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CVs, lies, and videotape: Making a sample teaching video

Writer(s): 
James McCrostie

Applying for teaching jobs sometimes requires sending a short videotape or DVD of the candidate teaching a class. When submitting a sample teaching video, many job hunters are at a loss as to what schools are looking for.

The demo video serves a number of purposes. It allows schools to view the candidates’ teaching skills in areas such as material selection, classroom presence, time organization, and giving instructions in a setting more natural than a demo given during an interview. The effort it takes to make a video also reducesthe number of applicants: not an unimportant consideration given that attractive positions might attract over 100 applications.

While schools should have set criteria to evaluate the videos, in reality most don’t. Without criteria, different people watch the same 10-minute clip and come away with conflicting opinions. That makes it impossible to give specific advice about what must be included in a teaching demo video; everyone watching your video is probably looking for something different.

It also makes it difficult for hiring committees to compare videos. Candidates send in videos of large classes, small classes, advanced classes, low-level classes, and everything in between. Therefore, think about introducing your teaching situation at the beginning of the video by briefly describing your class, proficiency level, and the teaching activity’s goals.

In the video itself, it’s a good idea to show yourself: giving instructions, interacting with students, monitoring students doing pair or group work, doing a transition between tasks, and asking students questions. Of course nothing says you can’t rehearse an activity with students before doing it again with the camera rolling. When deciding which class to record, choose the class that best matches the job description or the students you have the best relationship with.

There are a few technical considerations to remember. The hiring committee will listen to your voice carefully. They will probably pay special attention to your accent and decide whether they and the school’s students will be able to understand you. Be sure to speak clearly and at a suitable speed. Your voice might become impossible to hear if you get too far from the camera while moving around the classroom. Similarly, students seated far away might be difficult to hear. Also remember that you’re not recording a Blair Witch Project remake;use a tripod to keep the camera steady and avoid nausea-inducing shots that zoom in and out or pan back and forth.

A final point to think about is how to get your students’ permission to record them. If asking students you have a good rapport with, this shouldn’t be a problem. However, if some feel uncomfortable, they could be moved to one side of the room. Furthermore, for privacy reasons, some schools don’t want teachers recording students and/or sending videos to outside parties. When informing your supervisors, decide for yourself whether it’s better to ask for permission or beg for forgiveness.

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