Exploring Faculty Careers in Higher Education


Philosophy Statement


Philosophy Statement Assignment

Your only assignment to hand in for this course is a written philosophy statement.  The goals of this assignment are to 1) encourage you to think about the kind of faculty position that would be best for you, and 2) produce a draft of an item that could be included in your application for a faculty position.  

You will have two opportunities to get peer feedback on your philosophy statement.  Please bring a first draft to class on May 14 .  Please bring your second draft to the last day of class on June 4.


Your statement should be 1-2 pages in length, organized in a way that works best for the information that you want to present.  For example, some use a primarily narrative approach, while others prefer to write distinct sections with headings and sub-headings to introduce different topics.  Single-spacing is appropriate, but do not use an unusually small font or narrow margins that might make it more difficult to read or give an unprofessional visual impression.


You will not be graded on the content of your philosophy statement.  This is a credit/no credit assignment.  To receive credit, please bring a copy to turn in on May 14 and June 4, and these copies will document that you have completed the assignment.

Peer Review

Rather than receiving a grade, you will receive feedback on your statement from peers in class.  The goal of the peer review is to receive feedback from people with potentially different perspectives.  Thus, each person should review at least two other teaching philosophy statements.  On peer review days (May 9 and 30), please come to class with 4 copies of your statement:  1 for yourself to annotate during peer review, 2 to share with your peers, and 1 to turn in.  I will also review drafts upon request for those who would like to receive additional feedback.

Within your peer review group, you will be asked to create a list of the kinds of feedback that would be most useful for improving your teaching philosophy statement.  Think about how to structure the peer review so that everyone gets the most constructive feedback.


Why Write a Philosophy Statement?

Colleges and universities are increasingly requesting philosophy statements from faculty candidates.  As you know, different institutions are looking for different kinds of faculty.  Philosophy statements are one way to help search committees assess the qualifications of applicants and ensure a “good fit” between candidate and institution.  There may be no other place in your written job materials for your own voice to be as clearly expressed as it can be in a philosophy statement.

Even if a job posting does not explicitly request a copy of your philosophy, what you produce may help you to prepare for a faculty job search.  Most people find it difficult to write a philosophy statement in a single attempt, so if you postpone writing one until you are formally on the job market, you may find that you lack the time to write something that represents you well.  Even when a philosophy statement is not requested, the act of having written your statement in advance will help you be much more articulate in response to questions that come up as you interact with potential employers, and will also help you think through what you are looking for in them.


What is a Philosophy Statement?

For some people, the word ‘philosophy’ brings to mind visions of abstract theoretical perspectives or beliefs about the importance of an educated public.  Alternatively, you might be concerned that you do not have a philosophy.  You do – even if you have never had the opportunity or reason to articulate it. 

In some ways, your philosophy statement is analogous to a theoretical statement in a research proposal because it documents the conceptual basis that guides your actions and provides a framework into which everything else fits .  Your philosophy statement will demonstrate that you have given serious thought to your chosen career.  Typically, a philosophy statement describes the rationale behind your actions in instructional and other academic settings. 


What Kind of Philosophy Statement?

Institutions hiring new faculty have been known to request statements that reflect your teaching philosophy, commitment to diversity, and understanding of the community college system.  Your statement for this course should focus on one of these topics. 

If you are not yet sure about your future career plans, you will still need to write a statement, but you may adapt the assignment to suit your circumstances.  For example, you may opt to write a statement about how your graduate career has prepared you to work on a team and communicate with colleagues from different fields – two skills that are crucial to working in private and government sectors (hint: any TA experience that you have might also be helpful in showing your preparation for these types of non-academic positions).

Teaching Philosophy

The teaching philosophy statement provides readers with your perspective on learning and teaching.  You do have ideas about how students learn and why you teach the way you do (or would like to).  However, for most instructors these ideas remain implicit.  This is an opportunity to unearth the assumptions that guide your teaching decisions and to share them with others.  If you develop a full teaching portfolio, the philosophy statement is the focal point, articulating the underlying principles that are demonstrated throughout the rest of the portfolio.

At a minimum, your teaching philosophy articulates your intellectual expectations for students and how you help them achieve your learning goals.  Your statement should include: (1) what you expect your students to accomplish intellectually, (2) ways that you help students to achieve the objectives you have identified, and (3) reference to specific examples of teaching and learning activities.

Individual Diversity Philosophy

As written documents, Diversity Statements are relatively rare in the academy.  There is no widely accepted definition or description of a diversity statement is or its content.  At the very least, a diversity statement demonstrates that you have given serious thought to the issue.  You might choose to include your diversity statement in a job application, or you may never show it to anyone.  The primary purpose of writing such a statement is to take the opportunity to think about diversity and articulate your thoughts before you are required to do so in a faculty interview or grant proposal.

It would not be possible to take a prescriptive approach to diversity statements by providing suggestions about what you should include as content.  A Diversity Statement might describe the importance of a diverse scholarly community or its significance to your discipline.  You might explain why you use particular teaching methods and their impact on a diverse student population.  You might provide examples of your participation in campus diversity programs or how you have contributed to recruitment and retention efforts in your field.  A Diversity Statement might also describe how you interact with students and colleagues who have different backgrounds and experiences. 

Community College Statement

Community colleges are particularly interested in hiring candidates who are clear about the mission and philosophy of the CC system.  These institutions need to be able to identify candidates that are deliberately choosing to join their academic community, rather than seeking a position at a two-year college as a second- or third-choice .  Asking faculty candidates to provide a statement of their understanding of and commitment to the goals of this kind of institution can serve a filtering function for search committees. 

Your statement should reflect that you know what it takes to teach at a two-year college.  It would be worthwhile for you to review the institutional mission and diversity statements of a number of community colleges as preparation for writing this kind of statement.


Consider the Audience

Common questions about philosophy statements include: 

  • “Who will be reading this?”
  • “What are they expecting to see?” 

One way to view your philosophy statement is as an opportunity to let others see how you think. It is an opportunity to describe not just what you do, but why -- what you value, how you make decisions, and what you're satisfied with. Similarly, most materials you provide for the job search show what you think as a potential member of a scholarly community, but they don't necessarily show how you think in relation to people who are not yet part of that community (i.e., your students).

Another way to think about this is to consider the composition of a faculty search committee.  Search committees can be composed of a variety of different kinds of faculty, depending on the kind of institution and its organizational structure.  Other people may also be involved in a faculty search, such as deans, department chairs, program directors, faculty from other departments, academic staff, and students. 

The audience for your philosophy statement might vary along the following dimensions:

  • Interest in Teaching – positive, neutral, or negative
  • Experience – from senior faculty to new faculty, and also non-faculty
  • Field – from inside the department, outside the department, academic administration
  • Discipline – representing specializations relatively close to your area, or relatively unrelated

Imagine people with a variety of these characteristics and think about how they might react to the wording, examples, and ways of teaching mentioned in your philosophy statement.  What kinds of supporting evidence might these different kinds of people expect to see in your portfolio?  Will you be able to create/provide artifacts that meet these expectations?


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