How to Write a Teaching Statement
Note for Fall 2019: TLC is holding two workshops for writing a Teaching Philosophy statement, Sept 16 6:30-8:30 pm and Sept 23 2:00-4:00 pm.
A teaching statement, also known as a statement of teaching philosophy, is a one- to two- page document that describes your pedagogical approach. A teaching statement should detail the underlying beliefs that inform the way you structure your courses and interact with students. When reading your statement, hiring committees will be looking to assess whether or not you can meet the teaching demands of the institution, if your teaching style aligns within the department, and how students will benefit from your instruction.
Even if you do not have teaching experience, you can still write a teaching statement by reflecting on your own experience as a learner. By considering the best (and worst) qualities of your own educators, you can draw conclusions about what you would emulate or work to improve. This article will provide concrete tips and prompts for writing an effective teaching statement.
Before you begin:
Do Your Research
Research the institution to which you’re applying. Find out as much as you can about their mission, class sizes, course offerings, curricular requirements, and values when it comes to teaching. Your statement should reflect the particularities of the school and its demographics. While there are parts of your teaching statement that may remain the same across applications, you may choose to include different examples depending on the requirements of the particular position. Read the job ad carefully for clues as to the types of classes you would be teaching or populations you would be working with and select examples that provide evidence of your expertise in those areas.
Plan Your Statement
Your teaching statement will have an introduction, several body paragraphs, and a conclusion. The information in these paragraphs will vary depending on your unique pedagogical approach.
In your introduction you may choose to briefly summarize your qualifications, values, and where your beliefs about teaching come from. Or you might reflect on your own experience as a learner and what you believe to be the role of an educator.
Body paragraphs should begin with strong topic sentences that highlight a strength of your teaching, a priority you have in the classroom, or a learning objective you accomplish particularly well.
Pay Attention to Language, Length, and Tone
Teaching statements should be written in the first-person and should never exceed two pages in length.
Avoid technical jargon, and be careful of tone. Your statement should demonstrate that you value teaching, but without using overly emotional or unimaginative language. While you should maintain a tone of humility (which shows you are reflective about your pedagogical practice), you also want to project confidence in your abilities. Rather than saying you “hope” to achieve certain goals in the classroom, provide examples that show how you have achieved those goals already.
Remember to stay positive. While you may find some teaching-related tasks, such as grading, less enjoyable or some students difficult to manage, your teaching statement should focus on what excites you about teaching and what you do particularly well.
Use Concrete Examples
Each claim you make about your teaching practice should be supported with evidence. Include examples of successful assignments, lessons, or activities that prove your effectiveness as an instructor. Be clear about the content and skills you teach and exactly how and why you teach them. When describing your values, explain how these play out in your classroom through the ways you interact with students. By reading your teaching statement, hiring committees should be able to imagine what a typical day in your classroom might look like, as well as have a strong sense of who you are as an educator.
Offer a Clear Conclusion
Your final paragraph should explain why you’d be well-suited for this particular institution and briefly recap your main strengths as an educator. It should also directly address any remaining criteria from the job ad.
Don’t Repeat Information from Other Job Documents
It may be tempting to list all the courses you’ve taught before, but this information is already covered in your CV. Use your teaching statement to push beyond this list and provide a more detailed description of what it’s like to actually be a part of these courses. Observation reports and student evaluations will also be part of your larger teaching portfolio, so they do not belong here.
Any job document you submit in an application doubles as a writing sample. Be attentive to detail and proofread for grammatical errors. If you can, have one or more of your peers look it over for you. They might identify mistakes you’ve missed or have suggestions about how to make your message clearer.
What makes you an effective instructor?
Where does your teaching technique come from?
Why do you teach the way you do?
What do you view as your role in the classroom?
How do you interact with students?
What do students gain from being in your class? What knowledge, skills, and perspectives do you hope they take away? How do you assess whether or not these learning objectives have been met?
How do you engage students in your subject matter?
How might you teach an introductory-level course differently than a more advanced one?
What are the challenges of teaching in your particular discipline and how have you overcome them?
What methods, strategies, pedagogies, and technologies do you use?
How do you organize time in your classroom?
Do you tend to gravitate towards a particular format (lecture, discussion, group work)?
Are there assignments or activities you have found work particularly well?
How do you work with students with various levels of prior knowledge and different learning styles?
How does your identity and those of your students influence your teaching?
How do you create an inclusive learning environment?
How does your research influence your teaching?
What ideas do you have for future courses?
What were your own most memorable classes as a student?
What makes them stand out?
Who were your favorite teachers or mentors?
What made them so effective?