In a previous article titled Preparing For A Teaching Interview, I discussed six things you can do to prepare for an interview. However, the interview itself is only one aspect of the hiring process at many colleges and universities.
Hiring committees for a full-time teaching position often require candidates to also complete a written assignment and a teaching demonstration. At my college, we require candidates to do the writing assignment, job interview, and teaching demonstration on the same day. In some disciplines, candidates may also be required to perform a skills demonstration. In this article, I will discuss the writing assignment.
Purpose of the Writing Assignment
A candidate will sometimes be given a question, discussion prompt, or a scenario that they’ll need to respond to in writing. The purpose of the writing assignment is to determine the following:
- Is the candidate able to comprehend, process, and respond to a question, discussion prompt, or scenario in a short period of time?
- Candidates are usually given 30-45 minutes on this exercise. The hiring committee is really trying to figure out if you can think and respond quickly and intelligently on a dime.
- Is the candidate able to articulate his/her thoughts in a professional manner using proper grammar, sentence structure, and format.
I’m one of those people who thinks a lot faster than I can type, which is why I often have to proof-read what I write several times for typos and grammatical errors. Even with proofreading, my brain tends to auto-correct things in my mind as I am reading, but my fingers do not seem to always catch-up. That is something that candidates need to be cautious of when working on their writing assignment. Plan to use a few minutes of your allotted writing time to proof-read and edit your paper.
What To Expect
As far as what you will be asked to write about, well if the committee does not tell you, expect anything. I’ve served on committees where candidates had to write:
- on a very specific discipline related issue
- a detailed sample assignment given to students
- an essay projecting the economic job market for a specific discipline/major
If you happen to know any of the full-time faculty at the institution where you are applying, it wouldn’t hurt for you to ask them to share their experiences. Ask about the writing assignments they’ve had to complete, the topics they addressed, and what they would be looking for on the writing assignment if they were on a hiring committee.
Try to find someone who is not on your hiring committee. In fact, if you ask someone on your committee, they really should not be giving you any tips as that would violate Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) practices.
Most people wait until they are invited to a job interview to do all of this research. Why wait? If you plan on applying for a teaching position, anticipate being invited someday and begin preparing today! Start asking questions about the hiring process and how to prepare even before you start applying for positions.
What To Write
Generally speaking, a traditional three-paragraph format with an introduction, body, and conclusion should work for some of these writing assignments.
If you’re writing about a discipline related topic, you may need to be a bit more scientific in your approach and be able to include one or two references. If you get a discipline related question, the committee may be assessing your currency in the field to determine if you’re in touch with the latest research, practices and findings. So, brush up by reading recent publications such as scientific journals and industry publications in advance. If you are not already doing this on a regular basis, you should be.
If you are asked to write a sample assignment that would be given to a student, the committee is trying to determine whether you are able to provide detailed homework instructions to a student. The goal is to ensure that your sample assignment includes instructions and an example, if necessary, that are so detailed that a student would be able to complete your assignment without any questions. With writing assignments such as this, be sure to include the following (at the very least):
- Title of the assignment
- Description and the purpose of the assignment
- Detailed instructions
- Brief example if necessary
- Submission instructions
- Grade, percentage, or number of points allocated to the assignment
Your writing assignment does not have to be long, but it needs to be well written, and it needs to address the prompt or question you were given. You can always practice writing in advance to get into the habit of putting words on a page right away. The last thing you need is to end-up with writers block on the day you are supposed to do your writing assignment.
It is important for you to remain calm and rational when working on the writing assignment. Some candidates get so nervous that they produce a poorly written paper that is incoherent and riddled with mistakes.
“So Keep Calm And Write On”
So to recap, here are the 6 things that you need to do to prepare for a writing assignment at a job interview:
- Ask current faculty about their experiences with the writing assignment and the topics that they were asked to write about.
- Maintain currency in your discipline by reading scientific and industry publications.
- Practice writing
- Remain calm when writing.
- Use a traditional format when in doubt unless writing a sample student assignment.
- Proofread and edit your paper.
Well, I hope you found this article useful. If you did, I’d be grateful if you’d help spread the word by sharing this with friends or colleagues on Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, and/or Facebook. Thank you!