Many academic positions require a statement of teaching philosophy as part of the application process. When you’re applying to a liberal arts, community, or other teaching-oriented college, your teaching statement will be a major factor in the selection process, and at many research universities the teaching statement is also a significant factor in the application.
A strong teaching statement shows that you value teaching and have thought carefully about your teaching methods and assessment strategies, what you want to accomplish in your courses, and the relationship between your research and your teaching. Since hiring committees cannot observe every candidate in the classroom, a teaching statement helps them imagine what it’s like to be a student in your class and better understand how you see yourself as an educator. Why do you make certain pedagogical decisions? How do you address the challenges of teaching within your discipline? How do you create an inclusive environment? And how does your teaching fit with the department and school’s methods of instruction?
As a CUNY Graduate Center student you likely have had significant teaching experience, which is something you can and should leverage in your job applications. And even if you haven’t taught a lot when you go on the job market, you still should have a teaching philosophy. You can begin to articulate your philosophy is by answering some or all of these questions:
- Why do you teach?
- What do you consider effective teaching and a successful class?
- What are your goals for student learning in your classes? Why are those your goals?
- What are your instructional methods? Why do you use those methods?
- What are your strategies for evaluation and assessment? Why do you use these strategies?
- How do your research and disciplinary context influence your teaching?
- What are your own and your students’ backgrounds/identities and how does that affect the teaching and learning in your classes?
- How do you create an inclusive environment in your classes?
- How do you use multiple pedagogical approaches?
- How do you create a student-centered, active learning environment?
- How do you feel your discipline contributes to the larger goals of general education?
- What are assignments or activities have worked particularly well in your classes? How did you measure their effectiveness?
- How have you used technology in your classroom to support student learning?
When answering these questions and drafting your teaching statement, provide specific examples and tailor your statement to the institution you’re applying to. You might describe an activity you have done with your students or explain how and why you assess in a certain way. You might speak about how your approach differs in introductory and more advanced courses, and how you find teaching your discipline at multiple levels rewarding. You might talk about your use of technology or place-based learning in your teaching, and how you would contribute expertise in these methods (or others) to the community of educators you’re seeking to join. If you have taught before, you might look back through previous syllabi or any student work you’ve saved for ideas and examples to highlight. Since theses are short documents, you might look for examples that demonstrate more than one component of your practice or priorities in the classroom.
In preparing your statements, research the department to which you’re applying so you can indicate which of their current courses you are prepared to teach. This information might work better in your cover letter, but you do want to make sure that your teaching statement reflects your willingness and capacity to teach the kinds of courses you’d be expected to teach at the institution.
Finally, while it’s important to show your commitment, don’t just repeat that you care. Instead, show how you translate that commitment into your classroom practice. In general, illustrations of your teaching philosophy in action will be more compelling than assertions about what that philosophy “is.” For instance, rather than simply saying, “all my classes are student-centered…,” you might write about a particular teaching strategy you’ve used (or would use) that reflects a student-centered approach.
Below are some do’s and don’ts of writing teaching statements:
- Keep your statement brief (1-2 pages); follow any instructions about length included in the job ad
- Make it a personal, reflective first-person narrative
- Make sure you discuss goals, methods, and assessment
- Give specific examples
- Ground your statement in your discipline
- Connect your teaching and research
- Remember it’s a writing sample (it should be well written and clear)
- Simply reiterate what’s on your CV
- Use jargon or abstract language (try to define terms like “critical thinking” within your disciplinary context)
- Be generic (tailor your statement to the institution and position you’re applying for)
- Talk about teaching as a burden or as less important than research (in your tone and language, convey an enthusiasm and commitment to teaching)
- Include quotations from teaching evaluations or secondary references
- Use clichéd or overly emotional language (avoid reiterating your “love” of teaching, for instance)
To help you draft your statement, you might draw on the following resources, some of which allow you to click-through to samples and rubrics.
- The University of Michigan’s CRTL’s “The Teaching Philosophy/Teaching Statement” gives a brief overview of what a teaching statement is and includes many links to other resources on writing the teaching statement.
- This rubric, a version of the University of Michigan’s CRTL’s rubric modified to fit and highlight your CUNY experience, can help you to evaluate your teaching statement.
- Ohio State University’s Center for the Advancement of Teaching’s “Writing a Philosophy of Teaching Statement” discusses the various uses of teaching statements (job application, portfolio, tenure) and includes sample statements from different disciplines.
- Vanderbilt’s Center for Teaching’s “Teaching Statements” includes some exercises to get you started generating ideas for your statement.
- This article from Science gives some suggestions for graduates in the sciences on how to tailor your statement to the institution and write a statement when you don’t have a lot of teaching experience.
- This article from The Chronicle of Higher Education discusses the relevance of the teaching statement in the application process.
- And here is a Google Document featuring additional model statements, compiled by GC TLC Fellow Avra Spector.