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Teaching and Learning Personal Philosophy Statements

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One of the items found in most teaching portfolios is a teaching and learning personal philosophy statement. Developing such a statement, even while a graduate student or postdoc, can be quite helpful. You are likely to be asked about such a philosophy when applying for academic positions and during your retention, tenure, and promotion periods. 

Below is one example of such a statement from Mary Anne Carroll at the University of Michigan, a Research I university. It would be terrific if some of you who have developed such statements would share them with us so that we could see examples from different disciplines and academic institutions. 

Looking forward to hearing from you soon. 

Richard Reis ( 

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Statement of Personal Philosophy Regarding Teaching and Learning* 

Mary Anne Carroll 

Atmospheric, Ocean and Space Sciences Department 

University of Michigan 

My move from a research laboratory to an academic setting was motivated by a desire to teach. Therefore, being a member of a university where attention to teaching and learning has a high priority is import ant to me. My interest in teaching comes from my own positive experience as an undergraduate and from a love of learning. It also stems from a belief that environmental issues are intricately connected with technology and a sense of responsibility to ed ucate a citizenry that is "literate" in environment sciences. 

In considering how one goes about sharing one's love of learning, it is important to consider that learning strategies differ widely and that teaching strategies are not always easily matched with students' needs. In addition, students bring widely varying knowledge bases to the table in each course, so each course is different according to the background and learning preferences of that particular class. A further complication is that students also bring different levels of maturity, interest and motivation. The challenge is to make course materials accessible to all students and to be responsive to individuals who are having difficulty integrating new material without boring others. Is this possible?! 

I believe that learning can and should be fun and that students who are active participants learn much more than those whose participation is largely passive. Teaching and learning involves an inherent cont ract. Students must agree to take responsibility for their learning in order to engage, and teachers must be willing to be engaged, as well. When students are so engaged, their learning is not solely dependent upon the rate of the delivery of lectures, so a mix and match of pace and teaching strategies designed to meet the needs of a range of learning skills need not be debilitating to the progress of any students. I welcome a group of students who are actively involved, thinking and questioning the ma terial presented to them whether presented by me or by another student. 

Part of the contract involves the completion of homework assignments so that classroom periods can be used for group work and other activities that involve students and encourage their learning from each ot her. Although I initially felt the need to lecture in detail on all topics covered, my perspective has changed as my level of familiarity with the course material has increased. I believe that a teacher is not a giver of knowledge but rather a facilitat or or a guide for the student. As a guide, it is my responsibility to find or create alternate presentations of the material that I feel help clarify key points and to design iclass contacts. 

* Reprinted with permission of Mary Anne Carroll.