This is the first in a new series of posts emerging from the Higher Education Academy (HEA) Fellowship program at Macquarie. HEA Fellowships recognise individual commitment to teaching, learning and the student experience through professional practice informed by research and reflection.
Chances are that at some point during your academic career you will be asked to share your teaching philosophy (TP). If you are applying for a HEA Fellowship, it’s a definite advantage to have one prepared, and if you’re applying for academic promotion you’ll certainly need one.
It’s also a great exercise for reflecting on your teaching practice, personal and professional growth, the values that underpin your actions, and an opportunity to gain renewed motivation and energy for teaching. The HEA Fellowship application is, at its foundation, an opportunity to articulate a developed teaching philosophy, and provide evidence on how you put this philosophy into your teaching and learning support practice. See more good reasons and examples of TPs here.
What is it?
A teaching philosophy is essentially a narrative that includes:
- your conception of teaching and learning
- a self-reflexive description of how you teach
- justification for why you teach that way
“What brings a teaching philosophy to life is the extent to which it creates a vivid portrait of a person who is intentional about teaching practice” (Chism, 1998)
How to write it?
A teaching philosophy is individualised, personal, reflective, narrative in nature, avoids jargon, and keeps on changing and evolving as you grow, gain experience, and develop your practice.
Chism (1998) suggests five components of a TP:
- Conceptualisations of learning: How do you think your students learn.
- Conceptualisations of teaching: What you think your role is in this process.
- Your goals for your students: What do you think your students should learn.
- How do you make it happen: This is the implementation of your teaching philosophy, this is where you provide evidence to show you do what you preach.
- Your action plan: Which also includes your professional development agenda.
How to develop it?
Caukin and Brinthaupt (2017) investigated which strategies help develop a teaching philosophy and found the following two yielded greatest success to the individual (there are benefits for the institutions and L&T program developers, too, but that’s another post):
Start with “I believe’
The ‘I believe’ statements include reasons why they believe something, e.g. based on theory, practice, peer or personal experience, and explain their actions based on their beliefs.
Task: write down 1-3 sentences of what you believe in regards to learning and teaching practice and then revisit in 6 or 12 months, for instance, or after teaching a new unit or program, or teaching at a different university.
Make it public
Sharing your TP with others serves as an accountability mechanism and presents a chance to gain feedback from your peers and students.
Task: If you dare, give your TP to your students at a start of a semester and ask students to observe throughout session if your actions match articulated beliefs, then reflect (individually and together with students) and adjust your TP or actions if necessary.
I would add a third point:
Talk about it
If all this seems to hard, too formal, too theoretical and you don’t know where to start – start with a conversation. Some of the best ideas are born when thoughts are shared with others. Talk to your colleagues who are writing their teaching philosophies, ask each other why you teach, why you care, what ideas and theories of learning and teaching underpin your everyday decision making, be it in what activity you chose to do in class, how you introduce a topic, or how you design your assessments.
For the advanced TP writers: take a look at this interactive theory map.
Which learning theories speak to you, which ones don’t? Why and why not?
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Share your tips for writing a teaching philosophy?
Thanks to Karina Luzia for her input.