What is a statement of teaching philosophy and how do I write one?

-Lost in dossier-ville

Dear Lost in Dossier-ville,

A statement of teaching philosophy is a short narrative, full of specific examples, that highlights your unique approach to teaching. The goal of a statement of teaching philosophy is to convey to your readers not just what you believe about teaching, but how you see that approach in action. Unlike many other forms of professional writing, the statement of teaching philosophy should be personal and reflective in tone, written from a first-person perspective, and clearly convey your goals as an instructor.

Excellent statements of teaching philosophy are full of vibrant examples of student engagement, concrete goals and objectives within your disciplinary framework, or quotations from past student evaluations that encapsulate the student experience. Rather than make blanket statements such as, “My classes help students to learn to work well with others,” an exemplary statement of teaching philosophy might say, “Students in my recent seminar worked in teams to produce 10-minute advertising pitches, and at the end of each group-session they participated in a peer-feedback process. Their peer feedback forms required them to make one constructive criticism (a request) and one specific commendation (a praise) for each team member. As a result of this regular practice, students rated my course 5/5 for its ability to support group work.”

Of special interest today is the work you do in your classrooms to create an environment where all students who work hard can succeed. This must go beyond writing platitudes such as, “I care deeply about creating an inclusive classroom.” Instead, list any training or support you’ve sought out in the service of that aim, and cite a specific moment where that preparation has paid off. Similarly, your statement should highlight how your teaching can contribute (or has already contributed) to a department or discipline. To do this, it is important to show your readers both what you do, and the relevant background that has prepared you to do that work. If you effectively deploy a specialized pedagogy (such as Team Based Learning), you should highlight exceptional TBL units from your courses. If you design distinctive introductory courses that help students develop core competencies in your field, you should highlight that as well.

Your statement of teaching philosophy will be unique to you, and will tell a compelling story that draws your reader in. If you’d like more support in creating this document, make an appointment with the your colleagues at CTAL for a personal, confidential review session.

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