.
Yep. As I said, putting teaching front and center here is a good idea. Flattering the committee by doing research on the institution is important too. You're not just applying for job. You're applying for that job at that school.
 When you talk about your research, mention ways it connects with undergraduates. You’ll still want to talk about your dissertation and research agenda in the cover letter (after your awesome reflections about teaching, of course), but for a SLAC, how you pitch your scholarship might vary, depending on the college. Elite liberal-arts colleges are like research universities, in that publishing articles and monographs are the coin of the realm. But beyond that narrow pool, most teaching institutions want to see how your scholarship intertwines with your teaching and your work with students.
Some of the best interviewees that I have seen have talked about how they brought students into their research. Sometimes this means co-presenting or even co-authoring. But that can be a tall order for someone coming straight out of graduate school. So discuss how writing and research makes you better able to instruct students in these skills. Or perhaps connect the material in your syllabi to your research. Make everything about teaching.
Anticipate a strong focus on teaching throughout the interview process. If you score a phone/Skype/conference interview at a teaching college, we’ll ask you a lot about teaching, so be ready. Some of the questions that tend to tell us a lot about a candidate’s approach to pedagogy include:
  • What was the most challenging circumstance or incident you’ve encountered in your teaching, and how did you address it?
  • How would you define “student success?”
  • What are your favorite courses to teach, and why?
I've been in interviews where research barely came up. Sort of like, "oh yea, that... I guess you could talk about that if you wanted. I'm going to check my email now."
You will almost certainly be asked to do a teaching demonstration. If you are invited to a campus interview, the teaching demo at a SLAC is the equivalent of the job talk at a research university. I’ve heard of a few occasions where committees have asked candidates to do both a teaching demo and a traditional, research-oriented job talk, but that is the exception, in my experience.... My chief recommendation here is to ascertain the structure of the demo as best you can. Are you going to be taking over a class session of someone’s course? Is the topic chosen for you, or at your discretion? Will it be in front of actual students, or faculty pretending to be students? The most common scenario is stepping into a class and doing the topic scheduled for that day. If that’s the case, see if you can get a copy of the course syllabus so you have an idea of what the students have been doing thus far. 
Leave nothing on the field in the teaching demo. Truly. Slug some Red Bulls and come into the classroom bringing your A-game. If it's something that you have never taught, make sure that you rehearse it a few times. And if it's something that is familiar, pull out every trick in your bag to maximize participation and interest in the topic. I know, I know... You don't want to come into the classroom with crazy eyes. But you do want to make every single person in that room know how awesome you are.
 A few Don’ts for good measure. Please, please, please do not give the impression that a 4-4 teaching load is something you might “settle for” if “absolutely necessary.” It’s a heavy load, not a death sentence. All of us do it here, and we still find time to do research and sleep and other stuff. It is really off-putting to see candidates sniff disdainfully at the prospect (whether they mean to or not).
Oh my yes. And remember also that the 4-4 load at a small school might mean that you have less overall students than someone teaching 2-2. SO TAKE THAT R1 PEOPLE!!!


Make sure to read the entire article. Any interview is a challenging process. So something like this gives a sense of what to expect and how to prepare.