Teaching Statements & Philosophies

Teaching Statements and Philosophies

A teaching statement describes your approach to teaching: what do you do in the classroom and why do you do it that way? The statement highlights your breadth and depth of teaching experience and addresses aspects of course design, teaching and learning assessment, and teaching development.

Statements of teaching philosophy are a common and highly successful tool for both formative and summative evaluation of teaching. Formatively, the statement helps you reflect systematically upon your teaching. Summatively, the statement gives a comprehensive picture of your teaching. For anyone planning to apply for tenure or for a position at a university, a solid teaching statement is essential. Currently, at least half of postings for assistant professors, regardless of institution type or discipline, ask for a statement of teaching philosophy as part of the application requirements (Kaplan et al, 2007). For graduate students applying for academic jobs, the teaching statement is usually about two pages long, although there are some disciplinary differences. For faculty applying for promotion and tenure, the statement may be five to seven pages long to account for their more substantial and varied teaching experiences.

Statements of teaching philosophy often follow the five-paragraph essay format: an introductory paragraph, several body paragraphs, and a concluding paragraph. The introductory paragraph describes the important knowledge and skills you want students to develop in your discipline. The opening also provides an overview of the strategies and techniques you use to help student achieve these goals.  Each subsequent body paragraph contributes to the most valuable aspect of a good teaching statement: evidence of teaching practice (Kaplan et al., 2007). Readers want to imagine what it feels like to be in your class. Select and describe great moments in your class: what is an important concept or learning objective for a particular course, what methods did you use to teach this concept, what practice activities did students engage in, what were the results or products of this activity? Incorporate evidence you could show to others as proof of this great moment. The final paragraph, rather than a recapitulation of the entire document, is a reflection on your progression as a teacher: what are your successes, what are you working on, what courses would you like to teach, what methods would you like to explore?

References

Bruff, D. 2007. Valuing and evaluating teaching in the mathematics faculty hiring process. Notices of the American Mathematical Society, 54(10), 1308-1315. 

The Center for Teaching at Vanderbilt University has excellent online resources about developing a teaching statement.

Kaplan, M., Meizlish, D.S., O’Neal, C., & Wright, M.C. 2007. A research-based rubric for developing statements of teaching philosophy. In D.R. Robertson and L.B. Nilson (Eds.), To Improve the Academy, 26, 242-262.

Kaplan et al. provide research on the use of teaching statements in academic hiring, and the qualities of effective teaching statements. 

Kearns, K.D. & Sullivan, C.S. 2011. Resources and practices to help graduate students and postdoctoral fellows write statements of teaching philosophy. Advances in Physiology Education 35(2), 136-145.

Kearns and Sullivan provide strategies for developing a teaching statement. 

Seldin, P. 2004.  The teaching portfolio: A practical guide to improved performance and promotion/tenure decisions (3rd ed.).  Bolton, MA: Anker Publishing.

The Teaching Portfolio provides an excellent overview of the teaching portfolio and the teaching statement.  Several example portfolios, including statements of teaching philosophy, are provided at the end of the book. 

Who Is Doing This at IUB

Many department-based pedagogy courses, such as French and Italian, Medical Sciences, and Spanish and Portuguese, require their graduate students to prepare a statement of teaching philosophy and teaching portfolio.

Several graduate students have written teaching statements that are used as examples in our workshops.

When looking at these sample teaching statements, ask yourself what questions about teaching were addressed and what questions remain. Look at the organization of the paragraphs and how they connect back to the thesis (and what WAS the thesis?).  Notice the specificity of the teaching moments.

For More Help or Information

Katie Kearns conducts workshops for graduate students every fall and spring on how to develop a teaching statement. Your department may also sponsor portfolio workshops facilitated by the CITL. The CITL also maintains a non-circulating collection of portfolios, each containing a teaching statement, created by graduate students. You may also contact CITL to meet with a consultant to discuss your teaching statement.