Teaching Philosophy Statements

Why should you write a teaching philosophy statement?

A teaching philosophy statement is a brief document that summarizes your approach to teaching with both statements of general beliefs and descriptions of specific examples of how you teach. You may wish to write one for personal development, use in self-promotion, or to include in a job application. Here, we focus specifically on how to write a teaching philosophy statement that you include in an application for a faculty or other instructional position at a college or university. The following will be most useful if you are a graduate student or postdoc seeking this kind of position.

By including your teaching philosophy in an application package, you can:

  • Communicate your beliefs about teaching and learning and your goals for students, showing how your philosophy aligns with that of the institution to which you are applying.
  • Demonstrate your awareness of and commitment to reflecting on your teaching practice. 
  • Provide a window into what your classes look like.

A common concern is that you may not have enough teaching experience to write an effective teaching philosophy statement: “How can I state my philosophy when I haven’t taught enough to really have one?”

There are many activities beyond what is commonly considered “teaching” that can inform your teaching philosophy, including:

  • Teaching assistantships
  • Mentoring undergraduate or junior researchers
  • Conducting workshops or other training sessions
  • Guest lecturing

We have compiled a list of on- and off-campus teaching opportunities that you might use to augment your current experience.

Moreover, you can also describe how you plan to teach. A thoughtful plan embedded in a broader, reflective philosophy can be just as compelling as a description of a class that has already happened.

In the “Get Started” section below, we provide exercises to identify how these diverse experiences have informed your teaching.

What to include

Your statement should be grounded in the following questions:

  • How do I teach?
  • Why do I teach the way that I do?
  • What goals do I have for students?
  • How do I know if students are achieving those goals?
  • What is my teaching experience? What courses do I teach?

In answering these questions, you should foreground the impact and effect that your teaching has on students. Instead of describing why you enjoy teaching, describe why the way that you teach is effective for your students and how you know that it is effective.

Make your statement personal and authentic. Only include ideas or commitments in your teaching philosophy statement if you are committed to them. It is obvious when an author has included a teaching concept or buzzword because they think they are meant to and not because it is something they actually believe in or practice.

In addition to authenticity, you can let your personality shine through on a teaching philosophy statement. Unlike a cover letter or CV with relatively prescribed formats, the relative freedom of the teaching philosophy statement may be the only opportunity to show the search committee your personality: what you value and who you will be as a colleague.

Your statement may summarize your teaching experience, but you should not merely include a list of the classes you have taught (this information will be on your C.V.) or only a list of the classes you could teach. While references to your past and future plans can help to ground your philosophy, you should also explain what you learned from the classes you have taught or detail how you plan to teach courses in the future.

Tailor your teaching philosophy statement to each institution. If you refer to a class or department that the institution does not have—or does have, but by a different name—this will signal to the committee that you are not taking the application seriously.

Review any mission statements on the institution’s or department’s website. If available, look at the curriculum descriptions in their course catalog or department website. Identify places where your teaching philosophy overlaps and highlight this common ground in your statement.

If you are applying for many jobs in a cycle, it may help to write your statement modularly: standard sections that stay the same and custom sections that you tailor to each institution.

As you write, imagine your audience: the search committee for the job you are applying for. This group may be diverse, including faculty from outside your specialty or even outside of your discipline. You will want to write about your teaching so that it is accessible to a wide range of audiences.

It is also likely that your audience will be reading possibly hundreds of similar documents. Making your statement personal and unique will help catch the committee’s attention.

Structure and format guidelines

There are no official formatting rules for teaching philosophy statements. Still, we recommend that you adhere to the following writing guidelines:

  • Limit your statemen to 1.5–2 pages (single-spaced). Shorter is better. Remember that the faculty reviewing your statement may be reviewing hundreds of applicants.
  • Write in the first person (“I” and “me” pronouns). This is a statement of personal philosophy, not an academic article.
  • Use an opening “hook.” This could be an anecdote from an experience as a teacher or student, a story about how you became interested in teaching, or even an inspiring quote that motivates your teaching philosophy.
  • Balance your ideals with specific descriptions. Your statement should be neither only examples nor only abstract ideals, but rather a mutually-supportive balance.
  • Cite your sources. You do not necessarily need to cite pedagogical research in your teaching philosophy statement, although you may if it genuinely influences your teaching. If there are particular teachers who inspire you, mention this inspiration. The function of “citation” here is as much to show who and what motivates you as it is to accord credit.

Get started

Personal philosophy statements can be difficult to start from nothing. We recommend that you begin with some guided reflection questions to help identify your values and relevant experiences. This brainstorm template can help you gather the data you will in drafting your document. It has questions aimed at helping you reflect in more detail on the following questions:

  • Why do I teach the way that I do?
  • How do I teach?
  • What is my teaching experience? What courses do I teach?
  • How do I know that my teaching is effective?

Don’t try to include all of your responses to the questions on the brainstorming document in the actual statement. Instead, review the document once it is complete and ask yourself:

  • What stands out as particularly important or impressive?
  • What themes or common threads are there that connect different areas of my teaching philosophy?

These can then be the central thesis of your teaching philosophy statement.

After you have drafted your teaching philosophy statement, return to it a few days later to edit. You may find it useful to use a rubric, like this one, as you review your statement. 

Get feedback on your statement

Peer feedback is an invaluable resource in revising and refining a teaching philosophy statement. Convene graduate students both inside and outside of your department to share teaching philosophy statements and provide feedback to one another. You will likely find that you gain as much from giving feedback as you do from receiving it.

We also host regular TPS peer review sessions. See our event calendar for the next scheduled session.

In addition to peer feedback, you can arrange for a consultation with the Teaching Development Fellow in your department or with our staff. It is expected that you have already participated in a peer-review session before signing up for a consultation with TLL staff.

Additional resources

The University of Minnesota Center for Educational Innovation included additional, self-paced exercises that guide you through the drafting process.

Kaplan, et. al. Have devised this rubric based based on a survey of 457 search chair committees in six disciplines. 

Related MIT offices

MIT School of Engineering Communication Lab: The Communication Lab is a discipline-specific peer-coaching program for MIT’s School of Engineering that helps graduate students with their scientific writing, speaking, and visual design.

MIT Writing and Communication Center: The Writing and Communication Center offers free one-on-one professional advice from communication experts. The WCC is staffed completely by MIT lecturers who are experienced college classroom teachers of communication as well as published writers. The WCC works with undergraduates, graduate students, post-doctoral scholars, faculty, and staff.


Austin, R. N. (2006). Writing the Teaching Statement. Science. Careers Articles [https://www.sciencemag.org/careers/2006/04/writing-teaching-statement]

Kaplan, M., Meizlish, D. S., O’Neal, C., Wright, M. C. (2008). A Research-Based Rubric for Developing Statements of Teaching Philosophy. To Improve the academy (26). [https://doi.org/10.1002/j.2334-4822.2008.tb00512.x] 

Goodyear, G. E., & Allchin, D. (1998). Statement of teaching philosophy. To Improve the Academy (17). 103-22.