Tomorrow's Teaching and Learning
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.) Reprinted with permission.
UP NEXT: Advice for New Faculty - Everything in Moderation
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WRITING A TEACHING PHILOSOPHY STATEMENT
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?
1. WHAT ARE YOUR OBJECTIVES IN WRITING THE STATEMENT?
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.
2. WHAT METHODS DO YOU USE TO ACHIEVE YOUR OBJECTIVES?
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?
3. HOW DO YOU MEASURE YOUR EFFECTIVENESS IN ACHIEVING YOUR OBJECTIVES
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.
4. WHY TEACHING IS IMPORTANT TO YOU?
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?