Developing A Philosophy Of Teaching Statement. Essays On Teaching Excellence

Teaching Statements

What is a Teaching Statement?

A Teaching Statement is a purposeful and reflective essay about the author’s teaching beliefs and practices. It is an individual narrative that includes not only one’s beliefs about the teaching and learning process, but also concrete examples of the ways in which he or she enacts these beliefs in the classroom. At its best, a Teaching Statement gives a clear and unique portrait of the author as a teacher, avoiding generic or empty philosophical statements about teaching.

What Purposes does the Teaching Statement Serve?

The Teaching Statement can be used for personal, professional, or pedagogical purposes. While Teaching Statements are becoming an increasingly important part of the hiring and tenure processes, they are also effective exercises in helping one clearly and coherently conceptualize his or her approaches to and experiences of teaching and learning. As Nancy Van Note Chism, Professor of Education at IUPUI observes, “The act of taking time to consider one’s goals, actions, and vision provides an opportunity for development that can be personally and professionally enriching. Reviewing and revising former statements of teaching philosophy can help teachers to reflect on their growth and renew their dedication to the goals and values that they hold.”

What does a Teaching Statement Include?

A Teaching Statement can address any or all of the following:

  • Your conception of how learning occurs
  • A description of how your teaching facilitates student learning
  • A reflection of why you teach the way you do
  • The goals you have for yourself and for your students
  • How your teaching enacts your beliefs and goals
  • What, for you, constitutes evidence of student learning
  • The ways in which you create an inclusive learning environment
  • Your interests in new techniques, activities, and types of learning

“If at all possible, your statement should enable the reader to imagine you in the classroom, teaching. You want to include sufficient information for picturing not only you in the process of teaching, but also your class in the process of learning.” – Helen G. Grundman, Writing a Teaching Philosophy Statement

General Guidelines

  • Make your Teaching Statement brief and well written. While Teaching Statements are probably longer at the tenure level (i.e. 3-5 pages or more), for hiring purposes they are typically 1-2 pages in length.
  • Use narrative, first-person approach. This allows the Teaching Statement to be both personal and reflective.
  • Be sincere and unique. Avoid clichés, especially ones about how much passion you have for teaching.
  • Make it specific rather than abstract. Ground your ideas in 1-2 concrete examples, whether experienced or anticipated. This will help the reader to better visualize you in the classroom.
  • Be discipline specific. Do not ignore your research. Explain how you advance your field through teaching.
  • Avoid jargon and technical terms, as they can be off-putting to some readers.
    Try not to simply repeat what is in your CV. Teaching Statements are not exhaustive documents and should be used to complement other materials for the hiring or tenure processes.
  • Be humble. Mention students in an enthusiastic, not condescending way, and illustrate your willingness to learn from your students and colleagues.
  • Revise. Teaching is an evolving, reflective process, and Teaching Statements can be adapted and changed as necessary.

Reflection Questions To Help You Get You Started:*

  • Why do you teach the way you do?
  • What should students expect of you as a teacher?
  • What is a method of teaching you rely on frequently? Why don’t you use a different method?
  • What do you want students to learn? How do you know your goals for students are being met?
  • What should your students be able to know or do as a result of taking your class?
  • How can your teaching facilitate student learning?
  • How do you as a teacher create an engaging or enriching learning environment?
  • What specific activities or exercises do you use to engage your students? What do you want your students to learn from these activities?
  • How has your thinking about teaching changed over time? Why?

*These questions and exercises are meant to be tools to help you begin reflecting on your beliefs and ideas as a teacher. No single Teaching Statement can contain the answers to all or most of these inquiries and activities.

Exercises to Help You Get You Started:*

  • The Teaching Portfolio, including a section on teaching statements, Duquesne University Center for Teaching Excellence. This website includes five effective exercises to help you begin the writing process
  • Teaching Goals Inventory, by Thomas A. Angelo and K. Patricia Cross and their bookClassroom Assessment Techniques. This “quiz” helps you to identify or create your teaching and learning goals.
  • Articulating your Philosophy of Teaching Statement, from the Center for Effective Teaching and Learning at the University of Texas at El Paso. Various exercises to guide someone in thinking about, articulating, and writing a statement of teaching philosophy.

*These questions and exercises are meant to be tools to help you begin reflecting on your beliefs and ideas as a teacher. No single Teaching Statement can contain the answers to all or most of these inquiries and activities.

Evaluating Your Teaching Statement

Writing A Statement Of Teaching Philosophy For The Academic Job Search (opens as a PDF), The Center for Research on Learning and Teaching at the University of Michigan.

This report includes a useful rubric for evaluating teaching philosophy statements. The design of the rubric was informed by experience with hundreds of teaching philosophies, as well as surveys of search committees on what they considered successful and unsuccessful components of job applicants’ teaching philosophies.

Further Resources:

General Information on and Guidelines for Writing Teaching Statements

  • Writing a Philosophy of Teaching Statement, Faculty and TA Development at The Ohio State University. This site provides an in-depth guide to teaching statements, including the definition of and purposes for a teaching statement, general formatting suggestions, and a self-reflective guide to writing a teaching statement.
  • Writing a Teaching Philosophy Statement, Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning at Iowa State University. This document looks at four major components of a teaching statement, which have been divided into questions—specifically, to what end? By what means? To what degree? And why? Each question is sufficiently elaborated, offering a sort of scaffolding for preparing one’s own teaching statement.
  • Writing a Meaningful Statement of Teaching Philosophy, McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning at Princeton University. This website offers strategies for preparing and formatting your teaching statement.

Articles about Teaching Statements

Description · Purpose · Formatting · Return to writing a philosophy statement · Major Components · Guidance · Links · References

What is a Philosophy of Teaching Statement?

A philosophy of teaching statement is a narrative that includes:

  • your conception of teaching and learning
  • a description of how you teach
  • justification for why you teach that way

The statement can:

  • demonstrate that you have been reflective and purposeful about your teaching
  • communicate your goals as an instructor and your corresponding actions in the classroom
  • provide an opportunity to point to and tie together the other sections of your portfolio

What is the Purpose of Developing a Philosophy of Teaching?

Faculty and graduate teaching assistants are increasingly being asked to state their philosophy of teaching. This request may be in conjunction with the submission of a teaching portfolio for seeking academic positions, or as a regular component of the portfolio or dossier for promotion and tenure. Philosophy of teaching statements are also requested of candidates for teaching awards or grant applications.

Why do teachers need to articulate their philosophy of teaching? What purposes does a philosophy of teaching serve? It has been recognized by many teachers that the process of identifying a personal philosophy of teaching and continuously examining, testifying, and verifying this philosophy through teaching can lead to change of teaching behaviors and ultimately foster professional and personal growth.

In his book The Skillful Teacher (1990), Stephen Brookfield points out that the development of a teaching philosophy can be used for several purposes:

Personal purpose: ” . . . a distinctive organizing vision — a clear picture of why you are doing what you are doing that you can call up at points of crisis — is crucial to your personal sanity and morale.” (p. 16)

Pedagogical purpose: “Teaching is about making some kind of dent in the world so that the world is different than it was before you practiced your craft. Knowing clearly what kind of dent you want to make in the world means that you must continually ask yourself the most fundamental evaluative questions of all — What effect am I having on students and on their learning?” (pp. 18-19)

Gail Goodyear and Douglas Allchin, in their study of the functions of a statement of teaching philosophy (Goodyear and Allchin, 1998), identify another purpose:

“In preparing a statement of teaching philosophy, professors assess and examine themselves to articulate the goals they wish to achieve in teaching. . . . A clear vision of a teaching philosophy provides stability, continuity, and long-term guidance. . . . A well–defined philosophy can help them remain focused on their teaching goals and to appreciate the personal and professional rewards of teaching.” (pp. 106–7)

General Formatting Suggestions

There is no required content or set format. There is no right or wrong way to write a philosophy statement, which is why it is so challenging for most people to write one. You may decide to write in prose, use famous quotes, create visuals, use a question/answer format, etc.

It is generally 1–2 pages in length. For some purposes, an extended description is appropriate, but length should suit the context.

Use present tense, in most cases. Writing in first–person is most common and is the easiest for your audience to read.

Most statements avoid technical terms and favor language and concepts that can be broadly appreciated. A general rule is that the statement should be written with the audience in mind. It may be helpful to have someone from your field read your statement and give you some guidance on any discipline–specific jargon and issues to include or exclude.

Include teaching strategies and methods to help people “see” you in the classroom. It is not possible in many cases for your reader to come to your class to actually watch you teach. By including very specific examples of teaching strategies, assignments, discussions, etc., you are able to let your reader take a mental “peek” into your classroom. Help them to visualize what you do in the classroom and the exchange between you and your students. For example, can your readers picture in their minds the learning environment you create for your students?

Make it memorable and unique. If you are submitting this document as part of a job application, remember that your readers on the search committee are seeing many of these documents. What is going to set you apart? What about you are they going to remember? What brings a teaching philosophy to life is the extent to which it creates a vivid portrait of a person who is intentional about teaching practices and committed to his/her career.

“Own” your philosophy. The use of declarative statements (such as, “students don’t learn through lecture,” or “the only way to teach is to use class discussion”) could be potentially detrimental if you are submitting this document to a search committee. You do not want to appear as if you have all of the answers, and you don’t want to offend your readers. By writing about your experiences and your beliefs, you “own” those statements and appear more open to new and different ideas about teaching. Even in your own experience, you make choices as to the best teaching methods for different courses and content: sometimes lecture is most appropriate; other times you may use service–learning, for example.

Examples

The following samples are written by winners of the Graduate Associate Teaching Award at OSU, and are examples of various formats you may choose to use.

Humanities

Tim Jensen, English
Spencer Robinson, Slavic and East European Languages
Diana Ruggiero, Spanish and Portuguese

Sciences

Glené Mynhardt, Biology
Mahesh Iyer, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering
Elizabeth Riter, Civil Engineering
Joshua Eckroth, Computer Science and Engineering
Bora Bosna, Mathematics

Social Sciences

James Collier, Communication
Monali Chowdhury, Psychology
Kristin Edwards Supe, Psychology
Szu-Hui Lee, Psychology
Leslie Wade, Psychology
Robert M. Anthony, Sociology

Samples of teaching philosophy statements from other universities:
Don Rodney Vaughan, Mississippi State University

Major Components of a Philosophy of Teaching Statement

Each statement of teaching philosophy is very personal by nature. Therefore, it should be up to instructors to decide what components to include in their own statements. However, there are a number of excellent resources to get you started with the writing process at Guidance for Writing a Philosophy of Teaching Statement.

Other Sites with Information on Philosophy of Teaching Statements

What’s Your Philosophy on Teaching, and Does it Matter? Article from The Chronicle of Higher Education
Center for Excellence in Teaching at the University of Southern California
Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching at Iowa State University
Teacher Portfolio and Preparation Series at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, Second Language Teaching and Curriculum Center (includes philosophy of teaching statements written by language teachers).

References

Brookfield, S. (2006). The skillful teacher. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

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

Fuhrmann, B. S., & Grasha, A. F. (1983). A practical handbook for college teachers. Boston: Little, Brown and Company.

Goodyear, G. E., & Allchin, D. (1998). Statement of teaching philosophy. To Improve the Academy, 17, 103-22. Stillwater, OK: New Forums Press.

Grasha, A. F. (1996). Teaching with style: A practical guide to enhancing learning by understanding teaching and learning styles. Pittsburgh, PA: Alliance Publishers.

O’Neil, C., & Wright, A. (1993). Recording teaching accomplishment: A Dalhousie guide to the teaching dossier. (4th ed.). Halifax, Nova Scotia, CA: Dalhousie University.

Seldin, P., & Associates. (1993). Successful use of teaching portfolios. Bolton, MA: Anker.

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