I remember a conversation that I had with my cooperating teacher during my final semester of my undergraduate program.
I was explaining that I was working on a project for a methods class to write and revise a philosophical teaching statement. I vividly remember his confused reaction. “Why on earth would you waste time writing about education? Why not just spend the time that it would take you to write a philosophy and use it in the classroom?”
I can’t help but agree that every minute of extra time spent in the classroom is a minute well-spent. But as I progress in my career in education, I have found that taking time to examine my thoughts about education is an important process that I often forget to do during the school year when my time is occupied by students, grading, continuing education credits, building community relationships… the list goes on and on!
In this e-book, I will prepare you to write an effective philosophy of education. We’ll explore your own beliefs about education, examine philosophy of education samples, and learn to write to appeal to your audience.
How do I develop a teaching philosophy?
Even if you are still relatively inexperienced in the educational field, your own experiences dictate what you believe about educational practices and theories. The greatest lesson I have learned while developing my philosophy of education is that my opinions about education gradually change over time. Even some of the things I was most passionate about in college have changed during my first three years of teaching.
As a teacher, you’ll want to consider the learning outcomes, your educational methods, and the process by which you’ll assess students in the classroom. This method is outlined in the Professional Learning Community (PLC) process:
• What do we want students to learn?
• How will we know they are learning?
• What are we going to do if they don’t learn?
• What do we do if students already know it?
The first three questions, I believe, are essential to writing a strong philosophy statement. To put these questions into practice, let us begin with the basic premise that we want students to become independent learners.
Wishing students to be independent learners is a noble goal in itself; but simply stating the idea seems like pure regurgitation of educational jargon that is learned in education classes.
If I was sifting through a pile of applications, I would be pleased that the applicant had taken the time to use appropriate educational vocabulary in their philosophy, but “wanting students to learn independently” doesn’t lend insight into why that goal is important to the candidate, or how they have demonstrated that goal in their own teaching.
We’ve answered PLC question #1, we want students to become independent learners. The second question, “How will we know if they are learning?” might be more subjective and related to your own content area.
As a music teacher, I might ask myself, how do I know that students are able to sight read independently? Or as a smaller subset of the goal, how do I know that students can read rhythms accurately and independently?
You will want to consider how specific of goals you plan on including in your philosophy of education. In the classroom you will probably want to use SMART goals (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely). An example of a SMART goal related to independent learning would be:
“6th grade students will be able to sight read quarter note and half note combinations while tapping their foot with a steady beat by March 31st.”
This is an ideal goal for tracking progress- administrators eat them up! But not all goals work for all situations; SMART goals are usually too specific for the philosophy setting.
So why the focus on SMART goals? Why bring them up if we shouldn’t use them in our philosophy statement?
SMART goals are a strong launching point for forming a specific statement in one’s philosophy:
“Independent learning is essential for students to become self-reliant individuals. In my classroom, students become independent learners through call and response activities, and can demonstrate competence by performing simple rhythms by themselves.”
Notice that this statement expands upon our original premise while incorporating many of the ideals of the SMART goal.
Hiring administrators are interested in your successful demonstration of your philosophies in your classroom, but aren’t as interested in the goal timeline or the specificity of the goal.
Focusing on the broader goal, independence, and showing competency through the specific area of rhythm is more easily understood by administrators who may not have a strong background in your particular content area.
On the other hand, you may have a mixed crowd of administrators and teachers who teach your subject. You should be prepared to be able to elaborate upon your ideas in relation to your content area if you are questioned.