Teaching and Learning Philosophy

Beliefs and values about effective teaching and how learning occurs shape the way a course is designed.

On this page:

What is a teaching and learning philosophy?

A teaching and learning philosophy (TLP) statement is a reflective narrative that conveys your beliefs and approach to teaching and learning. It may include your purpose as an instructor, learning goals for your students, your approach to continuous improvement and your teaching and assessment methods. It can also describe how your teaching makes a difference in the lives of your students.

Why should I have a teaching and learning philosophy?

Whether you articulate them or not, your beliefs about teaching and learning influence many of the choices you make as an instructor. Defining your philosophy helps you to make thoughtful choices about how you approach teaching. For example, if you believe that students learn by building on prior knowledge and collaborating with each other then you may want more small group discussions and team-based activities than instructor-led lectures.

A TLP will often be required when applying for teaching jobs or tenure applications. When building a teaching portfolio, it will be the foundational document that unifies the other parts.

Creating an effective teaching and learning philosophy

An effective TLP statement communicates that you are knowledgeable, reflective, able, purposeful and ultimately effective. It should offer evidence of practice, be reflective, show a student/learning-centered approach and be clear and well-written.

The statement should include the following elements:

  • Goals for student learning.
  • Enactment of goals.
  • Assessment of goals.
  • Creating an inclusive learning environment.
  • Structure, rhetoric and language.

What do you believe?

Your beliefs about teaching come from a variety of influences such as how you were taught as a student and how you felt about that approach. They are also influenced by the knowledge in your field and what you believe is the best way to learn this type of content. The following writing prompts may help you to elicit your personal philosophy.

  •  The purpose of a university education is ___.
  • I enjoy teaching (insert your subject) because ___.
  • Students learn best by ___.
  • My goals for teaching (insert your subject) are ___.
  • I believe the most effective way to teach (insert your subject) is ___.
  • I believe this because ___.
  • The most important aspects of my teaching are ___.

Additional resources

Literature

For further information about teaching and learning philosophy statements, see the following readings.

  • Creating Significant Learning Experiences, L. D. Fink (2003)
  • Chism, N. V. N. (1998). Developing a philosophy of teaching statement. Essays on Teaching Excellence: Toward the Best in the Academy, 9, 1–3.