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What is a teaching philosophy?

A teaching philosophy is a self-reflective statement that identifies your goals for student learning, explains how your teaching achieves the goal, and identifies ways that you assess student learning.  In it’s most essential form it states “why”, “how”, and” how do you know”.  Typically, the statement identifies and explains any theories or research that is the foundation for your choices in teaching methods.

Why do I need one?

Many people don’t start writing a teaching philosophy until it’s time to apply for a job, teaching award, or teaching grant, but waiting until it’s needed can cause you to miss an opportunity.  Writing your philosophy can help you align your methods to your goals, understand and direct your evolution as a teacher, and measure your professional growth.

How long is it?

Teaching philosophies vary in length.  They can be one-page statements or a deeper five-page analysis.  If you are applying for a job or an award, the application may give you some guidance. Typically , 1-3 pages is a good rule of thumb.

How to I start?

A good way to begin the process of writing a philosophy is to start with some questions:

  • What are your attitudes, beliefs and values about learning and the student experience?
  • How does your teaching relate to those beliefs?
  • Why do you pick specific methods or strategies of teaching?
  • What are some examples of how you put these ideas into practice?
  • What are some concrete ways you judge the quality of your teaching?
  • How do you integrate diversity into your teaching?
  • How do your teaching methods benefit yours students?

You can also identify educational goals such as: content mastery,engaged citizenship, employment goals, specific skills and knowledge, critical thinking, self-direction, diversity, etc.

The next step is to think about your teaching methods.  Identify ways that you instruct students including: Active Learning,Cooperative Learning, Problem Based Learning, Engaged Lecture, Service Learning, Formative Assessment, Journaling, Discussion, Case Studies, etc.

How do I make it personal?

Give concrete examples including data, stories, and evidence of success and growth. Don’t be afraid to talk about your learning experiences and how they have helped you develop your ideas about teaching.  If you have a specific mentor or researcher who has helped shaped your teaching, be sure to share that as well.

Ready to create your philosophy? Check out these sources and resources: