Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Hiring Process - Successful Demonstration Lessons

Increasingly, schools and districts use demonstration lessons to judge a job applicant’s knowledge, skills, and dispositions required for the position. A demonstration lesson is simply a planned lesson taught to the interview committee or a group of students. Sometimes, the committee provides time after teaching the lesson to reflect with the committee.

Employers may instruct you to teach a class of students in the school or teach the committee members specific knowledge or a particular skill. Other employers will allow you to devise a lesson on any knowledge or skill for any grade level.

Here are two different types of demonstration lessons used in the hiring process. An interview committee for Blackstone Valley Prep (charter school in Cumberland RI), observes applicants conduct a brief “read aloud” lesson. Next, they observe the applicant teach a 45-60 minute lesson to a class of students. Immediately following the lesson, the applicant reflects with the interview committee about teaching the lesson and students’ learning. And, shortly thereafter, the applicant re-teaches the same lesson to another group of students.

Applicants for teaching positions in Providence RI Public Schools devise a 15-minute lesson for any subject and grade level and teach the lesson to the interview committee. Sometimes a longer lesson is modified to fit the 15-minute time period. Click here to view Providence's guidelines and suggestions for preparing a successful demonstration lesson.

What can interviewers evaluate?

They can judge how well an applicant plans, organizes, and delivers a purposeful lesson, responds to students, manages individual students and the class, and makes adjustments in the moment of teaching. If the demonstration lesson includes time to debrief the lesson, the interview committee can evaluate the applicant’s ability to reflect, think critically, and use assessment information to improve instruction.

Here are ten tips for a successful demonstration lesson.

1. Don’t wing it. Plan the demonstration lesson well.

2. Begin by learning about the school’s mission, students, curriculum, assessment, and initiatives. Understand the employer’s expectations for the demonstration lesson. Carefully review any available guidelines. If there are no guidelines, ask whether there is something they would like you to teach.

3. Visit the school and the classroom where you will teach. Learn about the curriculum and instructional materials. Interview the classroom teacher and ask him/her about the students’ background knowledge, how the students are learning in this classroom, the curriculum, challenges you may encounter while teaching the students, and their various learning needs. Learn about the classroom teacher’s management system so you can apply it while teaching. Ask for a class roster so you can make table tent name cards in advance. Find out what AV and instructional technology is available.

4. Write a formal lesson plan and make copies for each observer. Demonstrate your ability to apply a “backwards design approach” to planning a lesson. The lesson plan should convey a strong sense of purpose, clear learning outcomes aligned with standards, a system for assessing students during the lesson, and a sequence of learning experiences with a time table. Include suggestions for differentiating instruction. Carefully proofread the plan.

5. If possible, teach a lesson that you have taught previously. You’ll feel more confident and more easily anticipate students’ responses. Rehearse. Practice teaching the lesson so you know it well.

6. Start and end the lesson on time. Your interviewers are on a tight schedule.

7. Distribute “table tent” name cards so you can call students by their first names. Before you start teaching the lesson, quickly get to know your students and build rapport. In a minute or two, you can ask several students to share what they’ve been learning recently and tell them a little about you. Then, engage the students in the first part of the planned lesson.

8. Use interactive teaching strategies that you’re comfortable using. Apply techniques to actively engage your learners throughout the lesson. Use instructional technology if know how to use it well and the IT adds value to your teaching and students’ learning. While teaching, focus on the students - not the observers. Convey passion and enthusiasm throughout. Use eye contact and smile a lot!

9. Prepare to debrief the lesson with the interview committee. Demonstrate your ability to think critically and reflect on the lesson. Begin by explaining two or three things that worked well to help students achieve the learning outcome. Refer to the results of informal assessments. Next, explain what you would do to improve student learning. It’s okay to be self-critical. Everyone can improve regardless of one’s stage of development as a teacher. Finally, request feedback from the committee. Bring a notepad and write notes if the committee offers feedback. If possible, relate the feedback to your goals for professional learning. Evidence of constant professional learning is expected and desired.

10. If there is no debriefing following the lesson, include a brief reflection (e.g., what worked well, what you would do to improve instruction if you re-taught the lesson) in your thank you letters to the interview committee members.

Prepare well for your demonstration lesson. Your employers can observe you apply knowledge, skills, and dispositions that are not easily evaluated in traditional interviews, résumés, cover letters, or written essays. Your outstanding performance during the demonstration lesson could be the evidence needed to win the teaching job!