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10 tips for crafting a teaching philosophy

Posted on: October 3, 2016

A few progressive institutes of higher learning have started requiring future teachers and faculty to write teaching philosophies. I have been part of two of these institutes.

These statements might be part of a future instructor’s assignment or e-portfolio, or an existing one’s documentation for appraisal.

I have read and evaluated too many to count. Here are ten tips for crafting (not just writing) an initial teaching philosophy.

  1. A teaching philosophy is a statement of intent. Answer two key questions: HOW do you intend to teach and WHY?
  2. Start with a clear premise. Concisely state a teaching and learning problem in your discipline, then suggest one or more solutions.
  3. Write simply and directly to communicate clearly. There is no need to use high-sounding lingo to try to impress, but do not write the way you speak either. Write concisely. If your sentences go beyond three lines across a portrait page, you are likely to confuse the reader.
  4. Chunk logically with one idea per paragraph. Example of poor chunking: Theory1, T2, T3 followed by Practice 1, P2, P3. Better chunking: T1 P1 in one paragraph, T2 P2 in another paragraph. Start with a theme or topic sentence for each paragraph, elaborate on it, and provide an example.
  5. Cite the work of others judiciously. We stand on the shoulders of others before us and it is important to cite such critical and reflective practice. Use a referencing style, e.g., APA, properly and consistently.
  6. Take ownership of the approaches. Do not simply attribute sources without elaborating on how it applies to you. This is YOUR teaching philosophy, so explain how you make the approaches yours.
  7. Cite current work. If you quote a strategy from the 80s or 90s, you are not leveraging on what is current, e.g., Internet resources, mobile mindsets.
  8. Do not forget the basics. Proofread for spelling and grammar errors as well as fact-check by taking advantage of the affordances of modern writing tools.
  9. Walk away and return to it. A teaching philosophy should not be written in one sitting. Leave a draft to “stew” then come back to it with fresh eyes. You might catch misrepresented ideas or unintended tones this way.
  10. A teaching philosophy is a living document. It is something that should change over a career. It should also change should the teaching not be effective or relevant. If it does not, you are not likely to be an effective  instructor.

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