In 2007, the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching at the University of Michigan published “Writing a Statement of Teaching Philosophy for the Academic Job Search.” The researchers contacted over 400 search committee chairs in 6 disciplines (Biology, Chemistry, English, History, Political Science, Psychology) at a variety of American colleges and universities to ask them what they were looking for in candidates’ teaching philosophy statements.
Here are the five characteristics of an effective teaching philosophy statement that are largely a result of that research:
1. Learning Goals
What are your learning goals for your students? In other words, at the end of the semester, what do you want your students to understand or be able to do? As explained in Backwards Design Basics, these can be content goals, skills goals, or enduring knowledge goals. For the purposes of a teaching philosophy statement, you may want to emphasize the skills goals and enduring knowledge goals that are relevant to multiple courses in your discipline and thus guide your approach to teaching both lower and upper-level courses.
2. Teaching Methods
How do you help students reach those goals? Your teaching methods are the activities you do in the classroom to help students achieve the learning goals you have defined. Teaching methods can range from lecture and class discussion to pair and group work to role-plays, brainstorms, and field trips. For your teaching philosophy statement, you will want to include some particularly memorable teaching methods you have used (or could imagine using), or methods that do a particularly good job of helping students achieve a learning goal.
How do you gauge if students have achieved your learning goals? Forms of assessment, including essays, tests, presentations, or other traditional, high-stakes assignments, are one way of measuring student learning. However, you can also think about low-stakes or informal ways to assess student knowledge. This can include weekly reading responses, a simulation, or Classroom Assessment Techniques.
4. Inclusive pedagogy
How do you consciously work to create a learning environment in which all of your students can learn? Demonstrating an inclusive pedagogy consists of understanding how students’ backgrounds can impact the learning environment, using a variety of teaching methods to account for different learning approaches, and including a diversity of perspectives in your course readings and lessons. Ideally, you will demonstrate commitment to inclusivity in several places in the teaching philosophy statement, not just in an isolated paragraph.
5. Organization and clarity
A well-organized, clear teaching philosophy statement has a logical structure that includes several discipline-specific examples of your approach to teaching. In addition, your style and tone is appropriate for the audience. (More information on style and tone are available in the Revising Your Statement section.) Finally, there should be no grammatical or spelling errors.
The importance of alignment
Key in a teaching philosophy statement is the alignment between how your present your learning goals, teaching methods, and assessments. A strong teaching philosophy statement will demonstrate that you are able to define learning goals relevant to your discipline and the courses you teach, choose appropriate teaching methods that help students reach those goals, and create forms of assessments that will check if students have met those goals. More broadly, how your present your approach to teaching in your teaching philosophy statement should align with other documents, such as a cover letter or teaching portfolio.
A Teaching Philosophy Statement Rubric
The CTE has developed a teaching philosophy statement rubric based on the same research that resulted in the five characteristics of an effective teaching philosophy statement. You may find it useful to use this rubric to evaluate your own statement.