Proprietary College Teaching Demo

13 May

I recently applied to teach at a career college and performed a teaching demonstration to a faculty panel that was disinterested and “had to go to a big meeting right after”. This was my response to a college executive:

On reflection, I have determined that the teaching demonstration was unfair and I am filing a formal complaint.

Having conducted, and observed teaching demonstrations in the past, I found this one to be totally lacking in collegiality and interaction. The evaluators were obviously distracted and had a meeting to attend afterward. They were informed that the demonstration was interactive and did not interact, complete forms, or provide comments when prompted.

There was so much about this teaching demonstration that was just plain wrong, I feel it would be unprincipled and unethical not to call it to your attention. How could anyone be expected to provide a satisfactory teaching demonstration based on a five-word topic description with no additional data and delivered to a non-responsive, distracted panel?

The essence of any teaching demonstration is to welcome the candidate, review the steps in the process, introduce the distinctives of the department, briefly describe the expectations, introduce each member of the panel, and then engage in a Q & A of the candidate. The panel then responds to the demonstration in a cooperative manner, providing interactive responses if prompted, and in general, sets the stage for a collaborative engagement.

In this case, it was never made clear if the teaching demonstration was to be delivered “as if to typical students” or to the faculty group with references to how material would be adapted to typical students. Without instruction regarding the intended audience, the demonstration is invalid.

A reported comment that the candidate “could not hold our students in the palm of his hand for four hours” was outrageous and far too strong a generalization based on far too little evidence. As the principal and main instructor at a college for learning disabled students— and — the principal and primary instructor at a high-risk high school, I was able to hold the attention of students for hours without any difficulty.

Going back to my directorship of the Neurocognitive Research and Training Institute, and my years of clinical work with learners of all ages, backgrounds and dimensions, I have become expert at gaining and holding attention of vastly diverse students and clients. The high-risk high school had a 100% graduation rate, because I gained the student’s attention and maintained it over the course of the long school year.

A remark was also passed on to me that “he doesn’t know what our students are like and that most of them have never had any kind of education like this”. It is disservice to these students, and future students to assume that they are not educatable enough to handle college level content. If you are awarding associate and bachelor degrees, it is incumbent upon your faculty to encounter students at their cognitive and developmental level and deliver them to higher education levels. It is defeatist to simply accept them at their level and teach down to that.

We are all in the practice of educating students to elevate their intellects and train them for job success and fulfilling lives. My students at the College and High School had no more intelligence or educational experience than your students at and many of them have gone on to regionally accredited colleges and even graduate school.

You cannot sell students short until you carefully determine what aptitude they have. As I attempted to explain to the panel, constructivism requires continuous evaluation and assessment, and unless you are continuously evaluating your students and adjusting your teaching to exceed their “zone of proximal development” you are failing to teach, they are not failing to learn.

At ACS, a client population primarily of college students and young and adult blue collar workers, over 99 % of our clients rate our delivery of educational and therapeutic content as superior.

I could not however captivate the 3 panelists for a half hour because they did not pay attention, interact, or respond to instruction. If the approach, and the content was unfamiliar to them, I could have taught it to them in a half hour and they would have been richer for the experience. However, they chose not to make the effort.

I explained immediately that there was one primary objective to my teaching demonstration and that was to demonstrate the principles of self-marketing, and the elevator speech by means of presenting the elements of the elevator speech, depicting my own elevator speech and “talking them through” a worksheet which would have resulted in the development of their own elevator speech and educated them on all of the principles of self-marketing. I could accomplish this objective with a high school group or a doctoral cohort by means of adjusting the language and level of instruction. The failure of the panel to participate in my demonstration or to complete the worksheet caused the teaching demonstration to fail.

It is a sad day for higher education when a panel of teacher demonstration evaluators cause a presentation to fail through lack of attention and collaboration. In a word, there was a total absence of collegiality. Collegiality is the core value of “college” faculty and is what the entire structure of higher education is built upon, a vigorous community of scholars.

I don’t know what distinctives the panel of faculty at prizes (because they did not tell me as they should have), but I know from this panel that it is not collegiality and collaboration. My expectation is that it is rigidity, redundancy and replication, not scholarship and creativity. They obviously are resistant to hiring high quality, scholarly, congenial, collaborative instructors, which reflects upon the overall quality of the faculty.


Dr. Ken Rabac

I do not expect a response to this complaint. However, I think it voices many of the objections teaching applicants have to disinterested faculty panels. I also wonder though how some panelists out there view this, and expect some may defend the panelists, saying they need to be observers and not participants and also to create difficult situations to see if the presenter falters. The broader issue though is the whole context of privately owned “proprietary” institutions that are creating new faculty practice standards. At this school, the faculty all sits at cubicles in a crowded “phone room” environment along with the chairs, and deans. The broader issue concerns what the boom in proprietary education means for education, scholarship and collegiality.

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