Writing a Teaching Philosophy or a Teaching StatementStrictly speaking, your teaching philosophy is a written description of your values, goals, and beliefs regarding both teaching and learning. By contrast, your teaching statement develops from your teaching philosophy and uses evidence from your teaching to make the case that you have excelled as a teacher. (In practice, of course, these terms are often used interchangeably.) As a general expression of your beliefs and practices, your teaching philosophy can shape your syllabi or introduce your course website. As an argument for excellence, your teaching statement is more appropriate for your dossier or a job application. Regardless of whether you are on the market or preparing your dossier for promotion, or whether you simply want to help your students better understand who you are as a teacher, the following resources will help get you started on the process of articulating your beliefs about and goals for teaching. Consult our companion bibliography Resources for Teaching Portfolios for additional readings.
Identify what is important to you as an instructor.
Before you begin writing, or even if you are in the process of editing, it is a good idea to find out what you value and believe as an educator and how you demonstrate those values and beliefs while you teach. Utilize the following tools to help you accomplish this admittedly daunting task.
- Complete the Teaching Perspectives Inventory and/or the Teaching Style Survey. These tools will help you identify your ideas about learning and about teaching.
- Complete the Teaching Goals Inventory. This tool will help you identify the goals you have for your students.
- Answer these Questions to Consider. Your responses will ultimately form the basis of your teaching statement.
Write a general teaching philosophy.
Review what you have learned about yourself using the above tools and write an explanation of your beliefs as an instructor. Do not worry about length at this point. The purpose here is to articulate your ideas about teaching and learning and to describe how these ideas inform your actual teaching. Focus on your beliefs, and avoid writing a narrative about how or why you became a college instructor. The multiple resources listed below or in the sidebar will help you with this stage of the process.
Adapt your general philosophy to the intended purpose and audience (i.e., create a teaching statement).
Much like your curriculum vitae, teaching philosophies are designed to be adapted and developed for various purposes, including but not limited to promotion and tenure dossiers, job applications, and your course website. Study the sample teaching statements in the links provided in the sidebar to generate ideas and help refine your own text.
- Statements for promotion and tenure dossiers often have to follow a particular format, so it is wise to review institutional guidelines and published sample dossiers. You can find examples from IUPUI faculty at the Office of Academic Affairs website.
- Statements for job applications may not only be limited in terms of word count or page number, but should be tailored according to the job description. For example, if you are applying for a job that involves working with a specific student population, be sure to address your experience with that sort of population in your statement. Similarly, if you will be expected to teach a certain course or set of courses, your statement should reflect your beliefs regarding learning in those courses or types of courses.
- Your teaching philosophy itself is appropriate for course websites; however, it should not only be tailored to the course in question, but also to the audience--i.e., the prospective and current students for that course. The philosophy should convey not only your general beliefs and practices, but your personality as well. Consider creating a bullet-list of the most important aspects of your philosophy and what your beliefs mean for students (i.e., what should students expect from you as a result of your beliefs?). You may even want to record a video of yourself explaining your philosophy.
Evaluate your statement.
Ask colleagues, both inside and outside of your discipline, to review your statement. If you are using the statement for a job application, be sure to provide your colleague a copy of the job description. You can also utilize one of the following rubrics to evaluate what you have written. Note that depending on the purposes of your statement, some of these items may not apply.
- Rubric for scoring statements of teaching philosophy
- Rubric for composing and evaluating a statement of teaching philosophy (see page 7 of linked article)
A Word about Structure
Following a clear rhetorical structure can make the task of composing and revising your teaching statement much less difficult. Consider using, for instance, Nancy Chism's Key Components model to organize your thoughts on a macro level and then create a topic sentence outline as you revise to focus your ideas on the paragraph level. The Chism model, the topic sentence outline, and some other helpful tips are explained below.
The Key Components Model
- Developed by Nancy Chism, this model structures a teaching philosophy or teaching statement around five key component areas. These component areas consist of the answers to a number of important questions related to learning, teaching, goals, assessment, and professional development. The component areas and the questions related to them are all listed below. For more information, you can also
read Dr. Chism's paper on the Key Components model. For another, different model for teaching philosophies and teaching statements, see Goodyear & Allchin (1998).
Conceptualization of Learning
- How does learning take place?
- Based on my observation and experience, what do I think happens during a learning episode?
Conceptualization of Teaching
- How do I facilitate learning?
- What are my assumptions about teaching?
- Why do I teach the way I do?
- How do I motivate, challenge, or support students?
- How do I deal with students who struggle?
- How do I vary my approach?
Goals for Students
- As a result of learning, what do I expect my students to know, do, or value (in their careers and future lives)? Why?
- What does my teaching philosophy mean for my students?
Implementation and Assessment
- How are my conceptions of teaching and learning transformed into instructional strategies?
- What are the consequences of my instructional strategies?
- How do I know my teaching is effective?
- What data do I use to gauge my effectiveness?
Your Future as a Successful University Teacher (Personal Growth Plan)
- What goals have I set for myself as teacher?
- How will I accomplish these goals?
- What are some present challenges to overcome in order to achieve my goals?
- How have I developed?
- What evidence do I have that can demonstrate my development?
- What has changed over time in my assumptions and actions?
- How have I met goals that I set in the past?
- Conceptualization of Learning
- Developed by Nancy Chism, this model structures a teaching philosophy or teaching statement around five key component areas. These component areas consist of the answers to a number of important questions related to learning, teaching, goals, assessment, and professional development. The component areas and the questions related to them are all listed below. For more information, you can also read Dr. Chism's paper on the Key Components model. For another, different model for teaching philosophies and teaching statements, see Goodyear & Allchin (1998).
The Topic Sentence Outline
- After you have drafted your philosophy or statement, use the following steps to sharpen the focus of your paragraphs, which in turn will improve the coherence (i.e., flow) of your entire document. This approach can work for any sort of scholarly writing, and you can
read more about it in this article by George Gopen and Judith Swan. For other writing and revision techniques, see Tara Gray's book,
Publish & Flourish: Become a Prolific Scholar (2005).
- Cut and paste your thesis statement and the first sentence of each paragraph (i.e., your topic or key sentences) into a new document. Read through the outline you've created.
- The outline should convey your main point and highlight your subordinate points in a logical, if brief, manner. Ideally the outline should also hint at your evidence and highlight your concluding thought.
- If your outline does not clearly convey your main point, or if the flow of your subordinate points seems too disjointed, then revisit and revise your paragraphs. Begin by trying to locate the sentences that do contain each paragraph's central message (i.e., your subordinate points). As you then revise your paragraphs, move those sentences to the top of each paragraph (i.e., the topic sentence position). Next, make a new outline to see if the flow of your subordinate points has become clearer or more cogent.
- After you have drafted your philosophy or statement, use the following steps to sharpen the focus of your paragraphs, which in turn will improve the coherence (i.e., flow) of your entire document. This approach can work for any sort of scholarly writing, and you can read more about it in this article by George Gopen and Judith Swan. For other writing and revision techniques, see Tara Gray's book, Publish & Flourish: Become a Prolific Scholar (2005).
Some General Tips
- Know your audiences and their needs or interests.
- Use specific, personal examples.
- Avoid buzzwords and jargon.
- Avoid statements of absolute fact.
- I.e., “Small group activities are the only way to build community in a freshman class.”
- Write in the first-person and the active voice.
- E.g., “I engage students with active learning techniques.” NOT “Students are engaged with active learning techniques.”
- Write more than you need and revise down. Be concise!
Resources and References
Angelo, T. A. & Cross, K. P. (1993). The teaching goals inventory. Classroom assessment techniques: A handbook for college teachers. (2nd Ed.). (pp. 13-24). San Francisco, Jossey-Bass. Online inventory retrieved from: http://fm.iowa.uiowa.edu/fmi/xsl/tgi/data_entry.xsl?-db=tgi_data&-lay=Layout01&-view
Chism, N.V.N. (1997-98). Developing a philosophy of teaching statement. Essays on teaching excellence: Toward the best in the academy 9 (3). Retrieved from: http://podnetwork.org/content/uploads/V9-N3-Chism.pdf
Faculty Focus. (2009). Philosophy of teaching statements: Examples and tips on how to write a teaching philosophy statement. Retrieved from: http://www.facultyfocus.com/free-reports/philosophy-of-teaching-statements-examples-and-tips-on-how-to-write-a-teaching-philosophy-statement/
Goodyear, G. E. & Allchin, D. (1998) Statement of teaching philosophy. To Improve the Academy 17, 103-22. Stillwater, OK: New Forums Press.
Gopen, G. and J. Swan. (1990). The science of scientific writing. American scientist 78, 550-558. Retrieved from: https://www.americanscientist.org/issues/pub/the-science-of-scientific-writing/1
Gray, Tara. (2005). Publish & flourish: Become a prolific scholar. Las Cruces, NM: Teaching Academy.
Kearns, K. D., Subino Sullivan, C., O'Loughlin, V. D., & Braun, M. (2010). A scoring rubric for teaching statements: a tool for inquiry into graduate student writing about teaching and learning. Journal for Excellence in College Teaching, 21, 73-96. Rubric retrieved from: https://scholarworks.iu.edu/dspace/bitstream/handle/2022/6804/final teaching statement rubric.pdf?sequence=1
O’Neal, C., Meizlish, D., & Kaplan, M. (2007). Writing a statement of teaching philosophy for the academic job search. CRLT Occasional Papers No. 23. Retrieved from: http://www.crlt.umich.edu/publinks/CRLT_no23.pdf
Pratt, D. D. & Collins, J. B. (2001). Teaching Perspectives Inventory. Retrieved from: http://www.teachingperspectives.com/drupal/
The McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning at Princeton University. (n.d.). Statement of teaching philosophy: Questions to consider. Retrieved from: https://mcgraw.princeton.edu/node/1496
Updated by James Gregory (November, 2016)
Updated by James Gregory (October, 2015)
Authored by Sarah Lang (April, 2012)