For graduate students and postdoctoral scholars who are in the early stages of their academic careers, a teaching statement or statement of teaching philosophy is usually a one- to two-page document in which you articulate your most important goals and values as a teacher and describe how you enact these goals and values in your teaching (Seldin et al., 2010).
Writing your teaching statement can serve a variety of practical purposes in your academic life. It is among the documents commonly requested for academic job applications and, later on in a faculty career, as part of the dossier of materials that you will assemble when you are considered for promotion and/or tenure (Meizlish & Kaplan, 2008). It is often requested for teaching awards as well.
Writing your statement can also provide reflective benefits. Taking the time to reflect on your teaching goals and practices—for example, what you want your students to learn, how you interact with your students, and the kinds of assignments and activities you use—can help you identify what you want to continue doing and what you may want to approach differently in the future (Brinthaupt, 2014).
Whether you are preparing to write the first draft of your statement or are looking for new ways to reflect on your teaching, consider one of the following questions (Goodyear & Allchin, 1998; O’Neal et al., 2007; Schönwetter et al., 2002):
- What motivates me to learn about this subject?
- What do I expect to be the outcomes of my teaching?
- How do I define the purpose of teaching and learning?
- What is the student-teacher relationship I strive to achieve?
- How do I know when I’ve taught successfully?
- How do my research and disciplinary contexts influence my teaching?
- How do my identity/background and my students’ identities/backgrounds affect teaching and learning in my classes?
- What is my approach to evaluating and assessing my students?
Your teaching statement does not need to address all of these questions individually. In fact, addressing one of the questions above often gives your reader insight into multiple aspects of your teaching, and your statement may describe other aspects of why, what, and how you teach as well.
Brinthaupt, T. (2014). Using a student-directed teaching philosophy statement to assess and improve one’s teaching. The Journal of Faculty Development, 28(3), 23-27.
Goodyear, G. E., & Allchin, D. (1998). Statements of teaching philosophy. In M. Kaplan & D. Lieberman (Eds.), To improve the academy: Resources for faculty, instructional, and organizational development, (17), 103-122. Stillwater, OK: New Forums Press.
Meizlish, D., & Kaplan, M. (2008). Valuing and evaluating teaching in academic hiring: A multi-disciplinary, cross-institutional study. Journal of Higher Education, 79(5), 489-512.
O’Neal, C., Meizlish, D., & Kaplan, M. (2007). Writing a statement of teaching philosophy for the academic job search. University of Michigan CRLT Occasional Paper #23.
Schönwetter, D. J., Sokal, L., Friesen, M., & Taylor, K. L. (2002). Teaching philosophies reconsidered: A conceptual model for the development and evaluation of teaching philosophy statements. The International Journal for Academic Development, 7(1), 83-97.
Seldin, P., Miller, J. E., & Seldin, C. A. (2010). The teaching portfolio: A practical guide to improved performance and promotion/tenure decisions. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.