Have you ever been asked about your teaching philosophy by a potential employer? Oftentimes, teachers are asked to include their teaching philosophy statement as part of their application or interviewing process.
If you haven’t defined your personal teaching philosophy, let’s break down how to develop and refine your statement — and why it’s so valuable to have one.
What is personal teaching philosophy?
A statement of teaching philosophy, or teaching statement, is a summation of your teaching strategies, beliefs, and practices, along with concrete examples of the ways those beliefs materialize in the learning environment, curriculum development, and more. It is developed over the course of an educator’s career and experiences, and it stays dynamic and “living” throughout their years in education. Whether you work in primary school or higher education, a personal teaching philosophy is applicable and valuable for all educators.
Put simply, your personal teaching philosophy is part of what makes you a unique and extraordinary educator. It is both your “why” and your “how.”
What are the elements of a personal teaching philosophy?
A taaching statement describes your concept of teaching and learning, your understanding of the learning process, your approach to facilitating successful learning, your goals for your students, how you set them, and how you measure success. It also describes your teaching methods and strategy, and your professional growth goals and aspirations.
Other common elements of a personal teaching philosophy statement include:
- Your definition of good teaching — along with an explanation of why you define it that way.
- In that same vein: how do you implement your version of good teaching? How do you measure your effectiveness as a teacher?
- Who have you taught? Who are your students? What have their unique goals and learning challenges taught you about teaching and learning?
- Your goals — what are your goals for improving your teaching?
What is an example of a teaching philosophy?
Your teaching philosophy statement should include an introduction, body, and a conclusion.
Introduction. What will your students take away from your class? How will your guidance impact them? Discuss your general belief about education as well as your ideals. For example, your introduction might read something like:
I believe that education is a right, not a privilege. Working in low-income districts has revealed many gaps and cracks (in the curricula, community resources, and more) that my students are more at risk of falling into. In order to prioritize inclusion and equity for my students, I believe in engaging in deeper listening, intentional reflection, and continuous growth. It is my role as an educator to support and motivate my students to live authentically and courageously, to accept others despite the differences between them, and to immerse themselves in learning more about the world they live in — despite the fact that the world does not always make accommodations for them.
Body. Describe the ideal classroom/learning environment. What makes it ideal? How do you bring it to fruition? Clearly state your goals and objectives for students.
The ideal learning environment is endlessly engaging and fun. My curricula always consist of hands-on, project-based learning. My classroom acts as a safe space for students to express themselves, even when they’re struggling. To ensure that this occurs, I commit to using only positive teaching rather than punishment and discipline, being emotionally available to my students and weaving in emotional intelligence into our lessons, and developing and packaging a curriculum that is considerate and representative of the diversity in the classroom and the community at large.
Conclusion. What are your goals as a teacher? What is your unique approach to reaching these goals? End strong. Tell them what makes you stand out as an educator.
My goal as an educator has always been the same: Do right by my students. However, how this materializes has evolved over the years. I make sure that my students understand that I am their teacher — not their friend — but that teachers can be mentors, guides, and trusted guardians. I foster relationships with each student so that I can better understand their needs and teach and support them accordingly. I promise to always take the time and effort to provide individual attention so that each and every student can thrive.
How to describe your teaching style
If you’re having trouble concretely defining your personal teaching philosophy, try asking some of these reflective questions for inspiration:
- Who of my teachers, professors, or mentors in education have inspired me? How?
- How do I approach situations in which a student is struggling or falling behind?
- To what standards do I hold myself and my students? How do I foster an inclusive classroom environment and address diverse learning needs?
- What would my students, colleagues, or employers say about me and my teaching style?
- What are my most successful (or memorable) teaching moments?
Why having a teaching philosophy statement is important
Your personal teaching philosophy is important for both you and your students, primarily because it guides your practices in the classroom in a very real way. For employers, it provides context as to your teaching style and serves as a concrete way to gauge whether or not you’re a good fit for their school or organization. But your teaching philosophy also shapes how you inject your identity into your teaching, how you put your values and beliefs into practice, and how you develop as a professional. It also allows for and encourages continuous reflection, which is arguably the most important element of teaching and learning.
Guidelines for writing your teaching philosophy statement
Although there are no hard-and-fast rules for formatting your statement of personal teaching philosophy, there are generally agreed-upon guidelines to making your statement have the most impact:
- Grab the reader’s attention from the start. It doesn’t have to be dry or stiff. Make it your own.
- Keep it brief and concise. For hiring purposes, teaching statements should typically be 1 to 2 double-sided pages in length. Include generous white space by ensuring your line spacing is 1.15 or higher. This will allow the reader to scan the statement with ease.
- Write your statement from the first-person point of view — this is about you, after all.
- Be authentic. Avoid using cliches about how passionate you are about teaching.
- Use concrete examples. Don’t just write about hypotheticals.
- Don’t summarize your résumé or CV. The contents of your teaching statement should not be found anywhere else in your application materials.
- Avoid using jargon and technical terms. It can be clunky in this context.
- Demonstrate your humility and willingness to learn from your students and colleagues to improve and adapt throughout your teaching career.
- Revise and iterate as necessary. Both teaching and writing are continuously evolving and reflective processes, so don’t feel like your teaching strategy and philosophy can’t evolve with you.
The process of developing a teaching philosophy is ongoing. Every teaching experience and interaction with students and colleagues can impact your teaching philosophy. The first version of your personal teaching philosophy statement may not ring true years down the road, but that’s okay. Think of it as a reminder of how you’re evolving in the ever-changing field of education. Good luck!