Teaching Philosophy- Assessment Rubric

By the time you are ready to assess your statement of teaching philosophy, you should have already measured it against the questions listed in my prior post “Teaching Philosphy- How Strong is It?”. It is assumed that it has gone through numerous revisions in order to make it as strong as possible.

Now is the time to assess the statement using the following rubric, which was adapted by Vicki Daiello, Assistant Professor of Art Education at the University of Cincinnati, from an original devised by the Center for Teaching and Learning at the University of MInnesota.

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Teaching Philosophy- How Strong is It?

You’ve made a stab at writing your statement of teaching philosophy for your job application, but have no idea of how effective it is. Now is the time to start asking yourself questions that can help you begin to evaluate what you have written.

Vicki Daiello,Professor of Art Education at the University of Cincinnati, has adapted a series of questions originally developed by the Center for Teaching and Learning at the University of Minnesota that will help you to do this, and I am reproducing them here with her permission:

Evaluating the Teaching Philosophy: Questions to Consider
Purpose & Audience
Is there a clear focus or theme(s)?
Are the language and tone appropriate for the intended audience without
relying on trite phrases, clichés, or lofty jargon?
Would it hold a reader’s attention?
Writer’s Voice
Is it “authentic” – do you have an idea of who this person is as a teacher (or
who they aspire to be)?
Does the teacher reveal self and personal/political/pedagogical
Is enthusiasm for teaching evident?
Does it sound as though the teacher cares about the beliefs expressed and
the arguments being made?
Would you like to take a course taught by this teacher?
Beliefs/Arguments/Claims & Illustrative Support
Does it convey what the teacher believes in a way that is engaging, specific,
and easy to understand?
Does it express why these beliefs are held?
Does it tell how these beliefs came to be held?
Does it communicate the teacher’s goals for and expectations of learners?
Discipline-Specific Knowledge
Are the beliefs/arguments/claims grounded in the teacher’s discipline?
Does the organization/structure support the arguments/claims being made?
Are the beliefs/arguments/claims backed up by evidence, examples,
anecdotes, etc.?
Are there specific examples of strategies, methods, or theories used to achieve
teaching and learning goals and to help students meet or exceed
Are headings, transitions, and paragraph design appropriate to the content?
Are length and thematic structure appropriate to the content?
Are there any distracting grammatical, typographical, or spelling errors?

Next up: A checklist that can also help you assess the quality of your statement of teaching philosophy.

Teaching Philosophy- How to Begin?

You know that you need to write a statement of teaching philosophy as part of your job application, but how in the world do you go about writing one? Or, if you’ve already written one, how can you make it stronger?

Vicki Daiello, Assistant Professor of Art Education at the University of Cincinnati, has these recommendations:

How to begin?
Especially if you’ve never done one before, perhaps the hardest thing about writing a
philosophy of teaching statement is figuring out how to begin. I recommend looking at a
number of sample teaching philosophy statements and then brainstorming or free-writing
in response to one of these prompts:
What is important to you in your teaching? Or,
Being an art educator means . . . ?
Also, it helps to produce a list of words or ideas – I encourage you to create your own list,
marking or highlighting the items that are most important to you and trying to think of
examples of ways in which these ideas are implemented in your classroom teaching. As
you brainstorm, try responding to some of the following questions:
• Think of an activity that you believe is a good example of successful
teaching and a good reflection of you as the kind of teacher you want to
be. What was it about the activity, and the way you implemented it, that
made it so?
• How do you establish rapport in your classes?
• Think of an activity that bombed in the classroom. Why do you think it
didn’t work? How would you change it and/or the way you presented it?
• How do you go about motivating students?
• How do you feel about assessment and grading?
• What do you think are important attributes of successful art students?
• What do you think makes an excellent teacher (in general)? an excellent
art teacher?
• How do you feel teachers can get better at what they do?
• What do you think is the most important issue in art education today?
• As an art teacher, what are some of your main concerns? What can you
do (or what can be done) about them?
• How do you think people learn art (successfully)? How does instruction
help? How can materials help?
• If I were to ask your students about your teaching, what would they say? (if
you were one of your students, what would you say about your teaching?)
• If I were to ask your supervisor about your teaching, what would they say?
(if you were your supervisor, what would you say about your teaching?)
Philosophy in motion. . .
Keep in mind, your philosophy of teaching statement will undergo changes and
refinements over time. Since you are changing and growing as an art educator, it is only
natural that your philosophy of teaching will grow and change along with you. Also, you should expect to adapt your philosophy of teaching statement to meet varying needs of
particular audiences. For example, the philosophy of teaching statement you present in
an employment application may differ in length and/or content from the philosophy of
teaching statement you include on your website.

Next up, how to evaluate the statement you have written.

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.

Cover Letters: Salutations

Yesterday I was asked by a graduate student about whom to address a cover letter to when a job listing has no specific person given as the recipient. Here is some practical advice that can help answer that question.

First, if no one’s name is listed, you can always call the secretary of the department to find out who the chair of the search committee is. However, it can be the case that the membership of the search committee has not been solidified at the time the job posting goes out, so you may not be able to get a name even if you try.

If a person’s name is listed: If you know that the person is a PhD, then use “Dear Dr. XXXXXXX,”. If you don’t know or if you are in doubt about it, use “Dear Professor XXXXXXX,”. A comma after the name is appropriate.

If a person’s name is not listed: Use “To the Search Committee:” or “To the Committee:”. A colon after the word “committee” is appropriate in this case.

The Job Search Cover Letter

When job searching, cover letters are an important part of the process. Potential employers want to see that you are looking at their position individually and responding to their needs. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel each time, but rather than sending out generic letters, get used to fine-tuning your application letters to each specific institution. In today’s age of extreme web-access, there is no reason that applicants can’t familiarize themselves with the schools to which they are applying.
• Read the job listing thoroughly and make sure that you respond to each point on their list of qualifications.
• Remember that the HR department is the first hurdle you must overcome. HR will rank and score your letter in relation to how you fulfill their requested qualifications, not who you are and how well you write.
• If you lack a qualification, express interest to learn, or connect it with some other skill that you have.
• Address the qualifications, but be brief. Outline the details of your experience on your CV.
• Briefly state why you would make a good fit for their school, demonstrating that you are familiar with the unique qualities of their program.
• Use brief personal and specific anecdotes that highlight a familiarity with their program. For instance, if qualifications mention mentoring students, mention what you have done to accomplish this in your past, or if new to the market, how you were successfully mentored.
• Write succinctly to tell the search committee who you are, without trying to impress – in other words, be yourself.
• Be mindful of the schools to which you are applying. Sitting on a search committee last year, I called up a candidate for a potential interview and took her completely by surprise as she did not appear to remember having applied to the position at my school. Additionally, she was out and about and not with her application materials, however she insisted on continuing the conversation. It would have been better if she had asked to reschedule the conversation and speak with me when she was better prepared. As a result, she did not get an interview.
• Choose to apply to the jobs you are best suited for, not every job that is available. See “Types of Academic Institutions” and “Which jobs do I apply for?” posts on this blog for additional information.

Types of Academic Institutions

Not all jobs are created equal. Finding the right job involves doing a little research and being honest with yourself. Applying to every job posted is tempting and yes, we have all done it, but being realistic with your goals and expectations can help you get to the right job more quickly. With an earlier post I discussed some ways to evaluate your expectations. Below I would like to generally discuss different types of academic institutions and offer some pros and cons. As you think about these positions, remember that the institution that hires you has a vested interest in your success.

  • Research 1 institutions: typically this will be a top tier university that also has a graduate program. These schools will have the greatest amount of money to give to faculty for research projects, and they will expect the greatest amount of research. Look at their faculty list before you jump. Pros: if you are ambitious, able to prioritize your work, good at saying no to things that get in the way, and great at advocating for your work, this could be a great place for you, but it may take several years and less ideal positions to get there. Forging connections, showing regularly (nationally and internationally) and creating ambitious projects that are innovative and grant funded are excellent ways to attain one of these positions. Cons: if you really love teaching, you will not be as rewarded for it as at other types of institutions. You will most likely be paying your dues when you start out, sometimes filling in for absentee art star colleagues proving challenging for your own career. If you don’t handle pressure well, or are less ambitious, you might be unhappy in this position. The university might have a difficult time understanding art research proposals.
  • Research 2 or state college systems: Satellite campuses of university systems will still have a good amount of money for research and high expectations. Typically these may be in smaller communities and further away from top art centers. Pros: research money, stable, often easier position to attain than research 1 with less competition, often put a greater emphasis on teaching. Cons: workload may be higher at these institutions, expecting a higher level of service and teaching, pay will typically be lower than tier one.
  • Art Schools: there is a great range of art schools (some might be a dedicated college within a university system). They tend to be more multi-disciplinary, although some might be dedicated to one discipline. Pros: these institutions understand art research, generally smaller class size, student demographic will be art focused, high esteem in field. Cons: pay and money for research tends to be less at dedicated art schools. Research the pedagogical focus of the institution you are considering.
  • Colleges: Colleges without graduate programs tend to be more oriented towards teaching. They are more likely to reward individuals dedicated to the classroom, but are still looking for faculty with strong research and solid exhibition records. Pros: generally lower expectations and less pressure, greater emphasis on teaching, compensation tends to be lower at entry level, student demographics may be very art dedicated with smaller, closer knit classes. Cons: generally less money for research, art department might have to fight for limited resources in a smaller school, tenure committee may be filled with non-art faculty. Pro or con could be smaller faculty – you are more likely to be the only instructor in your field.
  • Community Colleges or Technical schools: Generally community colleges place a greater emphasis on classroom practice than they do research. They might perceive an imbalance if all your research is art practice focused and will expect your sabbatical or research to have a teaching aspect. CCs will vary tremendously from those with fine art programs to those that teach from a technical or vocational perspective. Research course structure (5, 4 or 3 classes a semester?) and pedagogical focus. Student demographic will vary considerably based on the location of the school, as will compensation. There will generally be a heavy emphasis on assessment. Pros: heavy teaching focus, less stress in art practice, offers very good opportunities in major cities. Cons: little or no money for research, but possibly good support for pedagogical research and faculty development.
  • Proprietary Educational Institutions: for profit schools have been a growing trend in recent years and have been under intense scrutiny by the government. Programs vary greatly and it is best to research the specific institution of interest. PEIs tend to be organized under a corporate model, so they are looking at numbers/data to justify expenditures. Programs are teaching focused, so faculty will be primarily evaluated on classroom/coursework contributions rather than research. Course load and contact hours may be intense, so teaching may suffer. Compensation tends to be lower vs workload. Many of these institutions are alternatives in major cities — if you need to be where the art is, they can provide a way to stay in touch with the art community of your choice.