Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Crafting a Statement of Teaching Philosophy

Contributed by: Marisella Rodriguez and Stacy Wittstock

Writing a statement of teaching philosophy is a difficult, yet manageable, task. The difficulty largely lies in one question; do I even have a teaching philosophy? Even if the answer is a resounding yes, how do I communicate my entire philosophy in less than two pages? Despite these barriers, Montell (2003) offers several tips to completing this (oftentimes) necessary component of a job packet. In this week’s GTC meeting, we discussed three main points from Montell (2003) and outlined a statement of teaching philosophy as a group.

The first tip Montell (2003) provides readers with is how to get started. Montell suggests avoiding the big “what” question (what is my philosophy?!) and starting with smaller, more feasible questions, such as, what do you believe about teaching and learning? For further reflection, consider your experience as a student: what worked or did not work for your learning? Working with the components of your teaching philosophy will help you effectively communicate your experiences in the classroom.

The second tip we discussed in last week’s meeting is to research the institution beforehand. Montell (2003) encourages applicants to research the institution’s mission statement and community values in order to highlight specific teaching skills that are particularly valuable to your audience. For example, an applicant may want to highlight lesson plans or activities implementing universal design for learning if the institution prioritizes classroom inclusivity. Therefore “if you’re applying to various types of institutions – evangelical colleges, community colleges, liberal-arts colleges, and state universities – you may need to write several different statements” (Montell 2003, 3).

The last tip we discussed, offered by Cynthia Petrites at the University of Chicago, is to “present a picture of yourself in the classroom” (Montell 2003, 6). This piece of advice, we concluded at the meeting, is perhaps the most difficult to achieve because it demands specific examples of our experience in the classroom. Moreover, the experience must include a clear description of our behavior as well as the students’ behavior. Montell (2003) repeatedly reminds the reader that teaching is about the students; therefore our statements must also include descriptions regarding student development and student responses to our work in the classroom.

To encourage the GTC group to think about our own statements, we completed a statement of teaching philosophy worksheet as a group (see image below). The worksheet disaggregates the statement to five elements: overarching theme, classroom objectives, classroom activities, examples of assessments, and personal growth. The activity helped us reflect on how we implement our classroom values, as well as consider specific instances in our teaching careers of when we were successful (or unsuccessful) in meeting our classroom objectives.


References:

Montell, Gabriela. 2003. “How to Write a Statement of Teaching Philosophy.” The Chronicle of Higher Education. 1-8.

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