Writing an educational leadership philosophy statement

by Natasha Kenny and Carol Berenson

We often support instructors in creating teaching philosophy statements, and various resources exist to support their development (e.g. Chism, 1998; Kenny, Jeffs, and Berenson, 2015; Schonwetter et al., 2002).  However, few resources are available to help faculty in preparing educational leadership philosophy statements.

We recently created a resource to help faculty preparing educational leadership philosophy statements as part of their nomination dossiers for institutional and national awards, such as the University of Calgary Teaching Award for Educational Leadership and the 3M National Teaching Fellowship.

Similar in format to a teaching philosophy statement, an educational leadership philosophy statement “clearly communicate[s] what our beliefs are about educational leadership, why we hold these beliefs and how we translate our beliefs into practice” (Berenson and Kenny, 2015).  An example structure for an educational leadership philosophy statement and guiding questions to help those preparing a statement are presented in Table 1 below.  While every statement will uniquely articulate the educational leadership beliefs and practices of each author, these questions provide a foundational guide for helping to support faculty in creating an educational leadership philosophy statement.

Dr. Ken MacMillan, 3M National Teaching Fellow, and the 2015 recipient of the UCalgary Award for Educational Leadership) has shared an example educational leadership philosophy statement here.

Table 1: Key components of a teaching philosophy statement with guiding questions for reflection.

Questions adapted from: Kearns, K.D. & Sullivan, C.S. (2011); Kenny, Jeffs & Berenson (2015); Stavros & Hinrichs (2011); Schonwetter et al. (2002); Seldin, P., Miller, J. E., & Seldin, C. A. (2010).

Philosophy Statement Components Guiding Questions
      Beliefs about educational leadership What are my beliefs about educational leadership in post-secondary education? Why do I hold these beliefs?   Who or what has most informed my leadership approaches? How have my beliefs been influenced by my experiences postsecondary educator and/or scholarly literature related to leadership? What difference do I hope to make as a leader? What does it mean to be a good leader in a post-secondary context?
      Educational leadership activities and initiatives What educational leadership activities, practices and initiatives have I implemented? How do these align with my beliefs? When have I felt most engaged and affirmed as an educational leader? What are my key strengths and skills as a leader? What am I most proud of? What sets me apart? What are some of my accomplishments as a post-secondary leader?
    Impact and Influence What difference have I made, and how do I know? What has been the impact and influence of my educational leadership (on me, on students, on colleagues, on my department, on my faculty, on the institution and beyond)? What have others learned from my leadership approaches?
    Future Aspirations How will I continue to develop, grow, and improve as a leader? What interests me most about teaching and learning in post-secondary education? What changes do I most hope to see and inspire? What are my future goals and aspirations as a leader in post-secondary education?

Developing an educational leadership philosophy statement provides an opportunity for individuals to reflect on their own leadership beliefs and activities. This process also makes visible the many ways in which leadership is formally and informally enacted by individuals on our campus.

References:

Berenson, C. & Kenny, N.A. (2016). Preparing an Educational Leadership Philosophy Statement. Calgary, AB: Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning.

Chism, Nancy. (1998). Developing a philosophy of teaching statement. Essays on Teaching Excellence: Toward the Best in the Academy, 9, 1-3.  Retrieved from http://podnetwork.org/content/uploads/V9-N3-Chism.pdf

Kearns, K.D. and Sullivan, C.S. (2011). Resources and practices to help graduate students and postdoctoral fellows write statements of teaching philosophy. Advances in Physiology Education, 35, 136-145.

Kenny, N.A., Jeffs, C., & Berenson, C. (2015). Preparing a Teaching Philosophy Statement. Calgary, AB: Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning.

Schonwetter, D.J., Sokal, L., Friesen, M., & Taylor, L.K. (2002). Teaching philosophies reconsidered: A conceptual model for the development and evaluation of teaching philosophy statements. International Journal for Academic Development, 7(1), 83-97

Seldin, P., Miller, J. E., & Seldin, C. A. (2010). The teaching portfolio: A practical guide to improved performance and promotion/tenure decisions. John Wiley & Sons.

Stavros, Jacqueline M, & Hinrichs, Gina. (2011). The Thin Book Of SOAR: Building Strengths-Based Strategy: Thin Book Publishing.

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