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.

Submitting to conferences: part 3 – Writing the abstract

Writing an abstract for a conference can be a fine art. The most important thing to consider, is that this is an abstract, not the paper itself, meaning that it is an idea of what will be communicated laid out as succinctly as possible. It is not an artist statement, it is not a theoretical text or graduate thesis, rather it is a statement that should be simple and direct: I am going to do X, Y and Z, here’s how and here’s why. Keep in mind that the review committee does not need to be impressed by your virtuoso writing abilities and lofty ideas, the panel needs to know WHAT you are going to talk about and why they should be interested. If it’s a well-attended conference, the reviewers will be looking at a lot of proposals and don’t have time to deconstruct your ideas. This is much more similar to writing a grant proposal than an artist statement in that you need to write your abstract with as much clarity as possible and with the assumption that the reviewers are intelligent, but not experts in your field.
• Pay attention to the word count – it is meant to be short and sweet.
• Explain only as much as you need to give the reviewers a good idea of what you will present. Start with an outline to help organize your ideas.
• Write with clarity for an intelligent reader unfamiliar with your field – do not make assumptions.
• Start with a positive and compelling statement. Even if your presentation will be critical, find a way of framing it positively.
• Panel abstracts should open with a general overview paragraph – what is the panel theme? And then use your subsequent space to explain what each participant will bring to the theme (space in bios can also be used to help elaborate on this).
• Your bio, if requested, should be tailored to your proposal – what experience do you have that supports what you will be discussing?
• Likewise your work samples, if relevant, should support your abstract. If you mention a particular artwork, provide a slide and note the number in the abstract.
• Consider that your ideas might shift and change during the time between acceptance and presentation. Typically you will be given another opportunity to present a refined abstract for publication in conference materials. Leave your abstract open enough that it allows for this growth.
• Don’t try to do everything, you won’t have time and your presentation will be much more successful if you expand from a tight proposal, rather than throw out every move you have (keep them hungry for more!).
• If you will be presenting your graduate thesis, write an abstract that is a simplified summation (think book jacket eloquence), not an excerpt.
• Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get accepted the first time. A conference is a lot like a group show: the organizers are trying to put together a group of presenters that will be unique, but complementary.

Submitting to conferences: part 2 – Organizing a panel

Organizing a panel for a conference is an excellent way to take your participation to a higher level, gain attention for your work and expand your networking alliances. Submitting for a conference is quite a bit like applying for shows, grants or jobs. You need to consider who your audience will be, do your research and be true to who you are. You’ll throw your hat into the ring, see what comes back and try again the following year if you don’t get accepted the first time. Just like with shows, just submitting gets your work or your interests in front of more eyes, which is always a good thing.

How to go about it:
• Read and research the criteria thoroughly. Usually all the information you need to get started is going to be available on the conference website.
• Any questions you have or clarifications you need, contact the conference organizers – it’s their job and they can give you the best advice.
• Get started early. If you would like to organize a panel, which is typically a group of individuals who will speak expertly on a topic, it’s not a bad idea to connect and network with peers during the current conference in anticipation of next year’s conference.
• Consider the conference theme – does it connect with your work or interests? Check with the specific conference, but it is not always necessary for your submission to connect with the theme, however it might give you an advantage.
• What kind of panel do you want to organize – educational, theoretical, work oriented?
• Keep the panel manageable. Four participants, with a maximum of 5, is a good guideline. You’ll be sharing time – find out in advance the maximum amount of time you can apply for, that will determine what your panel can support.
• Set up a calendar of deadlines – abstract, bios, images due.
• Skype is a fabulous tool – use it to chat about the preparations.
• One person should be the point person, responsible for organizing the group and making the submission.
• Don’t try to do everything! Keep it simple, direct, broad enough in theme to allow room for everyone, but simple enough to not demand the kitchen sink.
• Find a mentor who can help give you feedback on the process.