So you have been called for a interview for your dream job teaching at your perfect university. You’re nearly there. You have checked your CV and rehearsed answers to common questions, but you’ve got to deliver a sample lecture. How do you make it a success?
Start planning what to deliver by thinking about why they are hiring. Look at the job description or person spec for clues. Are you going to be expected to develop new course content and new modules, or just deliver existing content? Are they recruiting in order to modernise or update their curriculum and bring in new ideas for the course? Establish your credibility by being able to provide new ideas for content and modules.
Setting the level.
Hopefully you’ll be told the year and course for the sample lecture, but what content should you include? Look online at the modules that are offered at the university and see how much information they provide to prospective students and try to work out from that what level to pitch it at.
If this approach doesn’t work, look at what other universities offer in this subject and try to extrapolate from that. Some universities publish a lot of their material online for example. You might also consider reaching out to any contacts in your professional network. Do any of them work at a university with a similar degree course? If so, would they be able to offer you any guidance about the level their courses are pitched at? As rule of thumb, it’s always better to pitch it at a slightly lower level and use it to review prior learning than reach too high, too early.
But what to include.
Tell them something new. Show how you will use your research interests to inform your lectures. How will you use your research to innovate and develop new lectures, new modules or even new courses? Is there a new technique you have used or can you offer a new insight into existing content? Think about what jobs the graduates from this degree might go into and think about techniques and knowledge that would be useful to them. Use your own experience to think about what it is important for them to learn.
Try and pick a topic you wouldn’t have expected the students to have seen before and make any data presented accessible for the target level. Don’t try and cram too much in.
The bells and whistles.
Many posts advertised may be looking for an injection of new ideas and teaching methods. So how can you stand out?
Be innovative. Research recent developments in HE teaching and learning. If you are studying for a FHEA or other HE teaching qualification what have you learnt during that process which you can apply. Make the lecture interactive – look for ways for students to assess where they are through peer to peer discussions. Be clear on what the learning outcomes from the lecture should be and think about how the students can demonstrate they have met them- e.g. through the use of technology, voting buttons on aps etc. Consider using technology in your lecture. This can show you understand how to inspire, engage and inform students and might offer a you chance to stand out. If using technology though, be really clear about how it works and have a backup for what you will do if it fails. Be on the lookout for clues in the job advert or person spec if your target university is particularly interested in this aspect
In some ways the content is less important than how you present it so don’t obsess about it Be comfortable in your decisions and then practice. Put just as much thought into how you plan to deliver the content as what the content is. The hiring panel are going to be assessing you more on how you run and deliver the sample lecture than the minutiae of the content, so make sure you practice as much as you can, and if possible do it in front of trusted friends or colleagues and ask for feedback. Part of being an effective lecturer is seeking and acting on feedback and always looking for new ways to develop your skills further.