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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

More job talk advice

It's a bit early for this, since job talk season is a couple months away. Last year, my colleague Joelle Moreno offered Ten tips for giving a job talk that doesn't suck that started a pretty good conversation (I was going to rerun this later in the fall anyway). Now, Dan Shapiro, a humanities professor in the Penn State College of Medicine offers five more tips. I like a lot of what he says, particularly about the talk also being a demonstration of teaching ability. Note the one on learning norms of campus culture; I agree about not reading the paper, but should slides/no-slides (or PowerPoint/No PowerPoint) really depend on school to school?

Posted by Howard Wasserman on July 17, 2012 at 07:29 PM in Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink


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I used a very few slides (3 or 4) in my job talk because the topic in part involved interpreting data, so I found it useful to display the data in a couple of different ways. Some topics may be easier to explain with a well-designed slide or two, but I agree with the other commenters that a large number of slides is probably not a good idea.

Posted by: anon | Jul 18, 2012 11:51:39 AM

Thank you for this. It comes at a great time as preparation for the start of the season starts in earnest - and as a candidate, I value exactly this kind of input. In attending faculty workshop/speaker-lunchon sessions as a Fellow, I've noticed a lot of variation in presentation style, from the visuals (which I've hardly seen) to the level of formality with the audience to the Q&A session. At times, it seems that speakers with a less formal (but still very knowledgable and confident) approach enjoy a greater rapport and are more effective fielding the Q&A, perhaps because the audience is already somewhat at ease with the speakers' grasp of the material and ability to create a collegial environment. Have others found this to be the case?

Being oneself might be the greatest challenge in such a high-stakes situation, but it is something I can recognize as important to develop. This is the first time I've heard of the job talk related to teaching ability, and it is refreshing to see that connection to another key part of a professor's work. It certainly offers me a new way to look at the talk, perhaps an angle that in itself will help draw out elements that faculty and hiring chairs are looking for in a colleague and scholar as well.

Posted by: Rita Trivedi | Jul 18, 2012 10:24:53 AM

As to slides, I think it also depends on the subject matter. For some (admittedly limited) fields, visual aids are a virtual necessity.

Posted by: Newbie prof | Jul 18, 2012 8:52:26 AM

Twizzlers: More likely, it depends on the faculty member you ask. I am anti-tech, so my answer on visual aides is typically fairly strident--and I've taken that position at each of the three differently ranked schools at which I've taught.

Really, the best advice (repeated in the comments to last year's post) is just be yourself and do what makes you comfortable. Ultimately, that is what you have to do in the classroom.

Posted by: Howard Wasserman | Jul 17, 2012 11:13:40 PM

Both of the posts to which you link are great, so thank you. This year's candidates are eagerly working on jobtalk papers and preparing talks so it's definitely not too early to post advice. It's worth noting that the advice isn't always consistent-- whether or not to use visual aids, how formal/informal a candidate's approach, how much theory/doctrine to tackle, etc. seems to depend on not just the candidate's project but the school's rank, goals, and self=perception.

Posted by: twizzlers | Jul 17, 2012 10:53:19 PM

As a VAP going on the market this season with some teaching experience, even if other candidates use slides, I won't unless there is an absolute need for a visual. If such a need arises, I might go with a hand-out as an alternative to slides. Technology fails, frequently in the moment we most need it. Plus, I find it puts students to sleep.

So, the short answer to your question is no, it doesn't depend on the school, but I suspect it *does* depend on the candidate.

Posted by: FARout | Jul 17, 2012 9:51:29 PM

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