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Writing A Teaching Philosophy Statement

Tomorrow's Teaching and Learning

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The writing of teaching philosophy statements isbecoming more common.

Often they are included in applications for academic positions. They are

frequently found in teaching portfolios. Even if no one else ever sees your

statement, putting one together is an important exercise because it gives

you a framework and orientation on which to make decisions about teaching

content and pedagogy.

The slightly edited posting below is from Professor Lee Haugen of Iowa

State University Reprinted with permission.


Rick Reis

UP NEXT: Advice for New Faculty - Everything in Moderation

Tomorrow's Teaching


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Prepared by Lee Haugen

Center for Teaching Excellence, Iowa State University


Your philosophy of teaching statement should reflect your personal values

and the needs of your students and your department. At the least, you will

want to address four primary questions, usually in this order:

1. What are your objectives in writing the statement?

2. What methods do you use to achieve your objectives?

3. How do you measure your effectiveness in achieving your objectives?

4. Why teaching is important to you?


It is important to start by describing where you want to end. In other

words, what are your objectives as a teacher? The rest of your philosophy

statement should support these objectives which should be achievable and

relevant to your teaching responsibilities; avoid vague or overly grandiose

statements. On the other hand, you will want to demonstrate that you strive

for more than mediocrity or only nuts-and-bolts transference of facts.

You would certainly want your students to learn the fundamental content of

the courses you teach. But beyond that, do you hope to foster critical

thinking, facilitate the acquisition of life-long learning skills, prepare

students to function effectively in an information economy, or develop

problem-solving strategies? What is your role in orienting students to a

discipline, to what it means to be an educated person in your field? How do

you delineate your areas of responsibility as compared to your students'

responsibilities? In what specific ways do you want to improve the

education of students in your field? Are there discussions in academic

journals or in professional organizations about shortcomings in the

education of students today or unmet needs in the discipline and do you

have ideas about how to address those shortcomings and needs? If you are

going to use teaching in P & T bids, you will probably need to connect to

national issues or objectives.

These are questions that will require some thought and you will probably

benefit from discussing them with other faculty in your department. Some

people can sit down and bang out a paragraph or two in a short time but

most of us become more thoughtful about the "big" questions when we bounce

them off of our colleagues, consider their responses, re-evaluate our

positions, revise, talk some more, etc. Your statement of objectives as a

teacher is the most important part of your teaching philosophy and you

should take some time with it. And if you take it seriously, you will

probably come back to this statement to revise or add to it. Think of it as

a work in progress.


When you have a clear idea about your teaching objectives, you can discuss

methods that you use to achieve or work toward those objectives. Here is

where you can display your knowledge of learning theory, cognitive

development, curriculum design, etc. You will want to explain specific

strategies, techniques, exercises, and include both what you have used in

the past and are planning for future courses. You will want to tie these

directly to your teaching objectives and discuss how each approach is

designed for that purpose.

Discuss how you make decisions about content, resources, and methods. If

you include a field trip, what are your learning objectives? If you

assemble a collection of readings, how did you decide what to include? How

do you decide whether to use collaborative or individual projects? Do you

use active learning or student-centered learning principles and why? Relate

these decisions and methods to the kinds of classes you teach (large

lecture, small discussion, lab, etc.) and make connections to your course


Again, relate your methods to national-level needs for teaching in your

discipline whenever possible. If you have developed instructional materials

that have been or could be disseminated, be sure to discuss them. If you

have designed or are planning innovative activities, describe how they

address specific teaching objectives. Have you presented a paper or a

workshop at a professional conference related to your teaching methods?


You will need to discuss how you intend to measure your effectiveness vis a

vis the objectives and methods you have outlined. Because your objectives

are most likely related to student learning, then you will probably use

measures of student outcomes to reflect your efforts rather than how many

chapters you can cover from the textbook. Student evaluations are always a

touchy subject among teachers but in large part that is because teachers

have not devised their own assessment methods. Most of us are obligated to

use standardized evaluation forms. But that does not prevent us from

developing other means that are more directly related to our specific goals

and objectives. Teachers who develop their own evaluations usually get more

relevant feedback. But in addition, they usually get more positive feedback

as well because they are asking the students to reflect on the most

important aspects of the course.

If one of your objectives is to develop problem-solving skills, then you

will probably want to test your students' ability to solve problems. In

that case, discuss how you construct problems for them to solve, what

skills those problems are meant to evaluate, and the level of performance

that you are seeking. As Ronald Myers, Associate Professor in Veterinary

Pathology pointed out in his teaching portfolio: I have come to realize

that ultimately students learn what we examine for. If we test for learning

of facts, students will learn facts. If we test for problem solving, they

will learn to be better problem solvers....My long-term goal is to learn

more about and then to implement improved mechanisms for assessment of

students, likely in the realm of ability-based or performance-based

assessment. There are many resources for improving assessment and student

evaluations in the CTE library.


Here is where you can be, if not grandiose, at least a bit grand. What, to

you, are the great and wonderful rewards of teaching? Why is teaching

important? How do you want to make the world or at least higher education

better? When you are overworked and feel undervalued, to what ideals do you

return in order to rejuvenate yourself and inspire your students? How do

you want to make a difference in the lives of your students?