A teaching philosophy is a reflection of what an instructor believes about teaching, students, and education. Applicants for teaching positions may be asked to submit a statement on their teaching philosophy along with the rest of their applications. In other settings, developing a concrete statement can help an educator in the course of syllabus creation, classroom management, and other activities. Many academic institutions seek out instructors with philosophies that support their stated goals; a Christian college, for example, usually wants professors who approach teaching from a Christian perspective.
The teaching philosophy can determine what a teacher chooses to stress in lessons and how the teacher approaches instruction. Some professors have a lecturing style and prefer to speak at the front of the class for the duration of the period. Others may want a question and answer format, or may believe in cooperative learning, where students and instructor remain in constant communication and the professor acts as a guide, not an authority.
Instructors consider their teaching philosophy when they decide what kind of work to assign and how to grade it. They may establish a grading rubric that incorporates their beliefs. If an instructor believes that education should provide students with tools to challenge the world around them, for example, she might reward essays that contradict or expand on classroom material by taking it in new directions. The teacher may also decide whether to drop the lowest quiz scores or to accept work in alternate formats, such as video responses to prompts instead of just written ones.
Teachers must also consider how they want to handle their classrooms. Instructors want to maintain a safe classroom environment, and their teaching philosophy may include personal approaches to dealing with classroom conflicts, sensitive topics, and disruptive students. Teaching methods must also incorporate the age level and background of the students. A graduate level poetry seminar can have a very different environment than that of a remedial English class for undergraduates, for example.
Personal ethics can also play a role in teaching philosophy. An instructor with strong feminist leanings, for instance, might stress feminism in his teaching philosophy and could incorporate topics like making sure all students have a chance to be heard, asking students to think outside their comfort level, and not tolerating sexism in the classroom. The educational approach of an academic institution can also influence teaching approaches; teachers at a small liberal arts college with a focus on self-directed education usually have a different teaching philosophy than that of professors at a technical college.