What are some guidelines to consider when writing a teaching philosophy? 

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Writing a philosophy of teaching is a very personal endeavor, as it will reflect your views, thoughts, and goals about teaching. While every teacher can and should write--and continually update--a philosophy of teaching, the writing should be a personal reflection and motivation. If this is an assignment of some kind, you probably have a rubric or list of required elements; obviously those should be followed. In general, though, there are four primary issues to consider when developing your philosophy of teaching.

First, think about what you hope to achieve through your teaching. In other words, what are your objectives. This aspect of your paper concerns what you want to accomplish both with your subject matter and with your students. Some of this is probably determined for you by your educational institution or by the courses you teach, but it also includes such intangibles as the tone and atmosphere of the learning community you want to create and what values you hope to instill in your students.

Second, consider how you intend to get there, how you will meet those objectives. This is more about pedagogy and even style. You set your goals (above), and now you need to determine what it will take from you to achieve them.

Third, determine the methods you will use to measure your effectiveness (success). In other words, how do you determine if you have met your goals? Certainly this must include quantifiable data (grades, other achievement markers), but it should also include such "intangible" things as increased student participation or interest.

Finally, reflect upon why what you do is important, to you and to others. This is personal, as we are all motivated by different things. In general, this is the section which you can return to again and again to remind yourself about why you became a teacher and why it matters that you teach.

The process for writing this kind of paper is like any other: gather your ideas, organize them, write, edit, and rewrite. The most time-consuming and perhaps difficult aspect of this process are the first two steps, generating ideas and putting them in some kind of sensible order. Here are some specific questions (found on the utexas link attached below) to think about to get you started:

  • 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?

Consider organizing by the four parts I outlined for you above if you have no other guidelines from which to work. If that does not seem sensible for the ideas you have, group your ideas in a way that makes sense to you. (I might put each idea on a notecard and move them around visually until I found the right structure.) 

The good news for you is that you have probably already thought about all of these things; at the very least, you have lived them out in some way in your classroom. This writing is a chance to be more intentional about how you approach your classroom and your students every day. Best wishes!

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