Writing a Teaching Statement
What is a teaching statement?
A teaching statement is a narrative that includes
- your conception of teaching and learning
- a description of how you teach
- justification for why you teach that way
The statement can
- demonstrate that you have been reflective and purposeful about your teaching
- communicate your goals as an instructor and your corresponding actions in the classroom
- provide an opportunity to point to and tie together the other sections of your portfolio
What is the purpose of developing a teaching statement?
You generally need it as you apply for an academic position, it also can be a component of the portfolio or dossier for promotion and tenure. Teaching statements may also be requested of candidates for teaching awards or grant applications.
General formatting suggestions
- There is no required content or set format. There is no right or wrong way to write a teaching statement, which is why it is so challenging for most people to write one. You may decide to write in prose, use famous quotes, create visuals, use a question/answer format, etc.
- It is generally 1-2 pages in length. For some purposes, an extended description is appropriate, but length should suit the context.
- Use present tense, in most cases. Writing in first-person is most common and is the easiest for your audience to read.
- Most statements avoid technical terms and favor language and concepts that can be broadly appreciated. A general rule is that the statement should be written with the audience in mind. It may be helpful to have someone from your field read your statement and give you some guidance on any discipline-specific jargon and issues to include or exclude.
- Include teaching strategies and methods to help people “see” you in the classroom. It is not possible in many cases for your reader to come to your class to actually watch you teach. By including very specific examples of teaching strategies, assignments, discussions, etc, you are able to let your reader take a mental “peek” into your classroom. Help them to visualize what you do in the classroom and the exchange between you and your students. For example, can your readers picture in their minds the learning environment you create for your students?
- Make it memorable and unique. If you are submitting this document as part of a job application, remember that your readers on the search committee are seeing many of these documents. What is going to set you apart? What about you are they going to remember? What brings a teaching philosophy to life is the extent to which it creates a vivid portrait of a person who is intentional about teaching practices and committed to his/her career.
- “Own” your philosophy.The use of declarative statements (such as “students don’t learn through lecture” or “the only way to teach is to use class discussion") could be potentially detrimental if you are submitting this document to a search committee. You do not want to appear as if you have all of the answers and you don’t want to offend your readers. By writing about your experiences and your beliefs, you “own” those statements and appear more open to new and different ideas about teaching. Even in your own experience, you make choices as to the best teaching methods for different courses and content: sometimes lecture is most appropriate; other times you may use service-learning.