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Celebrating the Life

Many instructors have never thought introspectively about learning and teaching. Developing a teaching philosophy will help reveal your personal approaches, priorities and objectives. Putting your philosophy in writing will help you reflect upon your style and will provide a foundation for setting and achieving your future teaching goals. This statement should be a work in progress - revisited, reviewed and revised periodically to facilitate personal growth and adapt to your evolving beliefs and ideas about teaching.

Components

Although your teaching philosophy can be written in any form or style, it should include some basic elements. Begin with a statement about how you feel people learn most effectively. Next, discuss the approaches you take to help students learn the material and skills that you want to impart. Conclude with goals toward which you are working.
The following are some questions to consider as you write your philosophy:

  • How does learning take place?
  • What are elements of effective learning environments?
  • How should teaching be conducted to facilitate and maximize the learning process?
  • What is the student's role in this process?
  • What is the role of the instructor?
  • What are your main objectives as an instructor?
  • What methods do you use in the classroom to achieve your teaching objectives?
  • What do you want to be the outcome of your teaching?
  • How do you measure your success in teaching a class?
  • What are your long-term goals as an instructor?
  • How do you set your goals?
  • Why is teaching important to you?
  • What values do you want to impart to your students?

As you begin writing your teaching philosophy, you might simply list all the ideas that come to mind. As you solidify your thoughts, you can pare down what you have written for the final product. A teaching philosophy statement is generally one or two pages long. Remember that it is a personal statement - it is about your personal experiences and insights, not theories and beliefs in general. Use your intuition and reflect on personal experience. Consider reading some basic educational theory texts to help you organize and express your ideas. It is helpful to share your draft with colleagues and ask for feedback. They can often help you clarify the ideas you may have difficulty expressing. When you have completed it, your philosophy statement will help you reflect on who you are as an instructor. Referring to it regularly will allow you to keep your energies focused on why you became an instructor, and what long-term goals you are working to achieve.

See a Sample Teaching Philosophy.

Exercise

Write your own teaching philosophy. Think about how you have observed students in your classes, their learning processes, and when you feel most satisfied as an instructor. Share your teaching philosophy with at least one colleague with whom you feel comfortable. After a year, revisit it. As your experience grows and reflections deepen, update and fine-tune it. Keep previous copies as a record of your evolution as a teacher.