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How to Answer "What Is Your Teaching Philosophy?"

June 9, 2021

This article has been approved by an Indeed Career Coach


When you’re applying for a role in education, you may be asked about your teaching philosophy. If you are interviewing for a teaching position at a school, employers may ask this question to understand whether or not your teaching methods and styles will align with that of the school’s.

Hiring candidates with effective teaching skills in relevant roles can be extremely beneficial to employers. As such, preparing for this question ahead of time can help you feel prepared and deliver a confident response. To help you put together your talking points, here are several tips and examples.

Related: School Teacher Resume Samples

What is a teaching philosophy?

A teaching philosophy is your unique beliefs, ethics and principles around teaching. Your philosophy has likely been developed over time through your hands-on teaching experience, education, observations and research. A philosophy sums up your approach to teaching and can guide you in the day-to-day situations that come up in the classroom or workplace.

If you’re unsure of your teaching philosophy, consider asking yourself the following:

  • What teachers/educators have inspired me?
  • What is my approach when a student or employee is struggling?
  • How do I reward good behavior? How do I address bad behavior?
  • What standards do I hold myself to?
  • What have been my most successful teaching moments?
  • What would my students or employees say about me?

Writing down your responses to these questions can help you notice common themes and make it easier to pinpoint your teaching philosophy.

Read more: 8 Qualities of a Good Teacher (and Tips for How Develop Them)

Why employers ask this question

When employers ask this question, they’re looking for insight into how you’ll perform your teaching duties. Your response to this question should address your teaching methods, your beliefs about the learning process and at least one example that demonstrates your skills and abilities in a classroom or training environment.

Whether you’re being interviewed for a position with an educational institution or a company hiring someone to train other professionals, employers want to ensure your methods align with their organization’s goals and values.

This question is a way for employers to gauge your personal skills and determine whether you have the knowledge and experience to fulfill the job duties. When an interviewer asks, “What is your teaching philosophy?” they’re looking for clues about how you will address pupils or trainees, approach teaching challenges and ensure each student’s or trainee’s success.

Read more: Interview Question: "Why Do You Want to Teach?"

Teaching philosophy example answers

Here are a few examples of ways you can share your teaching philosophy statement:

When applying for a leadership position

You can apply the above tips when applying for a job as a people manager where you’ll be responsible for training new employees or educating existing employees on new tools or processes. This is best reserved for positions with companies rather than schools.

Example: “My teaching philosophy is to make each training session as interactive as possible. I believe that an interactive curriculum is more memorable. I use tactics such as role-playing and competitive quiz games. In my role as a customer service director, I am responsible for training new customer service representatives. When I first started, I noticed new customer service agents made many mistakes and forgot much of what they learned in their first weeks on the job. Instead of changing the curriculum, I changed the delivery.

Now I choose trainees at random to role play as a customer and an agent in front of the rest of the class. I also end each session with a pop quiz and award small prizes to the trainee who answers the most questions correctly. By gamifying the experience, we’ve decreased mistakes and improved retention of training material.”

When applying for a position with an educational institution

You can also use the above approach when applying for a role at a primary school, secondary school, college or university as an experienced teacher. In this case, you’d want to share an example of a particularly successful teaching accomplishment.

Example: “My teaching philosophy is to focus on building students’ independent study habits. Even when students are engaged in a lesson, I find they often forget essential details because they haven’t learned how to properly review material on their own. I believe helping middle school students learn how to study independently now better prepares them for the demands of high school and college courses.

In my current role as a seventh-grade history teacher, I often perform pop quizzes over the previous day’s lesson to ensure students are retaining the information. In the past year, I started to reserve 10 minutes of quiet study time at the beginning of every class for students to review yesterday’s lesson material. Since then, pop quiz scores have increased by more than 50%.”

When applying for your first teaching role

Finally, you can also apply the above when entering the job market for the first time or with no prior experience in a teaching position. Instead of sharing examples of your professional experiences, you can share examples of teaching styles that have influenced your philosophy.

Example: “My teaching philosophy is to make the content I teach more relatable. In many cases, when a student can’t identify with the material, it’s harder for them to gather meaning. As a literature teacher, my goal is to help students empathize with characters, places and concepts, especially when those things are different from their own life experiences.

As a student, I found stories more memorable when my teachers helped me draw parallels. As a student teacher, I like to make comparisons between older texts, like Shakespeare and modern events. For example, I find that comparing events in the plays to events in pop culture not only helps students understand the stories but also helps them draw their own conclusions.”

When you apply for any role that requires teaching or training, there’s a good chance employers will ask about your teaching philosophy. You should also be ready for follow-up questions about the experiences you share. By preparing your response ahead of time, you can make sure to highlight relevant skills, share the right example and leave a positive and lasting impression.

Related: What Is the Job Outlook for Teachers?

Tips for answering “What is your teaching philosophy?” in an interview

There are a few things you should consider as you begin crafting your response to this question. Here are four tips you should keep in mind:

Keep it concise

Be as straightforward as possible. Start by identifying what you think teaching should achieve, list the methods you use to reach that objective, and then share a story to illustrate those methods.

Speak in the present tense

Use phrases like “I believe a teacher should…” or “I use strategies that…” rather than referring to your beliefs and skills in the past tense, such as “I learned it’s best to…” or “I helped students achieve…” This gives your philosophy a more active tone.

Avoid unnecessary jargon

Explain your teaching philosophy using everyday language that’s easy to follow rather than complicated, technical terms. This will ensure the interviewer fully comprehends your answer and recognizes your strengths. It also helps them apply your answer to their organization, which is especially helpful if you are changing industries.

Use concrete examples

When it comes to sharing your teaching philosophy, it’s important to “show” as well as “tell.” Give your interviewer a glimpse into your teaching methods by providing detailed examples of your past experiences. Discuss how you applied your methods as well as the positive outcomes you’ve achieved through your teaching style.

Practice

As this is a common interview question, especially in the education industry, you should have this answer prepared and practiced before the interview.

Show enthusiasm

Employers want to see your passion for teaching—make sure your excitement comes through in your answer.

Read more: Top 6 Teaching Skills That Employers Look For

Common mistakes to avoid

When it comes to answering a question about your teaching philosophy, there are a few practices you should avoid:

  • Memorizing your answer. While preparation is highly encouraged, you do not want to memorize your answer word for word. Doing this can cause you to come off as robotic or inauthentic during the interview.

  • Coming across as arrogant or overly confident. Confidence is important in your response, but it is equally important to remain humble. If it comes across to employers that you are being overly boastful, it may raise some concerns about how you’d be as an employee.

  • Speaking for too long. Keep your response concise—two minutes or less is ideal. If your response goes any longer than two minutes, you risk losing the attention of the interviewer.

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