If you’re like most scholars, your philosophy of teaching statement is one of the more difficult parts of your portfolio. Also called a teaching philosophy statement, it’s a standard component of academic job postings, and is required for tenure and grant applications. Yet it remains the Appalachian cousin of the dossier—overlooked, misunderstood and underappreciated.

While a teaching statement is not likely to make your candidacy, it can certainly break it. Here’s a guide on how to write an authentic and effective philosophy of teaching statement to help your job application get noticed.

Contents

1. What is a teaching philosophy statement?
2. Why write a teaching philosophy statement?
3. What goes into a statement of teaching philosophy?
4. Best practices for writing a statement of teaching philosophy
5. Helpful resources and examples of teaching philosophy statements
5.1. Sample teaching statements
5.2. Help with the writing process
6. References

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1. What is a teaching philosophy statement?

A teaching philosophy statement is a one-to-two page narrative essay that lays out the what, why and how of your teaching practice, including:

  • Your conception of teaching and learning;
  • A description of how you teach;
  • A rationale for your approach.

Notice that providing a philosophy of teaching statement implies that you have a philosophy of education. More on that shortly.

With the teaching statement, you are (1) communicating your goals as an instructor and (2) tying your work in the classroom to your professional development, research and other aspects of your career.

2. Why write a teaching philosophy statement?

The teaching philosophy statement is the opportunity for your audience to imaginatively inhabit your classroom and experience your particular brand or style of teaching.

In the first place, it demonstrates you are taking a purposeful and thoughtful approach to teaching. You care about and value teaching; you are designing your students’ classroom experiences to support their success; you can deal effectively and sensibly with the inevitable challenges involved in the learning process; you are committed to continuous improvement as an educator.

If you have little to no teaching experience, the statement gives your audience a sense of how ready, willing and able you are to teach. If you already have teaching experience, the statement maps your learning and accomplishments.

As Caukin and Brinthaupt (2017) show, the teaching philosophy statement can be viewed as a professional development tool. Even if you don’t need a teaching philosophy statement for an application, it’s a good idea to write one. Writing one will help you to organize your priorities and goals as well as to discover and examine the assumptions you have about teaching and learning.

3. What goes into a statement of teaching philosophy?

Fortunately, you don’t need a background in educational theory to have a teaching philosophy. Even if you’ve never thought about teaching in a systematic way, you’ve been a learner for almost as long as Survivor has been airing, and you’ve likely had some experience as a tutorial leader or lecturer. “Think deeply about more and less productive episodes of learning,” advises Professor Brian Coppola, “…then try to capture the essence of those experiences to guide your thinking about designing instruction” (2002, p. 450). Sometimes a metaphor is helpful for articulating how you understand the teaching/learning relationship.

In your statement, include:

  • Your conceptualization of teaching and learning;
  • The goals you have for your classes (informed by your conceptualization);
  • How you design and implement the learning environment to achieve your goals;
  • How you can tell whether you’ve accomplished those goals (i.e. assessment and evaluation practices you use);
  • What you have learned about your own teaching and how you are progressing.

There is no single or predominant format in which to communicate your philosophy of teaching. This makes the task aggravating, or creatively liberating, depending on your personality. Do include a title, an introduction that presents the purpose of your statement, and a conclusion that ideally leaves a powerful image or idea with your reader.

Alexander et. al. (2017) argue for a “remediation” of the teaching philosophy statement that integrates the teaching technologies with which we already work. This would mean transforming the statement into perhaps a multi-layered website, a slideshow presentation, or a digital-visual collage. Though we are not quite there yet in the academy, this kind of remediation is likely not far off.

4. Best practices for writing a statement of teaching philosophy

Although you are a scholar, this is not a piece of scholarly writing. This is a business document and needs to be approached as such.

As with any effective piece of professional writing, begin by considering your audience. What is likely to be the most important and relevant things for them to know? Will they be familiar with your discipline’s major sub-disciplines and lineages? Keep in mind that a hiring committee will be interested in both the internal and external consistency of what you are saying—e.g. how your teaching philosophy relates to your theoretical commitments to constructivism, and how your use of technology in the classroom supports your ideals of inclusivity and diversity.

Be sure to follow best practices for effective business communication: use jargon-free, clear and concise sentences. Use short paragraphs. Use headings. (Never underestimate the importance of a heading.) Your writing must be grammatically correct and free of typos.

Lastly, your philosophy of teaching statement is a particularly personal document. So let your personality and ‘voice’ shine through by incorporating plenty of examples, anecdotes, and descriptive details. Speak for and about yourself using “I” language; don’t lapse into generic “we” statements or employ an anonymous third-person stance. Tell your story.

5. Helpful resources and examples of teaching philosophy statements

Check out the resources at your institution’s Teaching and Learning department. Or look up what’s posted at the school where you are applying: this will help you get a sense of their expectations.

5.1. Sample teaching statements

These universities provide dozens of sample philosophy of teaching statements from award-winning teachers in a variety of disciplines:

5.2. Help with the writing process

Ohio State University’s Center for the Advancement of Teaching also provides worksheets and many other resources to jumpstart your reflections on teaching practice, as does Vanderbilt University’s Center for Teaching.

In this video, Iowa State University English professor Susan Yager speaks about the process of writing a statement and offers excellent practical tips and strategies concerning tone, word choice, the challenges of self-promotion, getting started, and seeking feedback.

In a recent article for The Chronicle of Higher tEducation (2017), Assistant Professor Mary Anne Lewis shared her own experiences creating her teaching philosophy statement.

6. References

Alexander, P., Chabot, K., Cox, M., DeVoss, D., Gerber, B., Perryman-Clark, S., Platt, J., Johnson Sackey, D., Wendt, M. (2012). Teaching with Technology: Remediating the Teaching Philosophy Statement. Computers and Composition. 29, 23-38. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/228982736_Teaching_with_ Technology_Remediating_the_Teaching_Philosophy_Statement

Caukin, N. and Brinthaupt, T. Using a Teaching Philosophy Statement as a Professional Development Tool for Teacher Candidates. (2017). International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. 11 (2), Article 18. doi: https://doi.org/10.20429/ijsotl.2017.110218

Coppola, B. (2002). Writing a Statement of Teaching Philosophy. Journal of College Science Teaching. 31 (7), 448-453. Retrieved from http://emp.byui.edu/firestonel/bio405/readings/Teaching%20Philosophy.pdf

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