We were fortunate to have Barbi Honeycutt, PhD, share her expertise on writing a teaching statements. This session was part of our ongoing Be a Professor series, returning in 2019.
When you’re on the academic job market, one challenge you face is figuring out what the heck hiring committees are looking for when they ask for a Teaching Statement, a Teaching Philosophy, or (more confusing!) a Statement of Teaching Philosophy. You may think these are the same documents, just by a different name, but that’s not (necessarily) correct.
So…What’s the difference?
When you write a teaching philosophy, you want to let the reader know who you are as a teacher. What do you value in the classroom, and what do you want to accomplish? This is a personal narrative, driven by your experience in the classroom. You can combine examples from your experience being a student and/or instructor in the classroom.
A teaching statement, on the other hand, focuses more on what you do in the classroom. If someone were to sit in your classroom, what would they see you do? You might choose to talk about the courses you’ve taught, assignments you’ve created, and how a specific philosophy has shaped your approach to teaching.
A Statement of Teaching Philosophy is a combination document, which brings in your philosophy while also providing concrete examples of your teaching in the classroom.
How do I write a teaching statement?
No matter which of the three documents you’re writing, remember that this is a personal document, and it should be written in the first-person (use I statements!) This is not a time to write a research paper, or to talk about “what makes a good teacher” in an abstract sense. Balance big picture ideas with examples from your own experiences. The document should tell hiring committees: This is who I am as a teacher.
And you only have one single-spaced page to do say it all!! Do not be alarmed: this document will require lots of editing and rewriting.
What if I don’t have a ton of teaching experience?
If this is the case, what should you include in this document? We’ve all been students in the classroom. Talk about the professors you’ve taught for, and how you’d emulate that teaching. Expand what it means to teach. Teaching includes facilitating small group discussions, or training sessions, approaches to grading, and office hours. How do you explain and answer questions, or how you mentor students one on one? All of these activities and pedagogical strategies can be included in your teaching documents.
When you get to the interview stage, hiring committees will ask you to expand on the statement that you’ve written, or they may ask for a quick summary of your teaching statement. As you write and prepare your teaching documents, it is a good idea to practice talking about your teaching philosophy or statement.
Am I missing anything else?
One last tip from Barbi (who also included a rubric and example of how to draft teaching documents): Put your name on all of the pieces of all of your job application documents. This prevents things from floating around and getting lost!
Barbi’s entire webinar is available for free for community members, as part of our Academic Job Search Strategies Course.
Learn more about Barbi Honeycutt, PhD
Barbi has an extensive background helping university faculty and graduate students become more effective teachers. She is a teaching and learning consultant for educators and entrepreneurs at FLIP It Consulting, which she founded in 2011.