Teaching Philosophy- What is It?

One of the items that is required in an application package for a teaching position in higher education is a statement that outlines your philosophy of teaching. This is one of those documents that most people hate to write, for a variety of reasons. One may be that you  have hardly any teaching experience, and so haven’t really had the kind of time to really figure out who you are as a teacher. Another might be that you have lots of experience and have the teaching thing down, but just don’t want to articulate your thoughts about it in writing.

Regardless of your reasons, the Teaching Philosophy statement carries a lot of weight with search committees. It can provide clues as to the role that you play in the classroom (ex. dictator, collaborator, facilitator, etc.), how you treat students, what your course content might emphasize (ex. technical skills, concept-driven work, theory, etc.), and the value you place on teaching.

Vicki Daiello, Assistant Professor of Art Education at the University of Cincinnati, spends considerable time teaching her graduate students how to effectively compose a statement of teaching philosophy. Professor Daiello, who won the 2011 Award for Outstanding Teaching in the College of Design, Architecture, Art & Planning, has generously given me permission to share this brief summary on how to begin writing one:

Your Philosophy of Teaching
A Philosophy of Teaching essay is a statement of your ideas and beliefs about teaching
and learning art, and perhaps also about education in general. Most sources
recommend that you keep your teaching philosophy statement between one and two
pages in length, covering what you believe, why, and brief examples of how you
implement it in the classroom.
Often, people do not include every single aspect of their philosophy of teaching in such
statements but instead focus on its core elements, the ones that are most important to or
indicative of them as a teacher.
While philosophy of teaching statement is an important item to include in your teacher
portfolio, it also performs other important functions: It guides and informs you as you
prepare other teaching portfolio items; it helps you prepare for a job interview; and it can
help you ensure that you are consistent in the way you answer job interview questions.
Possible Teaching Philosophy Components
• theoretical underpinnings of your belief system and how your belief system affects
decisions such as materials selection, teaching strategies, and classroom
• a description of what you actually do in the classroom, why doing things that way
benefits your students, and how you know when teaching strategies are working
• teaching as a form of activism (how does teaching art mesh with your world
• content (what it is you’re teaching)
• meaningfulness (drawing on students’ ideas, interests and concerns)
• classroom dynamics and class atmosphere
• affective and emotional components of teaching and learning
• evaluation and assessment
• being flexible (working within the needs and constraints of the institution, the
students, and your beliefs as a teacher)
• collaborating with other teachers (sharing and developing ideas)

In my next post on this subject, I will share with you Professor Daiello’s thoughts on how to begin writing a statement of teaching philosophy.

This entry was posted in Applying for Jobs, Job Search Process, Teaching Philosophy and tagged , , by Jane Alden Stevens. Bookmark the permalink.

About Jane Alden Stevens

Jane Alden Stevens is a photographer and educator who is Professor Emeritus of Fine Arts at the University of Cincinnati. An active artist, Stevens has exhibited and published her work extensively both in the US and abroad. She is the author of “Tears of Stone: World War I Remembered” (2004). In the course of her teaching career, Stevens taught courses in film, photography, and professional practices for fine artists. Her interest in teaching practices was deepened when she started teaching the "Graduate Teaching Workshop", a required graduate level course for fine artists and art historians that prepares them to teach the courses they will later be assigned. She was also involved in the Preparing Future Faculty program at the University of Cincinnati, which prepares masters and doctoral students across all programs for teaching at the university level. She has conducted pedagogy workshops for a variety of universities, as well as participated in academic practicum panels at educational conferences. The recipient of numerous teaching awards, Stevens was honored with the all-university Cohen Award for Excellence in University Teaching at the University of Cincinnati in 2002 and Professor of the Year honors in her college in 2011.

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