What’s Your Teaching Philosophy?

During my recent library blog catch-up, I read this article from ACRLog about teaching philosophies. In it, the author speaks about how she was unable to answer a question in an interview about her teaching philosophy. I resonated with this, as I had a similar experience during an interview for a position with my university’s Teaching and Learning Services. While I absolutely should have seen this question coming, I was quite unprepared. I didn’t have a succinct statement I could call my own teaching philosophy. Luckily, I spent a year teaching English in France, so I had experience to draw from. I don’t fully remember what I said, but I think it was along the lines of being aware of every student having a different learning style, and trying to teach in a way that accommodates all. Somehow the answer I gave was reasonable enough to be hired. After reading this article, however, I realized I hadn’t actually thought about this any further since that interview.

I am currently in an information literacy course where we give micro-teaching presentations and create an information literacy plan. It’s an incredible course and I am learning a lot through hands on teaching experience. Our micro-teaching presentations are recorded and we have to watch them to reflect on our progress. As cringe-worthy as it is, I’ve found it incredibly helpful. With this course, I seem to have what the author of the article did not – a course that is preparing me for the teaching I will inevitably do as a librarian. While I have a few complaints about the courses I wish my program offered, I am fortunate in this regard. Additionally, in my role with TLS, I have opportunities to facilitate workshops and further improve and develop my teaching skills.

In the course, there is still a lack of considering and creating our teaching philosophy. The professor encourages us to think about how we want to use the skills we learn, so it’s somewhat implicit in the material, but we don’t create an elevator-pitch statement of our philosophies – an activity that I think would be quite useful.

Even with my course and work experience, I’m not sure I yet have a better answer to that interview question. For someone who wants to go into information literacy this is something I should be working on – especially as I begin to apply for jobs. I think part of why I have been putting it off is that it is quite an intimidating task. I am not sure how to boil down all of my thoughts, ideas, beliefs, methods, and other intangible stuff about how I want to facilitate learning. There are so many variables and factors, how could I possibly make that into a single philosophy?

Half way through reading the article, I opened a new tab and frantically googled “teaching philosophies” (great search method, I know). I found this resource from the University of Minnesota and as I returned to the ACRLog’s article, I realized the author also referenced it. It is indeed a great resource as you draft your own teaching philosophy, and I know I will use it as I draft my own teaching philosophy in the coming weeks.

The lack of teaching philosophy in our educations is crucial. As with crafting the perfect learning outcomes for an instruction session, a teaching philosophy can guide you when you struggle with planning or creating instruction ideas. If you can refer to your teaching philosophy, it can guide any doubts you have regarding where to take each session or course. While teaching may not necessarily be a major part of your job as a librarian, you will undoubtedly have to do so at some point. Having a point of reference for why and how you will do what you do will make the process go much more smoothly.

Furthermore, how can we include practices of critical information literacy within our teaching philosophies? I don’t have an answer to this, but I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments. I’m sure it’s something I will come back to in future posts.

HLS has a great two-part series on instruction, make sure to check it out here and here.

What about you? Do you have a teaching philosophy? Have you had classes that encouraged you to make one?

Carrie Hanson is a MISt Candidate at McGill University’s School of Information Studies in Montreal. She currently works as a student librarian in a public library and is involved in numerous student associations. Connect with her on Twitter @icarriebooks

Cover Image from Pexels under CC0.

1 reply

  1. Great article. I’m glad I saw this today. I was recently accepted into UT Austin’s MSIS program, so I’m currently applying for history lecturer positions around the area. Most applications require a writing sample and copies of original syllabi, but one job app required a statement of my teaching philosophy. They mentioned to consider the following questions: What are your values, beliefs, and goals related to teaching and learning? What will make you effective in the community college classroom? How does student identity in the classroom affect how you teach? Furthermore, the department wanted a statement of past and/or potential contributions to diversity, equity, and inclusion in the academic environment.

    As a former student who recently graduated from a MA History program and has two years of experience teaching lower level history courses and helping/observing week long teaching workshop, I still don’t know how to summarize my teaching philosophies into a paragraph or longer. However, I do know the answer to these questions. For example, my critiques about the ways in which influential and dreadful professors have taught courses or interacted with my cohort and I in recent years have certainly impacted the way I teach. Perhaps those who are interested in information literacy could find their answer by creatively writing down their views on a piece of paper or on MW to relieve any overwhelming pressure. Also, I think constructing a teaching philosophy that is based on experiences garnered in learning environment from primary school to grad school, in addition to teaching experience (if you have any) presents the most feasible way to developing one.


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