05/13/2020 by Carney Sandoe Staff |

The New Face of the Demo Lesson

A Black man is smiling from the browser window of a virtual interview

Besides getting asked if schools are still hiring, one of the most common questions we are receiving from candidates is about what to expect from a demo lesson now that they can't be done live and in-person on campus. Whether you've interviewed for a teaching position or not, you probably know that the demo lesson is one of the final stages of an interview — and often the most nerve-wracking. With interviews now being conducted fully virtual, it's understandable that extra uncertainty surrounds the demo lesson.

Schools are in a similar boat in that they, too, are not accustomed to relying on virtual interaction in hiring. Some are still experimenting with different ways of facilitating a demo lesson, making tweaks here and there as they interview candidates. You can be certain, however, that schools are aware of the challenges that come with the virtual environment and are understanding and flexible.

What does the new demo lesson look like? We've been talking with our schools and collected some examples of how they are approaching the demo lesson phase of a teacher interview. While these examples are not exhaustive, we hope it gives teachers an idea of what to expect and how to prepare.

Demo lessons will either be in a pre-recorded format or done live:

Pre-recorded Demo Videos

Schools could ask you for a few different types of pre-recorded videos:

  • In this digital age, many educators have online portfolios, video channels, or other recordings of their teaching in action. As long as you have the proper permissions to share the recordings (if the videos include students),
  • Most teachers are currently engaged in some form of distance or online learning. Schools might ask you to record a virtual lesson with your current students. Again, proper permissions should be obtained from your school and/or parents.
  • Getting permission to record students can be tricky and time consuming, so another option is to record yourself teaching as if you were in front of a live class. Schools might give you a topic to present on, or they might ask for a recording of whatever you're currently teaching.

Live Virtual (Video) Demo Lesson

This requires some additional preparation, coordination, and the right technology, but isn't impossible. One school told us they plan to arrange for their candidates to present their lessons live online to a small group of students (no more than six) using their school's online learning system. This still allows valuable student-teacher interaction to take place while keeping everyone safe.

Other schools might have you present your lesson to the hiring committee of adults. The adults might pose as students and ask you questions as a student would, but more often than not we are finding this approach doesn't quite work, as it is rather inauthentic. Instead, the adults might give you situational questions to answer, such as “What approach would you take with a student who is not engaged?” or “How would you modify your lesson to be sure it is inclusive of all learning styles?”

Because of the nature of these virtual demo lessons, in either format (live or pre-recorded) you can most likely expect to spend a good amount of time discussing your lesson in depth: how you designed it, what thinking when into it, why you included certain aspects, etc.

The format of demo lessons has changed, too.

Even before the pandemic, a demo lesson might mean different things for different schools. Now, with schools closed, hiring managers are experimenting with different demo lesson formats in order to find the most effective and useful approach.

Instead of one demo lesson that's 40-50 minutes long, a boarding school we spoke to said they ask candidates to prepare two 10-15 minute lessons to present to either a group of students or to the hiring committee virtually. The shorter format is easier to execute in a virtual environment (for all parties involved) and presents a unique challenge to the candidate who might be used to a longer time frame.

Another school that prefers the shorter format told us they have their candidates present a 20-minute lesson to the hiring committee, including to at least one teacher from the same grade or department. Afterwards, the committee gives its feedback and presents the candidate with a challenge or question related to the lesson (i.e. “Some students aren't grasping the concept you are trying to convey. How would you present the lesson differently to them?”). The next day, the candidate gives the same lesson again, only revises it based on the committee's feedback.

Shifting the idea of a demo lesson altogether, a school in New York is willing to accept from candidates a full set of materials around one recently taught lesson: lesson plan, unit plan, applicable handouts or visual aids, student work samples at various levels, rubrics, etc. An in-depth discussion is held with the candidate around these materials (see more on this below).

You can also expect to be asked deeper questions.

“Even when done in front of a room of students, the demo lesson doesn't reach its true value without the fuller, complete picture,” said one school. Whether it's presented to students virtually, just to the hiring committee, or not presented at all – it's only prepared for part of a discussion – a lot can be learned about a candidate's teaching ability by asking the right questions. One school has a candidate walk through their entire demo lesson planning process: how they thought about it, what intentional decisions they made, why they chose certain activities or questions, etc. The school then asks questions to help paint a bigger picture: “Have you taught this lesson or a similar one before? How did it differ, if at all, and why? How did this lesson fit into your plans for the day/week/month? How do you ensure your lessons apply to all types of learners?”

Another school shared a similar example. For primary teachers, they have candidates prepare an interactive read-aloud. After candidates present, the school asks them to go through their planning process and explain things like: “Why did you choose to pause at certain points and not others? Why did you select this book? What are your specific comprehension goals? How do you see this fitting into other parts of the curriculum?”

Don't dread the demo.

For even the most experienced teachers, there’s always a small chance things don’t go exactly as planned. If you feel like you were off your game and your demo lesson was a bit of a mess (it probably wasn’t!), you can use that as an opportunity to discuss what you would have done differently and ask for feedback. Whether it went poorly or really well, taking ownership of the lesson shows you are mature and reflective. Asking for feedback, then discussing how you might change the lesson moving forward, shows that you are coachable and open to learning and evolving to give your students the best classroom experience.

Still have butterflies? If you're feeling nervous about an upcoming demo lesson, we recommend asking the school upfront how they intend to handle it should you advance to that stage of the interview process.

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