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What is a Teaching Philosophy Statement and Why Do I Need it?

By The Room 241 Team October 2, 2012

There is a core belief behind every educator. We all have known teachers who are simply amazing. They inspire, they impart knowledge and they add value to their students’ lives. These individuals understand the sacrifice and dedication one must make in order to be successful in the lives they touch.

Teaching is rewarding, exciting, and ever-changing. But it isn’t a perfect career. And there are days all teachers grow weary and tired. Many educators feel undervalued and overworked. The job of a teacher is never done. That’s why it is important that an educator have a “teaching philosophy statement” that will help them stay focused on the good, great, hard and challenging days. This important statement is a reflection of the writer.

Why have a teaching philosophy?

Teachers who perform with a purpose will find themselves more focused, rejuvenated and excited. Through the various highs and lows, a teaching philosophy or “mission statement” helps an educator stay true to one’s core beliefs.

Writing a teaching philosophy statement may take some time, but most instructors will find the process easy once they pause and think about what drew them to this field in the first place. Reflecting on core values and beliefs about education and the role of educators can bring life and direction to any statement.

Who needs a teaching philosophy?

Every educator benefits from creating a philosophical teaching statement. New graduates and tenured professors alike can grow by thinking upon, summarizing, and defining their personal beliefs in how they best teach.

This reflective process should be revisited over and over again. People change and their values evolve. Professional growth will be reflected in a philosophy that is constantly updated and maintained. Teachers should remember this statement is always a work in progress.

What should be included in a teaching philosophy statement?

A teaching philosophy statement is a clear and concise one- to two-page account of your teaching methods and expertise. These statements do not fit into a cookie-cutter mold and each one should be unique.

At the very least, statements should address foundational questions:

  • Why do you teach?
  • What do you teach?
  • How do you teach?
  • How do you measure your own effectiveness?

Great teaching philosophy statements include specific examples of course topics, assignments, assessments and strategies drawn from actual courses and curriculum. These examples demonstrate the range of expertise and illustrate objectives, methods and approaches. Supporting documents, such as class syllabi, assignments, exams, evaluations and graded student papers may offer additional insights.

Additionally, these four tips can help boost a statement even further:

  • Include your core beliefs of how education works best (do not be tempted to follow the latest educational fads).
  • Avoid teacher jargon. Make your own voice come alive in your statement.
  • Highlight your own personal strengths and show how they play into your success as an educator.
  • Be honest.

Who is the audience?

When formulating ideas, the intended audience of a teaching philosophy statement must be taken into consideration. Audience members look to pull key insights from the statement:

  • Can they handle the teaching responsibilities of the job?
  • Does their teaching approach fit in with the department and our students?
  • Does this person want to teach, and why?
  • What will this person add to the department? What will the students gain from his/her classes?
  • How does this person handle the challenges of a classroom and teaching?

How to get started

The process of beginning a teaching philosophy statement is understandably intimidating. Consider some of the following strategies to spur ideas for the first draft.

  • Write a letter to someone outside the teaching world on the joys and challenges of teaching.
  • Make a list of the qualities of an effective teacher.
  • Write about a memorable experience in the classroom. Consider what happened and what you might do differently and why.
  • Develop a “dream course” in which you have a chosen topic and create goals to achieve it in terms of helping the students to learn and how you would research these interests within the scope of your personal teaching approach.
  • Imagine yourself in your first academic position and how you would proceed teaching in your chosen field of study and organize a graduate-level seminar.
  • Begin with the concrete details of what sets you apart as a teacher. How would someone observing you describe your teaching style? What specific skills and knowledge will students gain in your classroom and what kinds of things will happen in your classroom?

Personal and professional growth comes from high standards, an open mind and self-reflection. A teaching philosophy statement is an incredible tool that can help an educator reach their full potential.

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