Statement of Teaching Philosophy

What is a Statement of Teaching Philosophy?

The Statement of Teaching Philosophy is a brief (1-2 page) narrative explicating your values and beliefs about teaching and learning. It is usually written in the first person, but the style and tone will vary from person to person and according to one's discipline.

Recent research described six dimensions commonly found in faculty teaching philosophies:

  1. The purpose of teaching and learning
  2. The role of the teacher
  3. The role of the student
  4. The methods used to foster teaching and learning
  5. The assessment of teaching and learning
  6. The use of a "framing device," such as a metaphor or a critical incident about teaching to provide context for the above.

*From Schönwetter D.J.; Sokal L.; Friesen M.; Taylor K.L (2002). Teaching philosophies reconsidered: A conceptual model for the development and evaluation of teaching philosophy statements. The International Journal for Academic Development, 7(1), pp. 83-97. Contact CTE for a copy of this article.

Why Write a Statement of Teaching Philosophy?

It is becoming an increasingly common practice for faculty search committees to request a statement of teaching philosophy from applicants. It can also be a requirement for teaching award submissions. However, even if you are not ready to go on the market, articulating your teaching philosophy can help you to get to know your own goals and values as a teacher. Knowing these can help you to better prepare your classes and assignments, and to work on those aspects of your teaching that may be less developed.

Your teaching philosophy should be dynamic and open to revision. As you change and grow as a teacher so will this document.

Keep your audience in mind as you write the statement of teaching philosophy. A statement written for a community college will likely differ from one for a research institution. The Carnegie Classification system describes these different types of institutions. If you are submitting your philosophy to different types of settings, you may want to create different versions highlighting the aspects of your teaching that are valued by those institutions. At the same time, don't be deceitful or mislead the reader about your teaching practices.

How Do I Begin Writing It?

The best way is to just start! The statement will likely need to go through many revisions. Remember, the teaching philosophy is not a comprehensive description of everything you believe about teaching and learning. Rather it should present the essence of who you are as a teacher. Some ways to begin the process of articulating this are:

  • Complete some of these exercises designed to help the writing process. Each exercise appeals to different styles of thinking and writing. Choose one or two that work best for you - otherwise, you will end up with too much content.

The following exercises are available as downloadable Microsoft Word documents:

The Four Paragraph Model
This exercise is direct and concise. It asks you to write four paragraphs, each focusing on one aspect of your philosophy. Helpful for those who need help organizing their thoughts in writing.

The Critical Moments Exercise
This exercise draws from your concrete memories about teaching in order to help make more explicit those values that are implicit in your practice. Helpful for those who know that there are reasons behind what they do in the classroom, but who may not have ever articulated those underlying beliefs about teaching and learning.

The Self-Reflective Interview Exercise
This exercise offers questions to answer in an interview format about your teaching. Helpful for those who can speak about their teaching more easily than they can write about it. Have a friend or colleague ask you the questions and take notes or tape-record your answers.

The Teaching Cube
This exercise helps to break down your teaching philosophy into six related components. Helpful for those who like to focus in on details before connecting those aspects into a "big picture."

Teaching Philosophy Matrix
This exercise is in the form of a chart, and it asks you to plot your beliefs, practices, and goals about teaching. Helpful to make connections between the concrete and the abstract.

NOTE: These exercises are meant to spark your thinking process. No statement can or should include all of these aspects. This process will help you decide on what topics are the most important to you as a teacher.

Finally, here are some suggestions of what NOT to do when writing a statement of teaching philosophy.

  • Don't try to describe everything you do in the classroom. The teaching philosophy statement is meant to represent your general philosophy about teaching and learning. As such, it serves to present the argument or thesis of your teaching portfolio, which will then provide the evidence to back up your statement.
  • Be wary of metaphors. Used well, they can hold the philosophy together nicely, but often they can be overused or trite. Some metaphors do not cross disciplines well.
  • Avoid wordiness and jargon. Educational or disciplinary jargon can be off-putting to some readers. Write for a cross-disciplinary audience.

Where can I find other resources?

  • Visit our online resource page on the Statement of Teaching Philosophy.
  • Stop by the Center for Teaching Excellence office in Fisher Hall 727/730 to peruse our print handout file on the Statement of Teaching Philosophy.