Phones will be buzzing this week, as faculty candidates receive invitations for call-back interviews.
My head is still buzzing from last weekend, as I process the hiring conference and the interviews many of us did at the Wardman Park. Why bother keep thinking about them, when the calls have already been made?
Because my committee asks every candidate about teaching. Having recently redefined our mission to state the explicit goal of producing practice-ready graduates, we also incorporate this focus into our hiring process. We want to hear about each candidate’s approach to teaching, their analysis of the techniques that have worked and those that haven’t yet worked for them in the classroom, and their ideas for making themselves better teachers. Hopefully these responses will indicate levels of knowledge, propensity for innovation, and ability to engage in reflection about teaching.
Even more stunning than the number of candidates whose responses employed the phrase “soft Socratic,” was that many candidates seemed confounded to have even been asked a teaching question. It often took several prompts. Yes, really, we’d like to hear your thoughts on structuring a course and measuring student learning. While I have had the happy experience over the past few years of interviewing candidates who referenced the Carnegie Report [Educating Lawyers: Preparation for the Profession of Law], it hasn’t happened very often.
Even before the recruitment conference, candidates have absorbed the message that teaching isn’t worth talking about. The interviewing experience itself reinforces the insignificance of teaching, as compared to scholarship. Vanessa said it best: “Every publication of a candidate is scrutinized, but virtually never does a Committee seek arguably more illuminating embodiments of teaching prowess, such as examples of feedback on student essays and papers, grading rubrics, sample exams and ‘model answers’, evaluation or critique of student performance of lawyering tasks, or other assessment tools and supplemental course materials.” (December 13, 2010 post, Just Imagine if You Were Trying to Get a Job as a Law School Teacher…) Instead, when a committee even asks a candidate about teaching methods, candidates assume they have misunderstood the question.
The initial 30-minute meet-and-greet may be absurdly short for gathering accurate information about a potential colleague. But committees maximize this brief encounter to assess how well candidates explain the nuances of their scholarly writing. Gathering as sense as to how well-informed, articulate, and thoughtful candidates are about teaching is equally vital to the success of the hire – assuming the committee seeks to add an effective teacher to the faculty.
When candidates are more routinely questioned about teaching, as part of the hiring conference dance, the signal will go out to legal education’s initiates that both scholarly potential and teaching expertise are required.
Filed under: Catalysts For Change |