Write your teaching statement, with a little help from a friend

Teaching philosophy statements are challenging to write, whether you are writing one for the first time or revising one you wrote years ago. This blog post is designed to help you start writing or revising your statement.

Part of what makes a philosophy statement challenging to write is that they are  diverse in style and form, depending on the author’s context. I suggest you start with the assumption that your statement need not look like others, although you can learn from them, and they can play an important role in the “recipe” I propose here to get over any writer’s block you might be facing.

The recipe starts by reviewing examples of teaching philosophy statements posted online by UCalgary here: https://taylorinstitute.ucalgary.ca/resources/sample-teaching-philosophy-statements

  1. Choose two examples, keeping in mind these statements were written for specific purposes (teaching awards, promotion, or other), and might be longer or more detailed than what you need to write. If you are writing a statement for hiring, you might write only a page or two. If you are writing for a tenure application or higher-level teaching award, you might include a longer statement.
  2. As you review your examples, consider how you would answer each of the following questions:
    1. What specific strategies and their impact described?)
    2. How clearly can you identify this teacher’s top two or three beliefs and/or values about learning and teaching?
    3. What formatting strategies and styles helped you identify beliefs and values in this statement? (For example, headings, bolded text, etc.)
    4. Who is this person as a teacher? (Can you read an authentic and reflective voice in the statement?)

Take five minutes to write down your insights after reviewing these examples, considering what you learned that you will apply to your own statement as well as what you might avoid doing. Then, move on to the next step with a friend, or on your own.

  1. Engage in a values interview either on your own as a reflective activity, or with a peer. If you are completing the interview with a peer, ask each question and take notes as each peer responds, then summarize your notes and hand them over to your peer as a way to help them get started. The idea here is simply that it’s easier to write about someone else than about ourselves. You should budget at least 15 minutes for each person, and another 5 minutes each for the summary, meaning 40 minutes for this activity with a peer.
  2. Values interview questions:
    1. What is a quote about teaching that inspires you?
    2. What are two – four values and beliefs you hold about learning?
    3. What actions (strategies) do you take in teaching that align with those values and beliefs?
    4. In what ways do you seek to develop as a teacher and why?

By now, you may have a clearer idea of what other philosophy statements look like, as well as written notes about your beliefs, values, and actions in teaching. Your next step is to write or revise your teaching philosophy statement!

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