Writing Teaching Statements

How to write a (good) teaching statement for higher ed jobs

higher ed
for professors

July 13, 2020

If you do not have time to read the whole post, there is a Too Long Didn’t Read section at the end.


During the past academic year I offered teaching office hours in my department. Anyone could ask me anything about teaching, share their small or big teaching triumphs, or discuss any challenges that they were facing. One of the questions that I got asked the most by graduate students was how to write a teaching statement.

Despite the shift in higher education towards more open access everything (e.g. open access textbooks, open access data etc.), two things, in my opinion, have not caught up yet: open access job materials and open access grants. Since my primary job is teaching, I would like to share my job materials related to teaching however before I do that I would like to say few things on writing teaching statements. Most of what I write should be applicable to teaching in the broader sense but my examples will focus on writing teaching statements for statistics/data science jobs. I am only familiar with higher education jobs in the United States so this post will be US-centric. I hope some points will still be relevant to those outside the US.

Starting to Write

Before you even read anybody’s (including mine) teaching statement, I would suggest you to write your own teaching brain dump. In a brain dump your goal is not necessarily to have a nicely worded or formatted statement. You just write whatever comes to your mind about teaching, literally anything. You can even write something like “I hate teaching, I am a bad teacher, I am scared of teaching.”1 Nobody except you is going to read this. You do not even have to make full sentences! The brain dump is for you and not for a reader.

Here are some writing prompts that you might consider:

  • What courses, workshops have you already taught? If you have absolutely no formal teaching experience, consider the times where you might have tried to explain a concept to a peer or a colleague, that includes giving presentations.
  • Consider some teachers from your own past, the good ones and the bad ones. Why were they good or why were they bad? Good teachers do not have to be identical. A good teacher might be extremely strict but another good teacher can be extremely relaxed. Now consider how you are perceived by your students? What kind of a teacher are you? Are you strict? How would you like to be perceived by your students?
  • What is “good” about your teaching? How do you know it is good? Is it in your course evaluations? Has a student emailed you about it? Or have they amazingly left a handwritten note? Yes, keep those notes not only because such notes have a sentimental value but they also tell something about your teaching.
  • What was/is “bad” about your teaching? Have you tried to change it? Do you plan on changing it?
  • What are your policies, rules? Why? These policies are not like I assign 50% homework, 30% final, 20% to midterm kind of policies but more on the lines of group work is extremely important for my teaching but in-class exams not so much.
  • What kind of activities do you do in the classroom? (e.g. lecture, group work, coding, in-class quizzes.) Why?
  • What do you think helps your students (and humans in general) learn? How do you connect this to your teaching?
  • Do you use any special tools (e.g. software)? How do you use it? Why do you use it?
  • Anything else you can think about from your teaching past, present, and future. Literally ANYTHING!

From Brain Dump to a Teaching Statement

Before you ask, let me tell you that a teaching statement that only consists of courses taught and student evaluations is not a teaching statement. The teaching experience is already provided on your CV. Often, teaching evaluations also accompany job applications or other activities that require teaching statements.

Three things you should take into consideration from moving from teaching brain dump to a teaching statement is the length, audience, and the purpose of the teaching statement. I think it is needless to say that whenever you submit a teaching statement, either for a job application or promotion there are many pages being read, the longer your statement, the less likely the reader will be able to pay full attention. There is no written rule on this but my personal rule for job applications is maximum two pages. Now that I have a job where I am mostly evaluated by my teaching I have extended that to three pages in my promotion files. Another trick you can use to make it easier on the reader is to have sections in your statement. Having sections will also help you organize your ideas from your brain dump.

Your goal in teaching is to make sure students learn, however, your goal in writing a teaching statement is making somebody else believe that you can teach well. This distinction is very important. Many people say that cover letters should be tailored for the specific job you apply, I would argue that your teaching statement should also be tailored for the audience too. For instance, I have applied to jobs where the hiring committee was looking for someone who could teach probability and Bayesian statistics and I have applied to jobs where the job was more on teaching computational courses. Even though majority of my teaching statement was exactly the same, I had modified a sentence or sometimes a paragraph to provide examples from such courses.

Lastly, you have to consider the purpose of your teaching statement and what role it plays. Are you using it to apply for a job? Then you want to convince the reader that you are the teacher they have been looking for. Are you using it for promotion? Then the reader will most likely have some idea of your teaching situation (e.g. course enrollments) so you can focus more on how you have done your best (and beyond) in teaching given the teaching context that you were in. Are you using the teaching statement because you have been nominated for a teaching award? If the award is specific (e.g. best technology integration) you want to exemplify more characteristics related to the award.

Even though I cannot recall who said this to me2 but the best advice I ever received on writing teaching statements was that teaching statements need to answer the following three questions regarding teaching:

  • What do you do?
  • Why do you do it?
  • How do you know it works?

Once you complete your brain dump, the answers to these questions should be there. The rest will be putting ideas and examples into a good flow and format. Anything you know about writing in general would apply at this stage too (e.g. no typos, having others read the statement for feedback etc.). Lastly, when I am on hiring committees, one thing I care a lot about when I read teaching statements is that whether I can imagine the writer teaching in the classroom. If a teaching statement cannot make me imagine the job candidate as a teacher, I have no other way of knowing whether the candidate can be a (good) teacher unless they submitted other teaching related materials. Be generous with your examples from your classes.


If you are still affiliated with a university, are there any resources provided by your university? Ask around! At the Ohio State University, where I completed my PhD, I benefited from seminars on preparing for the job market hosted by the Career Office some of which included writing teaching statements. I also was able to get one-on-one help on my teaching statement from the Center for Teaching and Learning. There might be similar opportunities at your own university.

I am also providing you with two teaching statements that I have written. I wrote the first one when I was still a graduate student. I wrote the second one two years after my PhD when I was once again on the job market. Before you read my teaching statements, I would encourage you to do the brain dump activity I suggested above. Once you see somebody else’s statement you cannot unsee. Just like no two teachers are identical no teaching statements should be identical. So if you want an original teaching statement you first have to start with your own brain dump.

I also benefited a lot from the Professor is In which is a blog, book, community not only for writing teaching statements but also in general about understanding academia.

UC Irvine’s Division of Teaching Excellence and Innovation has some snippets from teaching statements.

Best of luck with writing your teaching statement. Please share this blog post with anyone who you think would benefit from it.


  • Before you write a nicely formatted teaching statement, write a brain dump on anything about your teaching experience, feelings, thoughts etc.
  • Format your teaching statement. Consider its length, its purpose, and the audience that will be reading it.
  • Your teaching statement should answer at the very least three questions : 1) What do you do? 2) Why do you do it? 3) How do you know it works?
  • Here are two teaching statements that I wrote, one when I was a graduate student and the other one two years after my PhD both for job applications.
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  1. If you have such thoughts about teaching, I would like to remind you that teaching can be learned. Just like you learn physics, art, sports, you can also learn teaching.↩︎

  2. If I ever find out whoever this was, I would like to acknowledge them with their name.↩︎