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Interview Question: "What is your Teaching Philosophy?"

February 7, 2019

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When you’re applying for a leadership position in which you’ll be responsible for training others such as an educator or manager, you may be asked the popular interview question, “What is your teaching philosophy?” Employers may also phrase this question as “How would you describe your teaching philosophy?” or “Can you provide a teaching philosophy statement?”

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.

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.

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Why employers ask this question

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.

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Tips for discussing 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.

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Teaching philosophy examples

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

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 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 ten 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 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, comparing events in the plays to events in pop culture. This 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.

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