We recently held a workshop for graduate students and post-docs on preparing to write a teaching statement, or teaching philosophy. These statements are generally 1-2 page single-spaced narratives based in one's own experience in teaching; they are being requested for up to 75% of new faculty positions at research universities. In recent research from the U. of Michigan Center for Reasearch on Teaching & Learning, 356 of search committee chairs indicated a number of elements that make a successful statement (in order):
- They show evidence of practice;
- They are student-centered and attuned to differences in learning styles and abilities;
- They demonstrate reflectiveness about one's own role as a teacher
- They convey the value of teaching
- They are well-written, clear and jargon-free
In our workshop, participants began to develop core elements of their statements by writing their own learning goals for their students and by sharing strategies they use to enable students to reach those goals. Here are some questions to consider while drafting your own statement:
- What are the learning goals for my students? What kinds of specific intellectual work (research, reasoning, interpretation) from my discipline do I want to teach them to be able to do? Are there specific intellectual challenges or preconceptions about the course material that I can build on or have to unsettle?
- How do I believe students learn this course material best? Do students accumulate facts by memorization and understand arguments through repetition? How do my students work with these ideas by reasoning about them, making connections and integrating them into broader fields of knowledge?
- How do I organize class time to enable students to be actively involved in reaching those goals? What kinds of student interaction and written work are entailed? • How does the work I assign to be done out of class help students make progress toward those goals? • How do I know if students are making progress toward the learning goals? What evidence do I have of their learning in assessment and course evaluations? How do I provide feedback to students and offer individual meetings?
- How do I address the range of learning styles among students in my classes? How do I make the course engaging and interesting throughout the semester?
- How does my discipline and class contribute to my students’ liberal arts education? How do I help students understand the implications or significance of what they're learning in my classes?
- What have I learned about teaching in my discipline? What teaching formats have I not had the opportunity to practice (e.g. lecturing) and how would I undertake them? Are there styles of teaching activities that I would like to try out as my career advances?
We are holding a follow-up workshop on Nov. 5 in which we will look at sample statements and workshop drafts brought in by participants. Information is on our web site.