Articulating Your Philosophy of Teaching
Varioius exercises to guide someone in thinking about, articulating, and writing a statement of teaching philosophy
Feeling like "I don't have a teaching philosophy -- where am I gonna get one?" ? Everyone acts with an operational teaching philosophy, whether it is explicit or not. For example, the grading policy as stated on a syllabus in a sense defines what you value as the outcome of the course. Think of restating that in a positive sense as the intended "product" of your teaching. Or consider someone who walked into your classroom, office, lab or studio and examined your interaction with students. This reveals your concept of the relationship between teacher and student and what goes on between them--whether it is the delivery of knowledge in a lecture format or honing of analysis skills in a discussion format. What is your role as a teacher, or what should a student expect of you as a teacher?
Lee Shulman and Pat Hutchings from AAHE invite you to diagnose your teaching philosophy and scholarly activity as reflected in your course syllabus. Another good exercise to get started is to identify an episode of good teaching (or learning) and analyze it fully to understand your standards for "good" teaching (a reasoned value judgment).
Identify one teaching experience that epitomizes what you regard as your best teaching. Explore why. You might also apply this analysis to one or your own most valuable learning experiences.
What might you notice or say about any of the following?:
- teacher-student relationship?
- standards of quality?
- student transformations?
- learning environment?
- attitudes, motivations or other emotions?
- long-term vs. short-term perspectives?
- implicit or explicit values?
How would you describe the ideal outcome of your teaching in terms of a student's behavior? What should the student know or be able to do?
Note: This exercise might also help you imagine forms of student evaluation or "authentic assessment" that reflect your true goals. Allow your methods to follow your goals.
For some teachers, the challenge of developing a statement of teaching philosophy is escaping the prevailing dialogue of teaching methods and how one teaches, and moving into discussion of values and goals. Here are some questions to initiate reflection:
What is a method of teaching you rely on frequently? Why don't you use another method? Imagine what would happen if you changed. What does this tell you about the outcome of your teaching?
What do you feel you need to change in how you teach? What difference will this make? Express this in terms of desired outcomes. Re-express this in terms of underlying values.
What makes you feel good about teaching? What gives you reward? What are the reasons behind the feelings?
- Claire Major (Univ. of Georgia)
- Recording Teaching Accomplishment: A Dalhousie Guide, pp.33-39.
- More in complete portfolios
Chism, Nancy Can Note. "Developing a Philosophy of Teaching Statement." Essays on Teaching Excellence: Towards the Best in the Academy 9.3 (1997-98).
Goodyear, Gail and Douglas Allchin. "Statements of Teaching Philosophy." Towards Improving the Academy [forthcoming, Fall 1998].
O'Neil. Carol and Alan Wright. 1997. "Reflective Statement on Teaching Philosophy, Practices and Goals." Pp. 33-39 in Recording Teaching Accomplishment: A Dalhousie Guide to the Teaching Dossier, 5th ed. Halifax, NS: Dalhousie University Office of Instructional Development and Technology.