Teaching values and beliefs

This guide contains some ideas and resources to help you think about your values and beliefs.
Values and Beliefs Guiding Questions

Use these questions to draft a statement of your values and beliefs. 
These statements can be used directly in writing the personal statement for your file for tenure and promotion or contract renewal.     

  1. Describe how you teach and why you teach that way. (approach, philosophy) 
  2. What is most important to you in teaching? (values) 
  3. How do you believe your students learn? (beliefs) 
  4. How do your values and beliefs align with your approach? 
Teaching Perspectives Inventory

The Teaching Perspectives Inventory (TPI)  can offer you additional insight into the reasons you choose a particular teaching approach(es).  

Note that to receive a personalized TPI report, you need to provide some personal information. If you are uncomfortable doing so, "prefer not to say" will work for many of the questions. 

Also note that gaining insight from completing the instrument and reading the report takes about 15 minutes, longer if you watch all the video content. 

Connecting values, beliefs, and teaching approach

When your teaching approach connects well with your values—what you think is important in teaching—and your beliefs—how you think your students learn—that approach feels right.  You feel prepared, class time flows well, and you leave with a sense of accomplishment. This can happen in many ways. Here are a few examples: 

  1. A content-centered approach. If you think that it is important for your courses to cover specific topics (value), and you believe that learning is a matter of transferring knowledge from an expert teacher to a student (belief), then your approach to teaching might be to organize your course into a series of key topics and spend much time preparing clear lectures on each. 
  2.  A learner-centered approach. If you think it is important to meet students’ needs and develop their interests (values) and you believe that learning is an individual and social process of making sense of experience (belief), then your approach to teaching might be to foster engagement through discussions, collaborations, and group work. 
  3. A problem-centered approach. If you think it is important to prepare students to solve problems like those they will encounter after your course, say in a professional practice (value), and you believe that students learn through observing and mirroring the performance of those with more experience (belief), then your approach to teaching might follow some sort of apprenticeship model, pairing students with experts or more experienced students. 
  4. A discipline-centered approach. If you think it is important to introduce the special questions, methods, and norms of your discipline (values) and you believe that learning is a matter of socialization to a way of thinking and acting (beliefs), then your approach to teaching might be to have students work through classic cases in your field, guiding them to think as professionals are expected to think in that field. 

These examples are certainly not exhaustive. For example, your teaching approach may be shaped mostly by priority given to workplace preparation or to liberal education. And the examples are not necessarily exclusive. You might use different approaches, or combinations of approaches, with different students, in different courses and contexts, and so on. The point is that making conscious connections between your values, beliefs, and approach(es) helps you deepen your understanding and develop your skills as a teacher. This will prove invaluable as your courses become more flexible by design. 

Reflect: Refine statements of values and beliefs
  1. Return to the statements of values and beliefs in the “Guiding Questions.” Refine them based on what you have learned through exploring the topic 
  2. How could you approach teaching in a different way, yet still honor your values and beliefs? What other strategies could you try? 
  3. Take this reflection a step deeper by answering these questions: What is special about your teaching? How does your approach compare with that of others, for example, your former teachers? How do your courses contribute to a unique IC education? 

External resources

Writing your teaching philosophy. University of Minnesota, Center for Educational Innovation


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This material was adapted from the Summer Institute 2020, CFE, Ithaca College.