Once you have a draft teaching philosophy statement, here are some additional considerations and tips that will help you revise.
That’s the Instructor who…: You want the search committee member to finish your statement and remember you as the instructor who creates scavenger hunts around campus, or has her students draw comics of their writing process, or starts every class by having everyone do jumping jacks, etc. As you draft your statement, think of the one thing you want a reader to remember about you and your teaching that completes the sentence, “That’s the instructor who….”
Be discipline-specific: After reading your statement, a reader should have a sense of how you approach teaching, not in general, but in your discipline.
Connect research and teaching: When applying to any position that includes some amount of research, you should consider ways in which you can draw connections between your research and teaching. This might be easier in some cases than in others, but think of at least one place where that connection can be made.
Teaching is about your students’ learning: Often, early drafts of teaching philosophy statements place all the focus on the teacher: his or her beliefs, the teaching methods used, the thought process behind those choices, etc. While one goal of the teaching philosophy statement is to get a sense of who you are as a teacher, make sure to create space in your statement to talk about your students, and to shift the focus from just your decisions as a teacher to your decisions as a teacher that promote your students’ learning.
- One way of doing this is to make sure that at least some of your sentences have your students as the subject, rather than yourself. In addition, including very specific examples of a particular student’s question, or reflection, or feedback can also make it clear that you view your students as individuals, who bring their own backgrounds and experiences into the classroom.
Style and Tone
Length: Aim for 1-1.5 pages, single-spaced. Often, initial drafts of statements are long but, as with the rest of a job application, less is more.
Present tense: A teaching philosophy statement is about your current approach to teaching, and particularly how you approach teaching a variety of topics in your field. When describing general views and methods, you can often speak broadly and use the present tense. So, instead of writing “When I taught Italian 101, I…” you can write, “When teaching an introductory grammar course, I….”
- An exception to this could be if describing a teaching method you haven’t used before. In this case, the future tense would make sense. Or, you would use the past test when discussing a particular project/activity you did in one class. For example: “In literature courses, blogging allows students to continue conversations begun in class, generate discussion on new topics, and explore how course materials are relevant to their everyday lives. In one of my courses, a number of students wrote blog posts questioning the writing style of one of the migrant authors we were studying, which led to a class discussion on the writing styles of all the authors whose writing we had seen over the semester.”
Avoid jargon, buzzwords, or technical terms: It’s more important to explain your philosophy concretely than to rely on these. If you do feel the need to use these terms, make sure to define what they mean in your field, and have concrete examples that draw connections between them and your students’ learning.
Don’t pretend to be an expert: Even instructors who have been teaching for decades continue to reflect and improve. A teaching philosophy statement isn’t about coming across as someone who has it all figured out, but more about demonstrating that you have spent time thinking about your approach to teaching and your role in your students’ learning. As stated in one article, “adopt a tone of humility.”
There isn’t a rigid structure for teaching philosophy statements, however here are a few general guidelines.
The introduction should include the key learning goals you will elaborate on in the body paragraphs. It can be useful to connect those goals with the role you see your discipline can have in the world.
Perhaps the most common organization is for each body paragraph to focus on one learning goal and then give concrete examples of the teaching methods and forms of assessment you use to help students attain that goal. However, there is no set template for how to organize these paragraphs.
Remember to include a conclusion. This is often just a few sentences that serves to remind the reader of the bigger picture regarding your teaching philosophy, your discipline, and what it means to teach in your discipline
Tailoring Your Teaching Philosophy Statement
There’s a fine line between tailoring your teaching philosophy statement and creating a completely different statement for each job you apply to. The teaching philosophy statement isn’t the place to explicitly name the kinds of courses you are prepared to teach, or would expect to teach for a particular job. This kind of specificity should go, instead, in the cover letter. Tailoring the teaching philosophy statement, and additional materials, is more about using ideas and examples that align with what the admissions committee is looking for in a candidate.
For example, if the job announcement mentions teaching large survey courses, focus on teaching methods like personal response systems that are effective in large classes. Or, if experience teaching with technology is desired, include examples of ways you productively use technology to help your students achieve the learning goals you have defined in the statement. Unless you are applying to a wide variety of different jobs, you may have just one or two versions of your statement and will be prepared to swap out a few examples to align with what you notice in the job posting.
Some of the above advice was adapted from the following sources:
- How to Write a Statement of Teaching Philosophy (The Chronicle of Higher Education)
- Introduction to Writing a Teaching Philosophy Statement (University of Maryland’s Teaching & Learning Transformation Center)
- The Dreaded Teaching Statement: Eight Pitfalls (The Professor Is In)