Adventures in the Intellectual Labour Market

I just finished my first interview for a teaching position in the USA. It did not go well, unless you define well as fumbling to come up with crap answers. Since I’m either a masochist, a sociopath, or naive enough to think people might learn from my mistakes, it occurred to me that people might benefit from my somewhat unique position as someone with postgraduate education from the UK trying to find work in the USA.

Here is what I have noticed so far about the differences between ‘informal’ UK and USA interviews, based on one ‘informal’ interview to be a part-time instructor at a fairly prestigious art school.

The first point of difference of note is the type of questions you will get about teaching. I taught five different courses in the UK. I was informally interviewed for two of them. The question of teaching was not raised in either of these interviews in the way that it was in the interview I just finished. Whereas the UK interviewers were happy enough that my degree assured I could handle the material and asked me questions about how to engage with and respond to studetns,  the only question my American interviewer asked was what I would cover and how I would cover it. Due to my experience with UK interviews, this was not the question I expected. Since the opening in question was for an intro class, I assumed I would be asked about my teaching experience and that I would be given some sort of criteria and a number of old syllabi to adapt, instead of being asked how I would design the course. Now I know this is not the case.

The other point of difference I picked up on was the importance of teaching in your area of specialisatoin. In my experience the difference here can be characterized as teaching to learn and learning to teach. A cynical head of one of the UK departments I taught at once made a quip that captures the former: you only need to be a few pages ahead of your students. The latter actually expects you to have recent experience learning or even teaching the areas that you are going to teach.  Absurd, innit.

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