Teaching Philosophy Statements

A statement of teaching philosophy is an argument-driven document that conveys your understanding of teaching and learning and your goals for teaching. It should also provide some evidence of your teaching practices by including concrete, specific examples of your in-class methods, assignments, and evaluation methods. Your statement of teaching philosophy should allow readers to “see” you in the classroom—to visualize the way you interact with students and structure learning experiences.

The core components of a teaching philosophy statement are:

  • A general overview of your philosophy
    • What are your learning goals for your students and your courses?
  • Discussion of your teaching methods
    • Make sure to provide specific, concrete examples to give readers a clear vision of your teaching, as well as evidence of your effectiveness as a teacher.
  • Description of how you assess student learning
    • Here, you might discuss how you respond to student writing, your evaluation methods, or specific assignments from classes you’ve taught.

General Suggestions

Keeping in mind that prompts might provide more insight, or ask for less or more, and that different disciplines might have different expectations, here are a few general suggestions for writing your statement. Your statement should generally be:

  • 1-2 pages long
  • Single spaced, 12-point font
  • 1st person and present tense: “In my teaching, I focus on XYZ.”
  • Tailored to audience. Try to avoid really discipline specific jargon—remember that your application materials will be read by a variety of audiences.
  • Different from your other materials. Materials such as your cover letter, CV, research or diversity statements all have their own generic conventions and goals. Some overlap is okay, but you don’t want to be really repetitive across these materials.
  • Balanced between buzzwords and concrete examples/ applications. While you want to be careful of overused terms related to teaching, such as “student-centered teaching,” if you choose to use such terms, balance them with concrete examples of how you do this in your classroom with your students.

Tips for Getting Started

  • Your statement will be stronger if you not only state a philosophy of teaching but also provide specific examples of how that philosophy translates to practice. Are there activities you do that help you achieve your teaching goals? What assignments do you use that show us that your teaching is “student centered” or “collaborative”? What classroom strategies do you use to create an “inclusive learning environment”?
  • Researching the institution and disciplinary trends can help you learn what approaches to teaching the institution (or maybe even department) values. You may need to write different teaching statements for different types of institutions—for example, religiously-affiliated institutions, liberal-arts colleges, and research universities.
  • If possible, building connections across your teaching, research, and service can make your statement stronger and continue to show that you’re a well-rounded applicant.
  • Sometimes schools will ask for a teaching portfolio in addition to a teaching philosophy statement. If that’s the case, you’re often asked to include other materials such as sample syllabi, assignments, and teaching evaluations. You should make connections to these materials in your statement. For example: “My teaching evaluations show that students in my courses appreciate XYZ.”

Developing Your Own Philosophy

You’ve probably already begun to articulate your teaching philosophy: look to syllabi and assignments for how you’ve framed learning objectives and activities. Reflect on the classroom environment you create, including the diversity of teaching methods you use, interactions with students, and modes of providing feedback. In order to further develop your teaching philosophy, you might use the spectrum below to reflect upon your beliefs and characteristics. Keep in mind that some of these traits may be discipline-specific, and that this is a continuum—so instructors can move along it and use different strategies/approaches depending on multiple factors (what course you’re teaching, how many students, topic, length of semester, students’ prior experiences, etc.).Image illustrating spectrum of teaching philosophy To get started generating your statement, you might ask:

  • What are your goals for teaching your classes?
  • How do you help students achieve those goals?
  • Where do you fall on this spectrum?
  • Why do you feel this way?
  • What does this mean for your teaching?
    • How does this translate to your practice? Be specific.

Related Links:

You can find additional information and sample statements through the Graduate College Career Development Office, University of Michigan’s Center for Research on Learning and Teaching, and The Professor is In.