Don’t Write Your Teaching Philosophy Until You Do This

When entering the academic job market, one of the documents you will want to prepare is a statement of teaching philosophy. There are so many ways to tackle this writing assignment, and based on our training our instinct may be to jump into the literature on teaching pedagogy and begin writing about the most popular and data-proven methods.

Instead, take a step back and make some time for reflection. After all, it’s a statement of teaching philosophy, not teaching science. So pull up a blank word doc, or grab a notebook and pen, and spend some time journaling on these questions.

First, think about your experience as a student. You can consider any point in your academic journey, from your college/university experiences all the way back to primary school. Remember each of the teachers and professors whose classroom you spent time in. Who stands out to you? What memories stand out? Focus on how the moments that come to mind made you feel, as well as what helped (or hindered) your ability to learn. Write everything down.

These reflections will give you a chance to really identify what you liked and disliked as a student. This can inform the way you choose to teach. One of these stories might even be worth weaving into your statement of teaching philosophy as an illustration of the pedagogy you describe.

If you have teaching experience, then there is a part 2 to this exercise. Gather your teaching evaluations and sit down to really read them. If they bring up feelings, use your journal to process them! Then reflect and consider what lessons you can take from the feedback your students have given you. Not only will this help you improve your course for next time, it will help you define the things you do exceptionally well as an instructor as well as speak to your growth areas.

This journaling exercise will help you write a stronger statement of teaching philosophy. More than that, it will make you a better teacher!

Sarah Willey

January 2023

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