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What's your teaching philosophy?

By Nicole Pokorney

Identifying your teaching philosophy -- your style, teaching goals, how you assess learning -- can have myriad benefits.

A class I'm taking this spring has introduced me to the concept of the teaching philosophy. In my 20 years as a non-formal educator, I have thought a lot about how and why I teach, but I have now fully experienced the power of documenting and sharing that philosophy.

Why should non-formal educators understand and develop their own teaching philosophy?

Barbara Bowers, a nursing professor at University of Wisconsin - Madison, in a Chronicle of Higher Education article says, ". . . the purpose of the teaching statement is to be self-reflective, to identify where you might need some help from others, or you might need to do a little more work on your own to improve, and to look at which of your strategies are effective and which ones aren't."
The purpose of a teaching philosophy is both summative and formative, according to the University of Minnesota Center for Teaching and Learning. In their tutorial, Writing a Teaching Philosophy, they identify knowing your teaching philosophy as essential to develop for search committees and teaching portfolios, and just as important for self-reflection and improving your teaching.
Can you articulate the following when it comes to your teaching style?
  • What are your aspirations and goals as an educator? For your students?
  • What does your learning environment look like?
  • How do you assess learning?
  • What measures do you use to improve your teaching?
  • Why is teaching important to you?
To assist in the process, the Teaching Perspectives Inventory (TPI) is an easy survey to help you understand your teaching perspective and begin drafting your philosophy. At the end of taking the inventory, you will receive an interpretation of your results. These results are outlined within five teaching perspectives:
  1. Transmission
  2. Apprenticeship
  3. Developmental
  4. Nurturing
  5. Social Reform
Each of these five brings something to the table for learners. I don't want to skew your responses on the inventory by defining each of the perspectives - you'll have to complete the survey and use your findings to explore and document your teaching philosophy!

Have you taken the teaching perspectives inventory -- or something similar? Do you find it valuable? How do you use this knowledge about yourself?

-- Nicole Pokorney, Extension educator

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