Interview Question: 'What Is Your Teaching Philosophy?'

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 25 August 2020

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

When you attend an interview for a new job, the interviewer will ask you questions to find out about your suitability for the role. As part of your preparation for an upcoming interview, you should consider the types of questions the employer might ask you. A common question for those who are applying for a leadership role is, 'What is your teaching philosophy?' In this article, we look at this interview question and discuss how you should approach it in order to make a good impression.

What is a teaching philosophy?

A teaching philosophy is an explanation of your teaching practices, values and beliefs. You acquire your teaching philosophy through a combination of your experiences and the methods you studied in educational courses. You may also be affected by your experience of childhood education as a parent or from when you were a child.

A teaching philosophy is more common to have in teaching roles than management roles. To create your specific teaching philosophy statement, you need to self-reflect and think about the methods you apply in the classroom or office. Think about what you have found most effective and rewarding, and consider your definition of learning and how you know when learning is successful. Then, review the type of course materials you prefer, the activities you find most successful and how you plan a learning route for your students or trainees.

Here are some questions you should consider when creating your teaching philosophy:

  • What do you believe about teaching?

  • What is your favourite or least favourite thing about teaching?

  • What do you believe about learning? Why?

  • How do you think students learn most effectively?

  • How do you make sure that you achieve student learning goals?

  • Do student identity and background change your teaching methods?

  • What are your challenges with teaching and student learning?

  • What has been your most significant teaching success? Why?

  • What is most important to you when you teach?

  • Have you ever failed when teaching? What did you do to change the situation?

Throughout your career as a teacher, trainer or manager, you may find that your teaching styles and methods change, so you should periodically review your teaching philosophy and make adjustments if necessary.

When would an employer ask, 'What is your teaching philosophy?'

When you are applying for a leadership position, such as an educator or manager, you may be responsible for training others. Whether an employer is interviewing you for a position with an educational institution or a company hiring someone to train other professionals, they want to ensure that your methods align with their organisation's goals and values.

To assess your abilities and teaching methods, the interviewer may ask you, '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?'

Hiring candidates with effective teaching and leadership skills can be extremely beneficial to employers. As such, preparing for this question ahead of time can help you feel ready to deliver a confident response.

Why do employers ask this question?

When employers ask this question, they are looking for insight into how you perform your teaching duties. Your response 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.

This question is a way for employers to gauge your skills and determine whether you have the knowledge and experience to fulfil the job duties. Interviewers also ask this question when they want to better understand how you plan to address pupils or trainees, approach teaching challenges and ensure each student's or trainee's success.

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

  • Speak in the present tense

  • Avoid unnecessary jargon

  • Use concrete examples

Keep it concise

Be as straightforward as possible when you answer this question. Start by identifying what you think teaching should achieve, and then list the methods you use to reach that objective. Finally, 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 is 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 is easy to follow rather than complicated, technical terms. This will ensure that the interviewer fully comprehends your answer and recognises your strengths. It also helps them apply your answer to their organisation, which is especially helpful if you are changing industries.

Use concrete examples

When it comes to sharing your teaching philosophy, it is important to demonstrate your skills while telling the interviewer about them. 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 have achieved through your teaching style.

Teaching philosophy examples

Here are a few ways you can share your teaching philosophy statement during an interview:

When applying for a leadership position

You can use the above tips when applying for a job as a manager where you are responsible for training new employees or educating existing employees on new tools or processes. You should use this example for roles 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 to accomplish this.

In my current role as a customer service director, I am responsible for training new customer service representatives. When I first started, I noticed that new 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.

I choose trainees at random to role play as customers and agents 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 turning the experience into a game, we have decreased mistakes and improved the retention of the 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, high school or university as an experienced teacher. In this case, you should 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 have not learned how to properly review material on their own. I believe that helping young primary school students learn how to study independently better prepares them for the demands of high school and university courses.

In my current role as a sixth-grade teacher, I often perform pop quizzes based on 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 every day so that students could review the previous day's lesson material. Since then, pop quiz scores have increased by more than 50%.'

When applying for your first teaching role

You might also have to answer this question 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 is harder for them to gather meaning. As a literature teacher, my goal is to help students empathise 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 compare events in the plays to events in pop culture. This not only helps students understand the stories but also helps them draw thought-provoking conclusions.'

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