What this handout is about
This handout will help you write a teaching statement, a 1-4 page document that describes your teaching experiences and pedagogical approaches.The first time you write a teaching statement is often in the context of an application for an academic job or teaching position.
What is a teaching statement?
A teaching statement, or statement of teaching philosophy, highlights academic job candidates’ teaching qualifications, explains their pedagogical approaches, and demonstrates how they will contribute to the teaching culture of prospective institutions.
Because hiring committees for academic jobs cannot observe the teaching of every applicant, they rely on other means of evaluating a candidate’s teaching. These alternatives may include a teaching demonstration during a campus visit; a teaching portfolio consisting of student evaluations, sample syllabi, etc; and/or a teaching statement. By illustrating a candidate’s teaching experiences and philosophy with concrete examples, a teaching statement helps the hiring committee imagine what it would be like inside the candidate’s classroom.
Teaching statements will vary from candidate to candidate (and one candidate’s teaching statements may vary from application to application). The sections below offer guidelines to help you prepare, write, and revise your own teaching statement.
Preparing to write a teaching statement
An effective teaching statement involves both reflection and research. Thinking about your teaching and your goals can be helpful before you begin writing or revising your teaching statement. This process can also prepare you for interview questions that address teaching, should your application lead to an interview.
Before you begin writing your teaching statement, it can be useful to think more generally about your teaching philosophy. Once you’ve brainstormed some ideas, you can then focus on how to clearly and succinctly communicate those thoughts in a teaching statement. For some general brainstorming strategies, you can consult our Brainstorming handout; the following questions will help you brainstorm more specifically about your teaching philosophy:
- What goals do you set for students in your courses?
- How do you enact those goals?
- How do you evaluate how well those goals are being met?
- What is your plan for developing your teaching? What other aspects of pedagogy would you like to develop in your practice?
- What can a student expect to experience in your class?
- What is the relationship between your teaching and research?
- What are the unique challenges or opportunities to teaching in your field?
- What is your favorite aspect of teaching? Why?
- What is your favorite course to teach? Why?
- How do you effectively teach students with diverse identities and backgrounds?
- How do your beliefs about student learning affect your instructional choices?
Looking at sample teaching statements can give you a better sense of the genre and can help you determine what elements you would like to include in your own teaching statement. Students in your program, recent graduates, and professors may be willing to share models, and many examples are also available online through libraries and faculty resource centers.
As you look at sample teaching statements, think about what you do or do not like about each statement. The following questions can help you determine how you might construct your own statement.
- What is the most memorable part of the teaching statement? Why?
- How is the teaching statement organized (e.g. thematically, chronologically)?
- How easily are you able to follow the structure of the statement?
- What is the writing style of the teaching statement (e.g. formal, conversational)?
- What impression of the writer does the writing style convey?
- What image of the writer are you left with after reading the entire statement?
- How well can you imagine yourself as a student in the writer’s class?
Researching the institution
Different institutions will have different teaching cultures and, therefore, will value different types of teaching statements. For example, a research university and a community college may have different approaches to teaching, so the same teaching statement is unlikely to appeal to both institutions. Instead, you should try to tailor your teaching statement to each individual institution (and department) to which you are applying.
As a first step, you can explore the institution and department websites to learn how much emphasis they place on teaching. You might also research the department faculty, their areas of expertise, and the courses they have recently taught. By learning about your audience, their teaching expectations, and their values, you can tailor your teaching statement to demonstrate how well you will fit into the department’s teaching culture.
You might also think about the department’s needs by considering current offerings and what they can tell you about the priorities and values of the department. Without making assumptions, you can ask yourself:
- How do the department’s offerings compare with common or standard course offerings in the field? How do they compare with courses you have taken or taught?
- How does your current research relate to the department’s course offerings?
- Which courses would you be prepared to teach?
- What future courses might you envision creating for the department?
- Does the department offer any special courses, seminars, or initiatives relevant to your research or teaching experience?
Although a targeted teaching statement is important at any point in the application process, the timing of the hiring committee’s request can also inform you about how targeted the statement should be. For example, if the committee requests a teaching statement after they have already reviewed your initial materials, then you should be even more purposeful in demonstrating how you will fit into their specific teaching culture and how you can contribute to their department’s teaching needs.
Drafting a teaching statement
Because teaching statements are variable in design and structure, you will have many choices to make during the drafting process. Here are some common decision points, considerations, and challenges to keep in mind while writing your teaching statement.
Teaching statements do not have one set organizational structure. Instead, you can employ different organizational strategies to emphasize different aspects of your teaching. Here are a few examples that you could consider:
Think of your teaching history as a narrative (past, present, future). How have your previous experiences informed your current practices? How might those practices transform within different contexts in the future? This narrative strategy allows you to build upon past experiences to point towards future development.
Structure your statement around your teaching goals, methods, and assessment. How do your goals inform your methods, and how do you assess the extent to which those goals have been reached? This process-oriented strategy can help you highlight connections between goals and outcomes and show how those connections inform your practice.
Identify themes, concepts, ways of thinking, or learning strategies that are prevalent in your teaching. How do these elements help students learn? This approach can characterize what’s distinctive about your teaching and how it serves students.
Be specific and concrete
Including specific details and explanations in your teaching statement will help the audience picture what it’s like to be in your classroom. Rather than simply mentioning a particular innovation or strategy, include examples of how it has helped students in practice.
Explain terms that could be open to interpretation by your reader. For example, if you mention the importance of critical thinking in your teaching statement, explain what that means to you as an instructor.
Use concrete examples from your teaching and classroom experiences to illustrate how your teaching philosophy informs your practice. How does your philosophy shape your students’ experiences in the classroom?
While some applications will also require a diversity statement, the teaching statement is your opportunity to express how you consider diversity and foster inclusivity in the classroom through specific examples. Incorporating inclusivity throughout your teaching statement demonstrates that it is an integral part of your philosophy and practice rather than just a required element tacked on at the end. Here are some questions to help you reflect on how you might incorporate inclusivity in your teaching:
- How does your course material reflect contributions from diverse perspectives?
- How do you encourage collaboration among all students?
- How do you help students from diverse backgrounds feel welcome and safe in your classroom?
- How do you cultivate an inclusive learning environment that encourages students to think about the effects of racial, cultural, gender, socioeconomic, and other differences?
- How do you make your instruction accessible to students with physical disabilities and learning differences?
How do I keep my teaching statement both professional and personal?
As with most writing, knowledge of your intended audience can help guide choices around style. You can use the information you gleaned from researching the institution to develop a sense of their values and level of formality. You might also consider models, especially those from applicants at comparable career stages or applying to comparable institutions, and assess the type of language and tone used.
Especially if you are writing a statement as part of an application, your teaching statement should be unique to you. See our handout on Application Essays for more general advice on writing in application contexts.
What if I’m not an experienced teacher?
Although having extensive teaching experience may help you to draw examples for your teaching statement, prior teaching experience is not required to write a quality teaching statement. In some fields, opportunities to teach are few and far between; committees will be understanding of this, especially at institutions where research is prioritized. Regardless of whether you have much teaching experience, be sure to frame yourself as a teacher rather than a student.
Here are some strategies to help you draft a teaching statement, even if you aren’t an experienced teacher:
- If you haven’t taught your own courses, draw upon experiences when you served as a teaching assistant for another instructor.
- If you don’t have any experience teaching in a classroom, think of other transferable experiences like tutoring, coaching, or mentoring that illustrate what you would be like as a teacher.
- If you have time, seek out teaching-related opportunities, such as giving guest lectures or mentoring junior colleagues.
- If you really have no teaching experience, imagine and describe what you will be like as a teacher, propose courses that you could teach, and provide concrete techniques that you will employ in the classroom.
How do I unify diverse teaching experiences?
Having extensive teaching experience may seem like the optimal situation for writing a teaching statement, but teaching experiences that span a broad range of courses or positions may feel disjointed or difficult to connect in a single teaching statement. In these cases, remember that you can use the diversity of your experiences to highlight your strengths and the approaches that you implement in the classroom. Here are some strategies that can help you identify commonalities across your disparate teaching experiences and construct a cohesive narrative:
- Use a strategy like webbing to help you draw connections between the ideas, theories, and/or practices from your various teaching experiences. For more information about this strategy, see our Webbing video.
- Highlight the flexibility of your teaching and explain how your unique combination of skills can contribute to your success in different teaching contexts.
- Focus your teaching statement on the skills and experiences that are most transferable to your targeted position.
Remember that you don’t need to include every teaching experience in your teaching statement. Your CV will cover all of the courses that you have taught, so your teaching statement can be an opportunity to focus on specific experiences in more detail.
Revising a teaching statement
An effective teaching statement is often the product of a series of revisions. Once you have written a draft, the strategies below can help you look for opportunities to strengthen your statement for specific application contexts and audiences.
Review your application holistically
Consider how your teaching statement fits into your application as a whole. Your teaching statement should complement your other application materials without being redundant. For example, your CV likely lists the courses you have taught; your teaching statement should not repeat the list but may highlight certain courses. Similarly, whereas a research statement will go into detail about your scholarship, your teaching statement can be a place to explain how your research and teaching inform each other. Think about how your entire application paints a cohesive picture of you as an applicant, and determine whether any elements are missing and where they could be included.
After you have developed a draft of your teaching statement, seek feedback from multiple sources. Professors, especially those who have served on hiring committees, can provide informed suggestions about the genre, but other helpful readers include fellow students, roommates, partners, family members, and coaches at the Writing Center. Asking these readers for feedback about your entire application can help you identify redundancies or gaps that you could address. See our Getting Feedback handout for advice on how to ask for effective feedback.
Editing and proofreading
Like all application materials, your teaching statement should be free of mechanical errors. Be sure to edit and proofread thoroughly. See our Editing and Proofreading handout or Proofreading video for some strategies.
We consulted these works while writing this handout. This is not a comprehensive list of resources on the handout’s topic, and we encourage you to do your own research to find additional publications. Please do not use this list as a model for the format of your own reference list, as it may not match the citation style you are using. For guidance on formatting citations, please see the UNC Libraries citation tutorial. We revise these tips periodically and welcome feedback.
Meizlish, Deborah, and Matthew Kaplan. 2008. “Valuing and Evaluating Teaching in Academic Hiring: A Multidisciplinary, Cross-Institutional Study.” The Journal of Higher Education 79 (5): 489–512. https://doi.org/10.1080/00221546.2008.11772114.
Montell, Gabriela. 2003. “How to Write a Statement of Teaching Philosophy.” The Chronicle of Higher Education, 27 Mar. 2003. https://www.chronicle.com/article/How-to-Write-a-Statement-of/45133.
O’Neal, Chris, et al. 2007. “Writing a Statement of Teaching Philosophy for the Academic Job Search.” Center for Research on Learning and Teaching. University of Michigan. http://www.crlt.umich.edu/sites/default/files/resource_files/CRLT_no23.pdf.
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