Writing Your Teaching Philosophy II: Drafting the Document

“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. Creating a Draft

Once "you've written down your values, attitudes, and beliefs about teaching and learning, ... organize those thoughts into a coherent form." 

  • "[M]ake sure to keep your writing succinct. Aim for two double-spaced pages."
  • "[D]on't forget to start with a 'hook' ... make your readers want to read more; their level of engagement is highest when they read your opening line."
  • "Hook your readers by beginning with a question, a statement, or even an event from your past."

1. One Possible Structure: Seven-Prompt Structure

  • Write a paragraph covering each of the seven prompts ... [so that] these ... become the seven major sections of your teaching philosophy."

2. Another Possible Structure: Thematic Structure

"[R]ead through your notes and underscore ideas or observations that come up more than once."

  • "Think of these as 'themes' that might point you toward an organizational structure for the essay."
  • "For example, you read through your notes and realize that you spend a good deal of time writing about your interest in mentoring students.
  • "This might become one of the three or four major foci of your teaching philosophy."
  • "[D]iscuss what it says about your attitudes toward teaching, learning, and what's important in your discipline."

3. Specifics Bolster Substance

a. "Go back to the notes you made when getting started and underline the general statements you’ve made about teaching and learning."

  • "As you start drafting, make sure to note the specific approaches, methods, or products you use to realize those goals."

b. Use "concrete examples from your teaching practice to illustrate the[se] general claims."

c. An exercise: "The following general statements about teaching are intended as prompts to help you come up with examples to illustrate your claims about teaching."

"For each statement, how would you describe what happens in your classroom? Is your description specific enough to bring the scene to life in a teaching philosophy?"

  • "I value helping my students understand difficult information. I am an expert, and my role is to model for them complex ways of thinking so that they can develop the same habits of mind as professionals in the medical field."
  • "I enjoy lecturing, and I'm good at it. I always make an effort to engage and motivate my students when I lecture."
  • ""It is crucial for students of geology to learn the techniques of field research. An important part of my job as a professor of geology is to provide these opportunities."
  • "I believe that beginning physics students should be introduced to the principles of hypothesis generation, experimentation, data collection, and analysis. By learning the scientific method, they develop critical thinking skills they can apply to other areas of their lives. Small group work is a crucial tool for teaching the scientific method."
  • "As a teacher of writing, I am committed to using peer review in my classes. By reading and commenting on other students' work in small cooperative groups, my students learn to find their voice, to understand the important connection between writer and audience, and to hone their editing skills. Small group work is indispensable in the writing classroom."

B. Assessing Your Draft

1. "[T]here are five elements that are shared by strong teaching philosophy statements":

  • "They offer evidence of practice (specific examples)."
  • "They are student-centered."
  • "They demonstrate reflectiveness."
  • "They demonstrate that the writer values teaching."
  • "They are well written, clear, and readable."

2. "Now that you’ve completed an initial draft, ask whether your statement captures these elements and how well you articulate them."

  • "[C]ompare your draft to other teaching philosophies in your discipline."
  • "[H]ave a colleague review your draft and offer recommendations for revision. [Print] out a teaching philosophy rubric ... [to] provide your reviewer with guidelines to assess your draft."
  • "These exercises will give you the critical distance necessary to see your teaching philosophy objectively and revise it accordingly."

3. Teaching Philosophy Rubrics

4. Examples of "Teaching Philosophy Statements" (selected by Western)