Craft a Teaching Statement

Why Should I Write a Teaching Statement?

A teaching statement, or statement of teaching philosophy, is important to search committees and is often a required component of faculty applications. A teaching statement may also be used for applying for a teaching award or included in a dossier for tenure. Writing a teaching statement stimulates reflection, which improves your teaching by providing focus for your instructional strategies. This can help you articulate, prioritize, and synthesize your ideas about teaching and learning for job talks.

What Should I Include in My Teaching Statement?

A teaching statement will ideally address multiple facets of teaching, such as desired learning outcomes, instructional techniques, classroom climate, and assessment methods. It is customary to write the statement in first person, but depending on your audience, there may be room for creativity, including the use of metaphor to describe your teaching. Given the brief amount of time a search committee may have to look at your application, the statement should be a maximum of two-pages in length (single-spaced) and include an introductory paragraph, topic sentences that capture the main point of each paragraph, and a conclusion that ties the distinct facets of your statement together as a whole. Unless your statement is written explicitly for specialists, avoid technical terms. Refrain from using buzzwords, jargon, or vague statements like “I am passionate about students’ learning.”

To aid you in writing your teaching statement, below we provide brief descriptions of five different teaching and learning topics to consider addressing in your statement. It is not a strict requirement that the statement address all of these topics or be limited to them, but your statement should reflect the relative importance of these issues to your teaching.

Why is teaching important to you?
Explain the intrinsic value of teaching for you and your views on the importance of the specific knowledge, skills, or attitudes you seek to foster in your students.
What knowledge, skills, or attitudes do you seek to foster in your students?
Describe whether your learning outcomes are oriented toward content, thinking processes (e.g., the scientific method, problem-solving), communication skills, emotional or social skills, or other knowledge, skills, or attitudes.
What teaching strategies do you use to help students achieve learning outcomes?
An imbalance between philosophy and methodology is a common pitfall identified in teaching statements. Generate a list of the learning outcomes you expect for your students. Describe the instructional method(s) you employ to help students achieve each outcome, and explain the role of each technique in helping students achieve the desired outcome (e.g., In what way do your experimental lab activities help students develop problem-solving skills?).
How do you know whether students have achieved desired outcomes?
Another common pitfall in teaching statements is a lack of objective evidence of student learning and teaching effectiveness. Describe the types of assessments you use (e.g., minute papers, multiple choice tests, papers, etc.) and why you use these assessment methods. Ideally, your statement will illustrate how you enable students to demonstrate their knowledge in diverse ways, and how you use assessment to contribute to learning as well as improve your teaching.
What is the role of teaching in the context of career or lifelong goals?
Here, you may describe the role teaching plays in your professional growth and development, and how you want to grow as a teacher.

 

In addition to the five aspects listed above, take a step back and consider your statement from a holistic perspective.  Does your statement…

…tell a compelling story?
“What brings a teaching philosophy to life is the extent to which it creates a vivid portrait of how a person is intentional about teaching practices and committed to career” (Chism, 1998).  Include specific, exciting details and examples to paint a vivid picture of the learning environments that you create.
…incorporate disciplinary approaches to teaching?
Make sure to integrate your scholarship into your teaching statement.  What disciplinary knowledge, skills, and attitudes are important for your students to succeed?  How do you bring your research into the classroom? 
…articulate how you provide all students an equal opportunity for learning?
This includes your expectations for the teacher-student relationship as well as student-student interactions; how you create a safe, comfortable environment for students; and what actions you take to create connections between students. Provide an explanation of how you ensure active participation from diverse students.

 

References

Axelrod, R. B., & Cooper, C. R. (1993). Reading critically, writing well: A reader and guide (3rd ed.). New York: St. Martin’s.

Bruff, D.  (2007).  Valuing and evaluating teaching the mathematics faculty hiring process.  Notices Am Math Soc 54, 1315-1323.

Chism, N. V. N. (1998). Developing a philosophy of teaching statement. In Gillespie, K.H. (Ed.): Essays on Teaching Excellence 9 (3), 1-2. Professional and Organizational Development Network in Higher Education.

Goodyear, G. E. & Allchin, D. (1998). Statement of teaching philosophy. To Improve the Academy 17, 103-22. Stillwater, OK: New Forums Press.

Kaplan, M., O’Neal, C., Meizlish, D., Carillo, R. & Kardia, D.  (n.d.). Rubric for Statements of Teaching Philosophy.

Kearns, K. D. & Sullivan, C. S. (2011). Resources and practices to help graduate students and postdoctoral fellows write statements of teaching philosophy.  Advances in Physiology Education 35, 136-145. 

Landrum, R. E. & Clump, M. A. (2004). Departmental search committees and the evaluation of faculty applicants. Teaching of Psychology, 31(1), 12-17.

Meizlish, D. & Kaplan, M. (2008).  Valuing and evaluating teaching in academic hiring: A multidisciplinary, cross-institutional study.  J Higher Educ 79, 489-512.

Nilson, L. B. (2010). Teaching at its best: A research-based resource for college instructors. (3rd Ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey Boss