Creating your teaching philosophy

What is the value of writing a teaching philosophy? And why is a teaching philosophy required in most faculty job applications and teaching award nominations?

Even experienced teachers say that writing a teaching philosophy can be difficult. Writing a teaching philosophy would be more challenging for graduate students, most of whom have been teaching for only a year or two. So why are teaching philosophies a required part of one’s teaching career?

During my faculty career at the University of Florida, I was fortunate to teach a pedagogy course for graduate students in the College of Journalism and Communications. I really enjoyed working with the graduate students to help them develop and expand their teaching competencies and their outlook on teaching and learning.

As a major assignment for the course, the students developed a teaching portfolio to be used in applying for faculty positions. The portfolio included their created instructional materials, a syllabus, and a teaching philosophy.

As a current member of UF’s Graduate Student Teaching Awards Committee, I’m reading some very effective teaching philosophies that are part of their nomination portfolios.

Writing a teaching philosophy can help you look at the big picture

Developing a teaching philosophy can help determine how you view your students, structure your course, and present as a teacher.

Let me share a few examples from some of the candidates (and some winners) for the Graduate Student Teaching Award.

Continue reading

University of Florida Graduate Student Teacher Award winners for 2021-2022

UF Graduate Student Teaching award winners2021-2022
Graduate Student Teaching Award winners and members of the Selection Committee. Photo by Eric Zamora

Congratulations to the 19 graduate students who were selected as the University of Florida Graduate Student Teaching Award winners for 2021-2022.

Award Winners

Pearis Bellamy – Psychology
Recep Celebi – Mathematics
Savannah Gramze – Astronomy
Joseph Hoft – Sociology and Criminology
Haley Johnson – Theatre and Dance
Lindsay Lloveras – Psychology
Nicolas Macaluso – Chemical Engineering
Ioannis Michaloliakos – Physics
Cristovão Nwachukwu – English
Emily Pappo – Natural Resources and Environment
Anthony Smith – Classics
Ar’Darius Stewart – Theatre and Dance
Nathaniel Strauss – Physics
Nieves Villaseñor III – Music
Anita Walsh – Economics
Lauren Weisberg  – Teaching and Learning
LingQin Xue – Physics

Calvin A. VanderWerf Winners

Leandra Merz – Geography
Hank Samuels – Teaching and Learning

Selection Committee

Connie Shehan, Chair
Professor of Sociology and Women’s Studies
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Sharon Difino
Clinical Assistant Professor of Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences
College of Public Health and Health Professions

Julie E. Dodd
Professor Emerita of Journalism
College of Journalism and Communications

Ifigeneia Giannadaki
Assistant Professor of Classics
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Martin Gundersen, Jr.
Associate Professor Emeritus of Architecture
College of Design, Construction and Planning

Valeria Kleiman
Associate Professor of Chemistry
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Sujata Krishna
Lecturer & Learning Assistant Coordinator of Physics
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Gillian Lord
Professor of Spanish and Portuguese Studies
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Jon Reiskind
Associate Professor Emeritus of Biology
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Lynn E. Sollenberger
Distinguished Professor of Agronomy
College of Agricultural and Life Sciences

Bradley Walters
Associate Professor of Architecture
College of Design, Construction and Planning

Lorna Dishman
Executive Assistant I
Graduate School


I am honored to serve on the Graduate Student Teaching Awards Committee to promote the importance of teaching excellence. Every semester, I am inspired by the hardworking, creative and caring graduate student instructors I observe.

I appreciate the University of Florida and Dr. Nicole Stedman, Associate Provost and Dean of the Graduate School, for making this award program possible.

University of Florida Graduate Student Teaching Award winners 2020-2021

Congratulations to the 20 University of Florida graduate students who received Graduate Student Teaching Awards for 2020-2021.

Here is the list of the award winners, including the top two who received the Calvin A. VanderWerf Award.

This was an especially challenging year for all teachers — K-12 and higher ed — due to Covid-19. The teaching assistants we observed, especially those selected as award winners, did an excellent job dealing with variables of online teaching or teaching in a hybrid or face-to-face setting.

I am honored to serve on the Graduate Student Teaching Awards Committee to promote the importance of teaching excellence. Every semester, I am inspired by the hardworking, creative and caring graduate student instructors I observe.

Thanks to Dr. Connie Shehan for chairing the committee and to Lorna Dishman, Executive Assistant in the Graduate School, who coordinates the application process and assists with our meetings.

Teach with Zoom breakout rooms

Zoom breakout rooms are a teaching tool being used more frequently as universities invest in the application and as instructors become more familiar in setting up and using the breakout rooms.

Zoom image

Having students work in breakout rooms can provide a change of pace in class and enable more students to engage actively in class.

As a member of the University of Florida’s Graduate Student Teaching Awards Committee, I have observed graduate students utilizing Zoom breakout rooms in a wide range of subject areas. Whereas instructors typically only make brief visits to breakout rooms during class, I have been able to observe the full time students are in a breakout room.

Based on my observations, I’m offering a few suggestions for using Zoom breakout rooms.

Develop an effective breakout room assignment.

Creating a good breakout room assignment is like creating a good small group discussion activity for face-to-face classes. Consider what a small group discussion will accomplish in a more productive way than a full-class discussion.

Continue reading

University of Florida Graduate Student Teaching Award winners

Congratulations to the 20 graduate students selected as the University of Florida Graduate Student Teaching Award winnners for 2019-2020.

The graduate students were nominated by their departments and were evaluated by the Graduate Student Teaching Awards Committee.

Each student submitted a teaching portfolio, including teaching philosophy and teaching evaluations, and was observed by two members of the committee.

2019-2020 Winners

  • Akieba Allen – Theatre and Dance
  • Richard Brust – History
  • Tara Mercurio Counts – Family, Youth and Community Sciences
  • Lisa Emerson – Microbiology and Cell Science
  • Kaitlyn Erhardt – Psychology
  • Melissa Fenton – Family, Youth and Community Sciences
  • Scarlett Godinez – Chemistry
  • Ethan Kutlu – Linguistics
  • Joana Guerrero-Rodriguez – Spanish & Portuguese Studies
  • Keifer MacDonald – Theatre and Dance
  • Alicia McGrew – Natural Resources and Environment
  • Victoria McNeil – Psychology
  • Caroline Parks – Geography
  • Anthony Pastore – Chemistry
  • Moinul Rahat – Physics
  • Gerald Robinson – Applied Physiology and Kinesiology
  • John Streese – Mathematics
  • Ashley Watts – Mathematics

The top two graduate students received the Calvin A. VanderWerf Award:

  • Dina Benbrahim – Art and Art History
  • Kendall Craig – Chemistry

Continue reading

Professional development for graduate teaching assistants

Falcon Restrepo-Ramos and EUS/SPN 4930 students

Falcon Restrepo-Ramos (front row in Gator blue shirt) with his students at the Student Symposium of Language policies in the multilingual European landscape (EUS/SPN 4930), Spring 2019.

by Falcon Restrepo-Ramos
Hispanic Linguistics, Ph.D. Candidate
Department of Spanish and Portuguese Studies
University of Florida

Years in grad school might seem like a tremendous endeavor for anyone pursuing a graduate degree. Such experience entails years of courses, research, coffee, and, in my case and many others, teaching.

Precisely, the figure of graduate teaching assistant (GTA) in one of the biggest state universities in the country (Go Gators!) not only carries a great deal of work but also memorable moments and many opportunities for innovative teaching and professional development.

Aside from the many different responsibilities of GTAs, which at times feels overwhelming, there are also grants, awards, programs and funding support that can make the University of Florida GTA experience professionally rewarding.

Here I would like to list two main lines of teaching and professional development that helped me maximize my GTA experience at UF. As you will see below, this list follows incremental steps towards a set of goals.

Continue reading

Effective teaching strategies demonstrated by top graduate student teachers

by Julie Dodd

Falcon Restrepo-Ramos receives the Calvin A. VanderWerf Award from Dean of the Graduate School Henry Frierson and Dr. Constance Shehan, chair of the selection committee. The VanderWerf Award is given to the top of the teaching award winners. Morgan Yacoe also received the VanderWerf Award. Photo by Julie Dodd

Promoting student involvement.

Connecting learning to important issues.

Assigning meaningful projects.

Establishing a supportive learning climate.

These were some of the effective teaching strategies employed by the graduate students who were selected to receive the University of Florida’s Graduate Student Teacher Awards for 2019.

As a member of the faculty committee that observes the graduate students nominated for this award, I could feel the energy of those really engaging instructors when I visited their classes. I admired the graduate students’ course design and class planning to create such good learning experiences for their students.

Structuring class activities to get students involved

In the classes I observed that were taught by award-winning graduate students, their students were actively involved. Here are three examples I observed.

The winners of the University of Florida’s Graduate Student Teaching Awards for 2019 and members of the selection committee. Photo by Eric Zamora

In a physiology lab, the students worked in teams to review the results of the physiology lab they had conducted independently online.

Talking with classmates in a small group helped them answer some of their own questions about the lab and prepared them to share their experiences and the questions they still had with the class. In addition, after talking in small groups, the students were more confident in speaking in class.

Continue reading