Friday, May 27, 2011

EFL Teaching Demonstrations: Advice and Ideas

how to give a teaching demonstration at a university in AsiaEver been asked to give a teaching demonstration as part of a job interview for an English instructor job at a university in Asia?

If you have arrived at this post, I am guessing that you have. I am going to give advice in this post on how to prepare for and give a teaching demonstration.

I do not assume anything about the level of experience you may have. It well may be that you have no teaching experience whatsoever but have still managed to swing an interview for a university job as an English instructor (i.e., a TEFL teacher).

In some countries in Asia, a university job would be unthinkable without experience and/or a Masters degree or higher. In other countries, it is within reach for anyone with basic credentials (a Bachelor of Arts or equivalent degree and perhaps a TEFL certificate though the certificate is not always necessary) and no experience.

Types of Teaching Demonstrations

Two general types of teaching demonstrations are common for the university teaching job in Asia. First, the demonstration you give to the hiring committee from the university. Second, the demonstration you give to a class full of real students as the hiring committee observes from the back of the room.

This post will deal with how to give a teaching demonstration to a hiring committee (i.e., no real students present). And more specifically, I will tell you how to give the demonstration as a PowerPoint presentation. If you are looking for info on the other type of demonstration, you may still find some useful advice here.

Use PowerPoint for Your Teaching Demonstration

While not everyone excels at giving PowerPoint presentations, I am convinced that using PowerPoint in your demonstration will give you the best shot at winning the job. More on why I believe that later in this post.

Determine What Subject You Will be "Teaching"

The hiring committee will probably provide you with a topic that they expect you to teach during the demonstration. Still, narrow it down somewhat and make it your own. If they don't provide a topic, then all the better. Choose a topic that you are comfortable with and ensure that it is not too general.


Second, ensure that you know exactly how long the demonstration is supposed to be. They will probably tell you this right off the bat. But with the possible communication barrier, the fact that the university doing the hiring may not have much experience in these matters (perhaps it is a relatively new institution and they have not hired foreigners before), and your potential nervousness, this is easy to overlook.

Ask for the Opportunity to Give a PowerPoint Presentation

PowerPoint 2007 logoTry to get as many details as possible about the room where you will be giving the demonstration. Most importantly, ask whether there is audio visual equipment in the room. Most modern university classrooms in Asia are equipped with a computer and overhead projector so that you can load a PowerPoint presentation from a USB key into the computer and then display the presentation directly onto the overhead projector. Again, confirm all this with the human resources personnel at the university.

After determining that the room does have the necessary equipment, tell your contact from the university that you would like to give your demonstration using PowerPoint. Once you get agreement, confirm a second time by e-mail so that there is no confusion.

If there is no opportunity for using PowerPoint to give your presentation, then you might think the remainder of this post will be of little use to you. However, it may still benefit you to prepare a PowerPoint presentation and then print off the slides and use them as notes during your demonstration.

The Power of PowerPoint

Now, a few more words on why I feel a PowerPoint presentation will benefit you when giving a teaching demonstration. First, demonstrations in front of only a hiring committee are by their very nature artificial. When I am in front of a real class, teaching a subject I know well, I feed off the class and count on their reactions to push the class forward. Trying to pretend that the hiring committee are my students just wouldn't work for me. I could probably pull it off, but I would much prefer the alternative.

The PowerPoint presentation allows you to organize your thoughts beforehand and then follow through precisely, and it also takes away the guesswork as to how much the hiring committee are willing to "play along" (more on this later). Of course, you could eliminate that uncertainty completely and structure your demonstration as a dry presentation with no thought for "student" interaction at all. However, I don't believe that is the impression that you want to leave with the hiring committee.

Another benefit that comes from using PowerPoint is that the hiring committee will see you are comfortable with using technology. Also, this lets them know that you are likely to employ some varied methods when teaching if you are hired. A surprising number of foreign instructor luddites still haunt the halls of universities in Asia—any computer skills you demonstrate will provide you with an advantage.

Putting Together the PowerPoint Slide Show and Giving the Demonstration

I am going to give you an organizational template for preparing a PowerPoint slide show for a 20 minute teaching demonstration. If the committee asks you to give a full class-length demonstration (50 to 90 minutes), expand the slides accordingly.

With each slide description, I will also provide tips on how to present the information during the demonstration.

For this 20 minute presentation, I am using the topic “Finding a Topic and Main Idea in a Paragraph.” The language skill is reading.

First, include a title page with the topic that you are presenting. You may want to Google an image of the school’s logo and place it on the title page. I think most schools would be OK with this but make your own judgment call. I once did this for a teaching demonstration and the hiring committee seemed to appreciate it.

Next, add an introduction slide, with your name, credentials and relevant experience. You may have already introduced yourself to the hiring committee but this is a good chance to highlight your qualifications.

Then, put in a preview slide. Indicate what you hope to achieve in this “class.” Of course, you can skip the pretenses and title the slide “Goals for this Demonstration” if you want. I would include no more than five bullet points on this slide:

—Three main sections in this demonstration: present, practice, produce
—Within those three sections, I will help you learn how to:
—Identify a topic in a paragraph
—Identify a main idea in a paragraph
—Identify other parts of paragraph

Notice that the first bullet point indicates the basic teaching methodology that you are using and provides an overall organizational structure to your demonstration.


The next few slides will form the “present” component of your demonstration. The first slide following the preview slide contains a definition of a paragraph topic plus three statements that could be paragraph topics.

The subsequent slide discusses why a topic of a paragraph should neither be too general nor too specific.

The next slide is a short paragraph. During the presentation, I would discuss the paragraph briefly, and perhaps go over some of the most difficult vocabulary.

The following slide is a multiple choice question that asks the “students” to pick which answer qualifies as the best topic for the paragraph from the previous slide.

Caution: if you plan on querying the hiring committee as if they were students, make the answer so clear that it would be impossible for anyone to pick an incorrect option. Or, simply guide them to the answer and avoid direct and potentially embarrassing interaction.

The following slide asks why it is important for a student to know this information and then answers that question with a list of benefits. This shows the hiring committee that you know the importance of making lessons as relevant as possible. By highlighting benefits, you are also demonstrating that you know one way to motivate your students to learn.

The next four slides present information as follows: one slide about main ideas, one that points out what to be careful of when determining the main idea of a paragraph, and one that discusses other parts of a paragraph (body, conclusion/transition sentence).

The next slide provides more details for students on how to identify all the parts of a paragraph.


Then, the practice section of the slide show begins. Introduce a slide with a paragraph (longer than the previous one you included).

Step outside the demonstration at this stage. Tell the hiring committee that at this point in a real class you would hand out a paragraph and get students to determine the topic, main idea, and type of paragraph. Perhaps you would tell the students to work in groups. Depending on how much time you have left, and how comfortable you now feel with the hiring committee, you may want them to go ahead and try this exercise as if they were your students.

The next slide will include four possible main ideas. Ask your students which one best represents the main idea of the paragraph from the previous slide.

You are now close to wrapping up the demonstration.


The following slide moves into the "produce" stage of the demonstration. This slide details an assignment that you would give to your students following this lesson. The students are to find a paragraph and identify the topic, main idea and type of paragraph.

You can then add a conclusion slide that summarizes what you have taught during the demonstration.

Summary of Teaching Demonstration

The exact details of the above slides are not as important as the structure that I used. Of course, it is unlikely that you will have the same topic for your demonstration. But if you follow this general pattern, I believe that you can do well.

—Break the entire presentation into a present, practice, and produce format. You can add a running footer at the bottom of the slide show that indicates when you are moving from one section to another and/or you can announce this transition to the hiring committee (for details on how to add a running footer, see this post).

—For each topic within the “present” section, include a definition and/or explanation, and exceptions or areas to be careful about.

—Include relevant examples of everything that you explain.

—Explain why your students should want to learn what you are teaching (benefits).

—Move into the practice stage and demonstrate that you allow your students to test out the information you have given them. Take the hiring committee through a guided “practice” or allow them to answer some questions.

—Include a “produce” stage. With different grammar points, you could include this as an “in-class” stage as opposed to homework.

—Step outside the demonstration scenario when you think it is helpful, and tell the hiring committee what you would do in a real classroom situation.

—Conclude with a summary of what you have taught.

Other Things to Consider

Rehearse your PowerPoint presentation as many times as you need to get it down cold. If possible, rehearse in front of a few friends and have them be as critical as possible and ask any questions that come to mind. Also, make sure to supplement the slides with extra information. For more information on the practical aspects of creating the slideshow in PowerPoint 2007, and more tips on how to give a memorable presentation, see this post.

If at any point during the demonstration you feel you are not connecting with the hiring committee, slow things down. Also, throw in a few statements like this when necessary: “Of course, in a real classroom situation, I would make sure that all students understood this concept before moving on.”

Regardless of how hot the weather is in the country where you are doing the demonstration, I encourage male applicants to wear a suit and tie, and female applicants to wear the same kind of smart attire they would wear to any other kind of serious job interview.

Research your demonstration topic as thoroughly as possible. Be prepared to take questions in the middle of the demonstration or after you have finished.

Also, there is a good chance that following the demonstration, the hiring committee will ask you about such things as classroom management, dealing with different levels of students in the same class, and practical concerns like your attendance record at past jobs and whether or not you have any job references.

After you create your PowerPoint presentation, save it onto a USB key. Save it in both 97-2003 and 2007 versions. While saving it in the most recent version should be enough, it never hurts to be on the safe side. Another safeguard against last minute glitches is to e-mail the presentation to yourself. If there are problems with transferring the presentation from your USB key at the university, ask to use the internet and download the presentation from your e-mail.

Finally, in the worst case scenario, you get to the demonstration at the appointed time and you are simply unable to use the computer; perhaps it is not working. Prepare for this unlikely catastrophe by printing off the slideshow. If you have to instead give the demonstration using a whiteboard, you could follow your plan fairly closely and also show the hiring committee that you can adapt and think on your feet.

Regardless of how confident you are in your upcoming demonstration, it can be a nerve-wracking experience for the simple fact that a potential job is on the line. However, I believe that if you give your demonstration as a PowerPoint presentation, you will have more control over the situation and ultimately be able to demonstrate more of your teaching skills in the process.

Good luck!


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