Developing a Statement of Teaching Philosophy

Your statement of teaching philosophy is a short document that should function both as a stand-alone essay that describes your personal approach to teaching, and as a central component of the teaching dossier. Your statement should not simply describe your experiences and initiatives in teaching, but, as Schönwetter et al. (2002) write, should provide “a systematic and critical rationale that focuses on the important components defining effective teaching and learning in a particular discipline and/or institutional context” (p. 84). It is personal and reflective, drawing on your own experiences as a teacher.

PURPOSES

Your statement of teaching philosophy does several things for you. It can:

  • Clarify what you believe good teaching to be.
  • Explain what you hope to achieve in teaching.
  • Contextualize your teaching strategies and other evidence of teaching effectiveness.
  • Provide an opportunity for reflection on and the development of your own teaching.

COMPONENTS

A statement of teaching philosophy can be successfully constructed in a number of different ways. One way in which statements of teaching philosophy vary is in whether or not they include descriptions of an instructor’s specific teaching strategies (e.g. a description of a particular assignment or class activity), alongside the instructor’s teaching beliefs. Some instructors prefer to integrate these strategies into the philosophy statement; others prefer to describe them in a separate document (a “Statement of Teaching Practice”). Other common components of a statement of teaching philosophy include:

  1. A brief description of your teaching context, including the elements of your field that most shape your approach to teaching. This might also include a description of your students, and their most important learning goals and challenges.
  2. Your definition of good teaching, with an explanation of why you have developed or adopted this particular definition.
  3. A discussion of your teaching methods: how do you implement your definition of good teaching?
  4. A discussion of your evaluation and assessment methods and a description of how they support your definition of good teaching.
  5. A description of your teaching goals: with what content, skills, or values should students leave your classroom? What are your goals for improving your own teaching?

FORMAT

  • As concise as possible: 2-5 pages single spaced is common as a minimum length, but there is no set length for the statement. The document may be longer, for example, if it includes information on specific teaching strategies.
  • Include generous white spaces between paragraphs to allow for ease of reading.
  • Written in a personal, relatively informal tone, usually in the first person. Sometimes mentioning the names of scholars who have been particularly influential to your teaching can be valuable, but the statement should generally not include a substantial review of relevant research.

STEPS TO COMPLETION

1. Identify your teaching context.

Consider how the following elements shape your teaching:

  • Content: What do you teach?
  • Methods: How do you teach? What are some of the common teaching approaches in your discipline?
  • Learners: Whom do you teach?
  • Context: When do you teach?
  • Instructor: What is your role?
  • Ideals: What guides your teaching? Why do you teach?

2. Articulate your teaching beliefs.

  • Write some notes in response to one or more of the following guiding questions:
  • What do I consider unique about myself as a teacher?
  • What is my greatest challenge when it comes to teaching?
  • What is challenging about teaching in my discipline?
  • When I am a student, what conditions are necessary for me to really learn?
  • Who is my model of a really effective teacher and what made them a good teacher?
  • What is challenging about learning in my discipline?

3. Write a teaching claim.

Using your notes in response to one of the guiding questions, formulate a claim about your teaching approach or beliefs. You might use or modify one of the following prompts:

  • “I believe the role of a university instructor to be…”
  • “My goal as an instructor of graduate students is to…”
  • “I can identify three main challenges for undergraduate students in my field:…”
  • Use metaphor if appropriate: “I see my role as that of a guide…”

4. Demonstrate how this teaching claim is implemented in your teaching.

What are some teaching strategies/activities that you’ve used as an instructor or experienced as a student that support the kind of learning or teaching described in your teaching claim?

5. Add evidence of effectiveness.

How do you know this teaching method supports the kind of learning or teaching described in your teaching claim? This evidence can be anecdotal, derived from evaluations of your teaching, or located in your supporting materials.

6. Repeat!

Try to identify at least 3 or 4 core teaching beliefs, write corresponding teaching statements, and identify relevant teaching methods and evidence.

7. Reflect and connect.

How are these ideas connected? What kind of instructor do they describe? These connections can help you come up with a “thesis” about who you are as an instructor that can form the introduction to your statement and provide an overall narrative and structure for your dossier.

8. Review.

Do these statements accurately capture who you are, or want to be, as an instructor? Is any thing missing? Are these teaching claims appropriate to the types of teaching contexts where you will be teaching?

9. Have someone else read the statement.

This might be a colleague or mentor in your field, in another discipline, or someone from CTSI.

AVOIDING COMMON PITFALLS

Some common complaints from people who evaluate teaching philosophy statements include:

  1. Too general: A statement that does not reflect the particular beliefs, experiences, and circumstance of the author.
  2. A statement that is not reflective: it simply lists teaching techniques or experiences, but does not describe how these techniques or experiences have contributed to the author’s beliefs about what constitutes effective teaching.
  3. A statement that dwells too much on negative experiences or circumstances.
  4. Too clichéd: A statement that expresses a belief in a popular contemporary approach to teaching without establishing how that approach has been integrated into the author’s teaching.
  5. Too oblique: A statement that references a philosophy or belief but never describes it outright.
  6. Too few examples: A statement that does not include information about how the author knows his or her teaching to be effective.
  7. Too much jargon: A statement that includes too much jargon (e.g. relating to pedagogical or disciplinary research) may be less accessible to your readers.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES ON DEVELOPING A STATEMENT OF TEACHING PHILOSOPHY

Websites:

Angelo, T.A. & Cross, K.P. (1993). Teaching goals inventory. Retrieved from http://fm.iowa.uiowa.edu/fmi/xsl/tgi/data_entry.xsl?-db=tgi_data&-lay=Layout01&-view

Pool, Gregory. (2011). The deep end: Self-reflection: Easier said than done. Retrieved from https://www.stlhe.ca/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/The-Deep-End.pdf

Pratt, D.D. & Collins, J.B. (2011). Teaching perspectives inventory. Retrieved from http://www.teachingperspectives.com/tpi/

University Center for the Advancement of Teaching, Ohio State University. (2017). Guidance on Writing a Philosophy of Teaching Statement. Retrieved from http://ucat.osu.edu/professional-development/teaching-portfolio/philosophy/guidance/

Articles & books:

Chism, N. V. N. (1998). Developing a philosophy of teaching statement. Essays on Teaching Excellence, 9(3), 1-2. Nederland, CO: Professional and Organizational Development Network in Higher Education.

Grundman, H. (2006). Writing a teaching philosophy statement. Notices of the American Mathematical Society, 53(11), 1129-1133. Available online at: [PDF] http://www.ams.org/notices/200611/comm-grundman.pdf

Schönwetter, D., Sokal, L., Friesen, M. & Taylor, L. (2002). Teaching philosophies reconsidered: A conceptual model for the development and evaluation of teaching philosophy statements. International Journal for Academic Development, 7(1), 83-97.