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.
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.
Tim Jensen, English
Spencer Robinson, Slavic and East European Languages
Diana Ruggiero, Spanish and Portuguese
Glené Mynhardt, Biology
Mahesh Iyer, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering
Elizabeth Riter, Civil Engineering
Joshua Eckroth, Computer Science and Engineering
Bora Bosna, Mathematics
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).
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.
Though the connection between reading and writing seems to be a "given," reading was not always a dominant force in writing classrooms. In the nineteenth century, students did not typically write analyses of what they read, but instead wrote themes on prescribed topics, such as Vanity, Democracy, Ethics, and so on. Reading and writing became curricularly linked at the turn of the century, when Harvard and other universities decided that reading literature was essential to learning to write.
The reasons for this curricular link are the same today as they were one hundred years ago. Those who argue in favor of reading in the writing classroom claim that reading inspires students, introducing them to great ideas and improving their ability to think critically and analytically. Moreover, reading centers class discussion, giving students something to talk about beyond their own personal experiences. Reading also gives students something to write about: at eighteen, students often lack the experience to come up with sophisticated subjects for their essays; texts provide these ideas. Finally, reading illustrates models of truly excellent writing, thereby offering students instruction in voice, organization, syntax, and language.
Still, professors who teach writing often find themselves questioning the role of reading in the first-year writing classrooms. These professors are concerned about the amount of class time they devote to discussing readings as opposed to the amount of class time they devote to teaching writing. They worry that the attention to reading and analyzing course materials risks crowding out writing instruction—which, they feel, should be the priority of the course.
But we needn't think of reading and writing as disparate course activities. In fact, reading and writing work best when one process fuels or informs the other. In order to make sure that reading and writing are working together effectively in your classroom, you might wish to consider the following:
- Limit the amount of reading assigned so that students have time to devote themselves to their writing.
- Devote class discussion or perhaps a writing assignment to an analysis of how an argument is constructed, rather than focusing exclusively on the content.
- Provide students with course readings that are well written, and take time in class to talk with students about what, exactly, makes the writing so good.
- Provide students with models of bad writing, taking time to talk about what, exactly, makes the writing so bad.
- Generate materials—perhaps with your students—that articulate the qualities of good writing in your particular discipline; ask students to evaluate a piece of writing according to these standards. (For this exercise, consider breaking students into smaller groups and then reconvening to compare observations.)