Writing Your Teaching Philosophy I: Getting Started

“Writing Your Teaching Philosophy” (web page)  from the Center from Education Innovation, University of Minnesota, outlines the process of writing a personal statement of your teaching philosophy.

A. What Is a Teaching Philosophy?

"Your teaching philosophy is a self-reflective statement of your [values and] beliefs about teaching and learning."

  • "It's a one to two page narrative that conveys your core ideas about being an effective teacher ... [and] discusses how your values and beliefs about teaching fit into the context of your discipline."
  • "It develops these ideas with specific, concrete examples of what the teacher and learners will do to achieve those goals."
  • "Importantly, your teaching philosophy statement also explains why you choose these options."
  • It is "written in the first person and convey[s] a confident, professional tone."

B. Getting Started

1. Why Write Out a Statement of Your Teaching Philosophy?

  • It's "an exercise in concisely documenting your beliefs so that you can easily articulate them to your students, peers, or a search committee."
  • "It might serve as the introduction to your teaching portfolio."
  • "[I]t can serve as a means of professional growth as it requires you to give examples of how you enact your philosophy, thus requiring you to consider the degree to which your teaching is congruent with your beliefs."

2. Categories to Cover and Question Prompts

a. "Your concept of learning"

  • "What do you mean by learning?"
  • "What happens in a successful learning situation?" 
  • "Note what constitutes 'learning' or 'mastery' in your discipline."

b. "Your concept of teaching"

  • "What are your values, beliefs, and aspirations as a teacher?" 
  • "Do you wish to encourage mastery, competency, transformational learning, lifelong learning, general transference of skills, critical thinking?" 
  • "What does a perfect teaching situation look like to you and why?" 
  • "How are the values and beliefs realized in classroom activities?"
  • "You may discuss course materials, lesson plans, activities, assignments, and assessment instruments."

c. "Your goals for students"

  • "What skills should students obtain as a result of your teaching?" 
  • "Think about your ideal student and what the outcomes of your teaching would be in terms of this student's knowledge or behavior." 
  • "Address the goals you have for specific classes or curricula and that rational behind them (i.e., critical thinking, writing, or problem solving)."

d. "Your teaching methods"

  • "What methods will you consider to reach these goals and objectives?" 
  • "What are your beliefs regarding learning theory and specific strategies you would use, such as case studies, group work, simulations, interactive lectures?" 
  • "You might also want to include any new ideas or strategies you want to try."

e. "Your interaction with students"

  • "What are you attitudes towards advising and mentoring students?" 
  • "How would an observer see you interact with students?" 
  • "Why do you want to work with students?"

f. "Assessing learning"

  • "How will you assess student growth and learning?" 
  • "What are your beliefs about grading?"
  • "Do you grade students on a percentage scale (criterion referenced) or on a curve (norm referenced)?" 
  • "What different types of assessment will you use (i.e. traditional tests, projects, portfolios,  presentations) and why?"

g. "Professional Growth"

  • "How will you continue growing as a teacher?"
  • "What goals do you have for yourself and how will you reach them?" 
  • "How have your attitudes towards teaching and learning changed over time?" 
  • "How will you use student evaluations to improve your teaching?" 
  • "How might you learn new skills?"
  • "How do you know when you've taught effectively?"