While expectations vary across disciplines, graduate students and postdocs will find that academic search committees are often seeking to hire new faculty who excel in both research and teaching. Applicants for such positions are often asked to submit documents that attest to their teaching expertise, such as a teaching philosophy statement, teaching evaluations, or a teaching portfolio. Even more often, they will be asked to demonstrate their teaching proficiency and preparation during the interviewing process.
In addition to the online resources found in this section of the website, The Center for Teaching and Learning also offers confidential consultations for reviewing teaching-related job market materials, like teaching philosophy statements, diversity and inclusion statements, and teaching portfolios.
Teaching Philosophy Statement
The Teaching Philosophy Statement is a concise and specific personal essay that describes your core approach(es) to teaching and learning and expresses how you understand your role in the classroom.
Basic Stylistic Conventions
The statement should be single spaced and one-two pages in length (unless otherwise specified for a particular job ad). In the essay, you’ll use the first person (“I” pronouns) and stick with the present tense (I do “x” when I teach “y”), whenever possible. You should limit technical jargon that may not be accessible to everyone on the committee, and be sure to define any needed technical terms clearly. The tone should be professional but conversational. In terms of formatting, it’s a good idea to match the rest of your job market documents (If you’ve written in Times New Roman 12pt for your CV and your job letter, then stick with that for this document as well).
Note that a teaching statement is not simply a list of your past teaching experiences or a list of what you can teach at the job you are applying too (these items will find there way into your job market materials through your CV, teaching portfolio, and other documents). It is also not an article on teaching, or a commentary on the general state of teaching today.
Purpose and Audience
When you write your teaching philosophy statement for an application for a faculty position, think about the reasons a search committee may request the document and try to anticipate questions the committee may have about your teaching, such as the following:
- Is this candidate qualified for the teaching responsibilities of the position?
- Does her approach to teaching suggest that she would be a good “fit” for our department and our students?
- Does this candidate want to teach? If so, why?
- If I were to step into a classroom and observe this candidate teaching, what would I see?
- How do this candidate’s research interests shape their teaching?
- What will this candidate add to our department? What will our students gain from their classes? What will our department gain in terms of specific courses, new opportunities for students to develop their skills and knowledge, and interesting pedagogical approaches?
- How does this candidate respond to the perennial challenges of teaching, such as motivating students to learn, evaluating student work, maintaining high standards in the classroom, and juggling teaching with other responsibilities?
What a Teaching Statement is Not:
- A list of your past teaching experiences and/or a list of what you can teach at the job you are applying to (Instead, do this more subtly by weaving in examples from your previous teaching that might highlight the ways that you are especially qualified for the teaching in this new position.)
- A summary of all your student evaluations (This goes in a teaching portfolio. That said, if students consistently describe you in a way that is critical to your overarching teaching philosophy, choose a representative example or two that can demonstrate evidence of how your philosophy plays out in your teaching practice.)
- A summary of feedback from colleagues and mentors (See second bullet point.)
- An article on teaching
- A general philosophy about the state of teaching today
What Do Successful Statements Do?
Successful statements are forward and backwards looking. They draw on your previous teaching experiences with an eye towards the kind of work you may be asked to do in the role that you are applying for. They also demonstrate a narrative of progress, illustrating the ways that you’ve reflected on past experiences and intend to grow as a teacher in the future.
The best statements provide a clear and specific-to-you opening that guides the essay that follows. They also highlight concrete examples of specific course topics, assignments, assessments, and teaching methodologies that demonstrate how the overarching principles involved in your teaching philosophy are at work in particular contexts. They include representative examples which describe the breadth of your teaching experiences, relying particularly on those experiences which have most informed your practice.
Successful statements are also student-centered–they explain not just what you will do but also what students do in your courses. They are also attuned to the particular challenges associated with teaching in your discipline.
What Kinds of Experiences Can Be Drawn on?
Choose teaching experiences which showcase most clearly your teaching philosophy. If you haven’t had many opportunities for formal instruction, draw on your years of experience as a student and the informal teaching situations that you’ve be a part of: mentoring, leading study groups, community service, tutoring, etc. Explain how these experiences will influence your approach to teaching a college-level course.
The Center for Teaching and Learning offers teaching philosophy statement workshops each semester for those at WashU on both the Danforth and Medical campuses. In addition, the CTL also offers the Jump-Start to Writing a Teaching Philosophy Stat Program, a month-long guided peer review opportunity that builds on the material from the initial workshop, while helping to facilitate the drafting and revision of the teaching statement. The Jump-Start program offers the opportunity for graduate students and postdocs to work in guided small groups to begin and advance the writing process. This program takes place in the fall and in the late spring each year.
Individual consultations with our staff on writing, revising, or tailoring your statements are also available for Washington University faculty, graduate students, and postdocs.
We also encourage graduate students and postdocs to consult with faculty advisors, mentors, and peers in your discipline about your teaching statement. Those in your discipline can provide specialized feedback that will help you improve your statement’s effectiveness and clarity.
What is a Teaching Portfolio?
A teaching portfolio is a selective collection of items that work together to demonstrate your commitment to teaching in your academic discipline. They provide a record of your core beliefs about teaching, your previous and current teaching experiences, and your reflective process. Overall, they exhibit evidence of your teaching effectiveness. As such, they are frequently used for both the academic hiring process and for support during the tenure and promotion process.
While research statements document your disciplinary expertise, the teaching portfolio documents your expertise in teaching. The portfolio will necessarily be both forward- and backward-looking, with examples drawn from courses you have taught or assisted in and with thought towards courses that you will prepare to teach in the future.
While it is important if you are on the academic job market to present to search committees a version of your portfolio that is well-organized, clear, polished, and tailored to the specific position, consider your portfolio as a work-in-progress that you will continue to revise throughout your academic career.
Overall, a teaching portfolio is a useful tool that can help you:
• Develop and refine your teaching philosophy, methods, and approaches
• Present teaching credentials for hiring and promotion in an academic position
• Document professional development in teaching
• Reflect on your teaching and identify areas for improvement
When Should You Create a Teaching Portfolio?
Ideally, you can begin amassing documents for your teaching portfolio as soon as you begin teaching, or as soon as you begin participating in professional development activities related to pedagogy. Even before you set foot in the classroom as an instructor, you can begin to think about the goals that you’ll have for your students, which will guide your decision making as an instructor.
Reading articles and attending workshops on teaching will help you identify current issues and potential approaches, as well as provide inspiration for reflecting on your teaching and building your portfolio. As you become an experienced instructor, you will continue to refine your approach to teaching and revise your portfolio accordingly.
Assistance with Building or Revising Your Portfolio
We are happy to read and provide feedback on teaching portfolios for those associated with WashU. Faculty, postdocs, and graduate students can schedule in-person or virtual consultations.
Components of a Teaching Portfolio
The teaching portfolio is in some ways like other job market documents in that there are a few components that would be expected to appear in nearly every portfolio. However, unlike some of other job market materials, your portfolio will also likely to include some elements which are unique to you and your experiences in teaching. What follows is then both a basic outline of likely-to-be-included components and a necessarily incomplete list of potential further items to include in your portfolio.
Keep in mind as you are collecting items for your portfolio that each individual component should work together to tell a cohesive narrative about who you are as a teacher. A critical goal in any portfolio is to communicate a few key strengths and main areas of expertise. Further, when possible, reflect on an aspect or two of your teaching that is a work in progress. Frame these skills as those which you are still developing and refining. Throughout, it is critical to be authentic to who you are as a teacher as possible.
Key Components of the Teaching Portfolio
Key components that are most likely to appear in a teaching portfolio include:
- Table of contents: A simple, navigable list of what is to follow.
- Teaching philosophy statement: a concise and specific essay describing your core teaching approach. Think of this as the “thesis statement” for what follows in your portfolio.
- List of courses taught: This might include more detail that you have room for in your CV, including course title, date, number of students, demographics of students (e.g. first-year students, non-majors.), and a short description of the course and/or course goals.
- Teaching evaluations: Evaluations of teaching ideally come from a variety of sources: students, faculty, peers and colleagues, and/or The Teaching Center. Evaluations can include more than just university sanctioned evaluations (e.g. informal midterm evaluations). These should include both quantitative and qualitative measures, if possible. They need not be comprehensive, instead summarize your evaluations for your readers. It is not necessarily a good idea to include only evaluations that are positive. Search committees understand that the best teachers do not always get unanimously positive student evaluations. They may also suspect that you purposefully excluded evaluations that were negative and thus give less weight to the evaluations than you might expect. More than showing that students “like” you, your goal in including evaluations should be to show how you use feedback to improve your methods and to think critically about how best to improve student learning. Relatedly, regardless of what kinds of evaluations you are using, it is critical to provide some contextualization with your evaluations—what is it that you want your reader to see in looking at your teaching evaluations? What sorts of narratives arise from patterns present in how others think about your teaching?
- Artifacts/appendices: This is the section that is most flexible in a teaching portfolio and the one that is most individualized. The provided artifacts or appendices help illustrate and reinforce the teaching record as described in the rest of the portfolio. It’s critical again to provide context for the artifacts that you provide. More artifacts are not necessarily better—choose the 3-5 items that best highlight your teaching. Frequently used artifacts include:
- Sample syllabi of courses taught or planned
- Assignments, assessments, units, or activities that you’ve developed
- Sample student work (with or without your comments)
- Course handouts
- Letters of support from students
- Links to course website/wiki/online materials that support your documents
- Other Potential Components
While in most instances not compulsory, a number of other components may appear in a teaching portfolio as well. These include:
- Statement of diversity and inclusion
- List of professional development in teaching activities and descriptions (e.g. workshops you’ve taken, professional development programs you’ve completed)
- Description of program and/or curriculum development activities
- Evidence of scholarship of teaching and learning (e.g. articles on teaching that you’ve published, presentations on teaching that you’ve given)
- Teaching video
- Description of teaching awards or recognition
- Teaching development plan that highlights your teaching goals past, present, and future
- Shaping Content with an Audience in Mind
The key to creating an effective portfolio is to shape both content and format for a specific audience. It is essential that you anticipate and speak to the concerns of the academic search committee or tenure and promotion committee. Try to anticipate the questions that others would want your portfolio to answer.
If you are applying for academic jobs, consult the job advertisement and the website of the school to which you are applying to get a sense of the school’s mission and students, and the relative importance given to teaching and research within the school and the department. Take care in selecting and organizing materials in a way that will be helpful to readers who, as members of search committees, are often deluged by application materials from hundreds of applicants. Consider compiling a “master portfolio,” then culling materials from the “master portfolio” to create a portfolio that is tailored for the specific position to which you are applying. Keep in mind the type of position and the specific teaching responsibilities that you would expect to fulfill in that position.
How Can You Improve Your Teaching Portfolio?
• Show the portfolio to faculty members and peers whose opinions you trust.
• Seek additional guidance from our team by requesting a consultation (note that this service is available to anyone who is affiliated with WashU).
• Keep an ongoing collection of teaching materials and evaluations.
• Periodically organize your materials and curate the best examples for inclusion in the version of the portfolio you share with search committees.
• Address areas that you can improve now, as well as those you want to address
Creating a Digital Teaching Portfolio
While paper-based teaching portfolios are most frequently requested as part of job market materials, many academics are now choosing to produce electronic teaching portfolios, frequently as part of a personal website. There are a number of benefits, as well as challenges associated with creating digital portfolios.
Benefits of Digital Portfolios
There are many beneficial elements of creating a digital teaching portfolio. First, it allows you to include multimedia materials (videos, interactive materials, etc.) that can showcase your teaching in a different way than using only paper documents. Similarly, an electronic portfolio would also allow you to link to a number of outside sources and to insert links directly between elements of the portfolio (e.g. a link to an assignment on a syllabus embedded in comments from a teaching evaluation). Building a professional-looking digital portfolio also signifies that you are a savvy technology user.
There are some potential drawbacks of creating a digital portfolio. Chiefly, digital portfolios can be quite time consuming to produce if one is new to building websites. Further, even after building a digital portfolio, you may have some job ads that request a paper/PDF copy anyway. Finally, while it is true that you can include more materials in a digital portfolio, it can also be hard to edit yourself and very easy to include too much.
Teaching Philosophy Statement:
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Chronicle of Higher Education, How to Write a Teaching Statement that Sings. https://chroniclevitae.com/news/1114-how-to-write-a-teaching-statement-that-sings?cid=at&utm_source=at&utm_medium=en
Haugen, Lee. “Writing a Teaching Philosophy Statement.” Center for Teaching Effectiveness. Iowa State University.
Kearns, Katherine D. & Sullivan, Carol S. Resources and practices to help graduate students and postdoctoral fellows write statements of teaching philosophy. 2011. http://advan.physiology.org/content/35/2/136.short
Lang, James M. “4 Steps to a Memorable Teaching Philosophy. The Chronicle of Higher Education. August 29, 2010. http://chronicle.com/article/5-Steps-to-a-Memorable/124199/.
Mangum, Teresa. “Views of the Classroom.” Insider Higher Education. October 28, 2009.http://www.insidehighered.com/advice/academic_career_confidential/mangum10.
Montell, Gabriela. “How to Write a Statement of Teaching Philosophy.” The Chronicle of Higher Education. March 27, 2003. http://chronicle.com/article/How-to-Write-a-Statement-of/45133.
Montell, Gabriela. “What’s your Philosophy on Teaching, and Does it Matter?” The Chronicle of Higher Education. March 27, 2003. http://chronicle.com/article/Whats-Your-Philosophy-on/45132/.
O’Neal, Chris, Meizlish, Deborah, and Kaplan, Matthew. “Writing a Teaching Philosophy for the Academic Job Search.” CRLT Occasional Papers. No. 23. University of Michigan Center for Research on Learning and Teaching. 2007.http://www.crlt.umich.edu/publinks/CRLT_no23.pdf.
Van Note Chism, Nancy. “Writing a Philosophy of Teaching Statement.” Ohio State University. 1998. http://ftad.osu.edu/portfolio/philosophy/Philosophy.html.
Vick, Julie Miller and Furlong, Jennifer S.. “Writing Samples and Teaching Statements”, The Chronicle of Higher Education Dec. 20, 2010.http://chronicle.com/article/Writing-SamplesTeaching/125726/.
“Documenting Teaching Effectiveness.” University Center for the Advancement of Teaching. The Ohio State University. https://ucat.osu.edu/professional-development/teaching-portfolio/feedback/
Kaplan, Matthew. “The Teaching Portfolio.” The Center for Research on Learning and Teaching. University of Michigan. http://www.crlt.umich.edu/publinks/CRLT_no11.pdf.
Seldin, Peter. The Teaching Portfolio: A Practical Guide to Improved Performance and Promotion/Tenure Decisions. Bolton, MA: Anker Publishing Company, Inc. 1991.
“Teaching Portfolios.” Center for Teaching. Vanderbilt University. http://www.vanderbilt.edu/cft/resources/teaching_resources/reflecting/portfolio.htm.
Vick, Julia Miller and Jennifer S. Furlong. The Academic Job Search Handbook. 5th ed. Philadelphia: U Pennsylvania P, 2016.
Digital Teaching Portfolio: