How do I enunciate a teaching philosophy?

Getting started


  • How can I use reflection in a way that is clearly directed at improving student learning?
  • What theories exist to guide my reflective teaching practice?
  • How can I use reflective practice to engage in a more scholarly approach to my teaching?

Teaching Philosophy

Satisfactory performance in this teaching performance area requires enunciation of a teaching philosophy based on critical self-reflection along with awareness of body of knowledge and literature in the field of education, and an ability to relate one's own teaching to that literature.

A teaching or educational philosophy is a statement of what you feel drives, motivates and informs your practice as a teacher or educator. A teaching philosophy should be based around  critical self-reflection about your subject and educational knowledge; your teaching skills; your qualities as an educator and your core approaches to learning based around educational theory and concepts. The section on What makes a good teacher goes into some detail about writing a teaching philosophy. The section of this resource on professional development provides you with ways to stay up to date with teaching theory and practice.

This section of the module provides you with a theory of reflection that you can put into practice as a part of the process of developing and enunciating a teaching philosophy. 



This section provides a broad overview of how reflecting on teaching can lead to development and to improvement of teaching practice. The section, Evaluation of Practice and Continuing Professional Development provides information for more formal teaching development.

The literature on reflection is extensive. However, one of the best known theories of reflection - articulated by Donald Schön amongst others (See Taking it Further) - states that there is a difference between "reflecting in action" and "reflecting on action".

Reflecting in action is the act of reflecting on what we know as revealed by what we do. Reflection in action is in the moment and directed towards what is known in the moment. An example of reflecting in action would be reflecting on an aspect of a particular teaching activity - e.g. a tutorial discussion - during the discussion. Schön suggests that this sort of reflection is caused by surprise at something that has happened. The surprise might be caused by the fact that a particular strategy is working very well or by the fact that the strategy seems to be failing. Reflection might include asking the question, "Why is this happening?" or "What has caused this?"

Reflecting on action occurs after the event and involves a conscious reflection on your reflections in action. This is an important point. When reflecting on action the way in which you reflect on the event itself is not by simply thinking about what happened, but also by exploring your initial 'in the moment' reflections in action, thinking about why things happened and what actions might be taken to address identified issues. Reflection in action is, according to Schön, is a process that uses the medium of words. Reflecting on action could therefore involve talking with others, writing a reflective commentary or simply thinking through the reflection in action.

According to Schön, reflection in and on action leads to new practice knowledge which can be applied to future teaching situations. This might be knowledge of how to do things better or it might be the knowledge that something has worked well and can be tried again. We might describe this sort of knowledge as "actionable theory" (knowledge in use) that can be tried and tested in a new teaching situation. Further reflection in and on action will again lead to new practice knowledge or to new actionable theory. The skills of reflection are part of the toolkit of the reflective practitioner.


You may find it useful to read the Schön article in the Taking it Further section. The article will give you a more comprehensive understanding of the epistemological assumptions behind the idea of reflecting in action and reflection on action. 

Development and Improvement

In Schön's theory of reflection, concrete experience leads to reflection which in turn leads to actionable theory. The teacher tries something new having thought about a particular teaching situation that provided a challenge or an opportunity. Experience, reflection and action can be understood in terms of David Kolb's experiential learning cycle (see Kolb in Taking it Further).

Adapted from Kolb and Fry, 1975

The figure above shows how a learner - in this case someone learning about teaching - can progress through the experiential learning cycle: experience is translated through reflection into concepts, which in turn are used as guides for active experimentation and the choice of new experience. Kolb stated that a learner can begin the learning cycle at any one of the four modes, but that it should be carried on as a continuous spiral. As a result, knowledge is constructed through creative tension among the four modes and learners will be exposed to all aspects of learning: experiencing, reflecting, thinking and acting. 

Abstract conceptualization is the stage at which the learner comes up with a way to do things differently. The new way of approaching teaching might result from the process of reflection. For example, reflecting on a particular tutorial might lead to the conclusion that students were not engaged with the content and that students need to be taught in a way that demonstrates the relevance of the concept in the real world.

However, reflection may not always be sufficient to suggest alternative approaches to teaching. When this is the case the teacher might turn to peers or to the teaching literature. When literature is consulted the teacher is taking a scholarly approach to teaching which may lead the teacher to engage in the scholarship of teaching.

Take a look at the University of New South Wales resource for an expanded explanation of the relationship between reflection and the learning cycle. You'll find a clear explanation of the critical components of reflective practice along with a clear explanation of the relationship between reflective practice and the theoretical literature on teaching and learning.

Whether you are reflecting, being scholarly or engaging in the scholarship of teaching, the point of what you are doing is to improve your teaching to benefit student learning. This means that you must be systematic in what you do and that you must have a way to gauge whether the changes that you make ultimately benefit the students.

If you want to go further with gathering feedback then please visit the Evaluation of Practice and Continuing Professional Development section of this website.


One way in which you might evidence satisfactory performance in the Contribution of Scholarship, Research and Professional Activities is through enunciating a teaching philosophy based on critical self-reflection.

  • The experiential learning cycle provides a model for understanding how to reflect, develop and improve teaching with the ultimate aim of benefiting students.
  • If you're interested in using this model, you might start an ePortfolio record to document your use of the model in your teaching.

Satisfactory performance in the Contribution of Scholarship, Research and Professional Activities can also be evidenced by showing an awareness of the body of knowledge and literature in the field of teaching and learning and by relating the literature to your own teaching. This falls under the activity of  scholarly teaching

Merit and distinction might be evidenced by involvement in  the scholarship of teaching along with evidence of contributions to teaching and learning theory and practice at an international level. This resource does not provide content on contributing to teaching and learning at an international level. 

Taking it further

Kolb, D. and Fry, R. 1975, "Toward an Applied Theory of Experiential Learning", in C. Cooper (ed.) Theory of Group Processes, John Wiley and Sons Inc, New York.
This chapter presents and explains the model of the experiential learning cycle. 

Schön, D. A. (1995). Knowing-in-Action: The New Scholarship Requires a New Epistemology. Change, 27(6), 26-34.
If you are interested in reflection in action and reflection on action then you can start with this article by Schön. This article defines and explains the two concepts and at just 10 pages it will provide you with a useful introduction to reflective teaching. If the article interests you, then you might try the suggested book (below).

 Schön, D. A. (1987). Educating the Reflective Practitioner. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Donald Schön examines five professions - engineering, architecture, management, psychotherapy and town planning - to show how professions really go about solving problems. Although this book was published in the 1980's it is still quoted extensively in the teaching and learning literature.

 The University of New South Wales Teaching and Learning Page
This is an excellent web page that provides a clear summary of the place of experience and reflection in the experiential learning cycle.

 University of Auckland Resources

 Postgraduate Qualifications in Medical Education
The Centre for Medical and Health Sciences Education offers a Postgraduate Certificate in Clinical Education,Postgraduate Diploma in Clinical Education, and a Master of Clinical Education.The courses are delivered both full-time and part-time, primarily though online learning, allowing students flexibility to study in their own time. The university's online learning portal, CECIL, is used alongside two-day workshops in Auckland for some courses. The CMHSE can also provide support for doctoral research students concerned with the areas of clinical and health professional's education. 
 The University of Auckland Academic Staff Professional Development Policy
The University is committed to providing its academic staff with the opportunity to become excellent teachers and leading scholars and researchers in their fields, and to developing their managerial, leadership and technical abilities. Its strategies for achieving these goals include the provision of staff development programmes and high quality professional development advice and support. The University will provide academic staff development and training programmes and other opportunities to assist staff members in meeting their short term needs and advancing their long term development objectives.

The University of Auckland Certificate in Academic Practice

The PGCert in Academic Practice is a credit-bearing programme that provides university lecturers with a structured, research-based educational environment in which they can explore theories of tertiary teaching and academic citizenship and begin to apply these theories to their own teaching.

Add to myEportfolio

If you need to log in:

FMHS staff - log in with NetID/UPI. Registration is not required. Affiliated members, e.g. clinical teachers who don't have NetID, can register for an account after clicking 'Login'.

What is myEportfolio?
Questions regarding access

How do I enunciate a teaching philosophy?

“A teaching philosophy can help you to reflect on how and why you teach. If you don’t have a teaching philosophy, you might want to consider writing one. You can take a look at What makes a good teacher? to get started. If you already have a teaching philosophy, you might want to reflect on how the work that you are doing here fits with that philosophy”.