At some point during your academic journey, you will realize the time has arrived to begin hunting for that teaching position you have always desired. Like other job applications, teaching positions require standard documentation: a curriculum vitae (CV) or resume, references, and a cover letter, in addition to an online application. Nevertheless, during your quest as an instructor or professor, you will eventually encounter an university requiring a teaching philosophy. A teaching philosophy is a personal statement that outlines your beliefs about teaching and learning as well as the teaching strategies you find most effective. You will also be expected to provide a few examples of how your teaching beliefs have proven useful throughout your career as an instructor. Consequently, if you have never had the opportunity to teach and lack the experience needed to substantiate your viewpoint, you are in for a bit of a challenge.
There is no need to panic however, as many have faced the daunting task of applying for a job while lacking any actual job experience. This is where creativity comes into play. Think about these specific questions and how they relate to your experiences teaching and learning.
- What did you admire most about one of your favorite teachers?
- How did that teacher inspire you?
- What are your core values in regard to teaching and learning?
- What do you enjoy about teaching and learning?
- Why do you feel you could be an effective teacher?
- Have you trained or taught a specific group of people before?
- What makes your teaching methodology unique?
- What other life experiences have you had that could be useful in a teaching environment?
- What are your long-term instructional goals?
The questions provided will give you food for thought and help you understand why you desire to teach. You may not currently have any academic teaching experience, but that does not mean you lack the passion or skill to be an effective instructor. Use these questions to begin documenting key points of your teaching strategy and the values you feel you can bring to an educational institution.
Avoid repeating information already displayed on your resume or cover letter. Create a brief one- or two-page document describing your teaching philosophy, and use experience that you may have acquired at work—such as software training, team facilitation, project management, leadership, mentoring opportunities or experience developing a curriculum for corporate eLearning training modules. Any skills that have been useful in helping others learn are applicable to teaching, even if you did not acquire them in an academic environment. Think about the processes and strategies you used to help your audience better understand certain learning objectives. Ultimately, your teaching philosophy will begin to take shape and reflect your personal beliefs. This is only a starting point, but it is one that will continue to change and grow as you progress in your journey as an academic instructor.