I read a lot of teaching philosophies as part of my consultation work at the Schreyer Institute. What makes a teaching philosophy good, in my opinion?
In no particular order, three tips:
1) Its formatting allows the reader to quickly skim it and still come away with a sense of the writer’s teaching persona. Hiring committees tend to be busy people, and we can’t count on them to read the whole document.
2) The philosophy includes some examples that help me see the teacher — and the students — at work in the classroom or outside it. As James M. Lang points out in a great Chronicle article about teaching philosophies, it’s easy enough to write the current buzzwords, but it’s more difficult to give evidence of something substantial. (Or as Susan Ambrose from CMU’s teaching center said in a workshop the other day, the term “active learning” should be banned. “Meaningful learning” is much more to the point, she said.)
3) The philosophy shows the students learning, and not just the teacher teaching. Both are important, but at the Schreyer Institute we caution people against putting all the emphasis on what the teacher is doing — because success hinges on what the students are producing. As Ambrose stressed in her talk, the student is the one responsible for learning.
I’d welcome your suggestions about what makes a good teaching philosophy.