How to organize and structure a teaching dossier

By: Natasha Kenny, Director, Educational Development Unit, Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning

We are engaging in more conversations about teaching dossiers in the Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning as faculty prepare for tenure and promotion, institutional and national teaching award programs ask for robust evidence of teaching excellence, and career postings in academia ask for applicants to provide evidence of their teaching approaches.

What is a teaching dossier?

A teaching dossier “presents an integrated summary of your teaching philosophy, approaches, accomplishments, and effectiveness” (Kenny and Berenson, 2014). The best dossiers are grounded in philosophies that provide overviews of key beliefs related to teaching and learning. They present carefully curated selections of documentation to provide evidence of teaching practices, strengths, and contributions to student learning, and they explicitly indicate how this evidence aligns back to teaching beliefs and philosophy. Strong dossiers will provide evidence from multiple perspectives (e.g. the nominee, colleagues, and students) and data sources, clearly demonstrating both the scope and impact of the nominee’s strengths, approaches, and contributions to teaching and student learning. The absolute best dossiers capture nominees’ authentic voices and are grounded in strong reflective narratives that provide readers with a clear understanding of authors’ beliefs, approaches, contributions, expertise, and strengths. A dossier narrative should guide readers to an understanding of why the author does what they do to support teaching and learning, the contextual factors that have influenced their teaching approaches, and how they hope to continue to grow and improve in the future.

What goes in a teaching dossier?

How does this all come together in one carefully presented document?  Please see an example structure for organizing you teaching dossier below.

Section A: Evidence from Self

This section should describe who you are, what you believe about teaching and student learning, what you do, what you have accomplished, and where you want to go.

Philosophy Statement

  • One to two pages describing what you believe about teaching and student learning, why you hold these beliefs, and brief highlights of how you put them into practice.

Roles and Responsibilities

  • List of roles and responsibilities (e.g. title, description, and responsibilities related to teaching and learning). An overview of courses taught including course code, title, enrollment, graduate/undergraduate course, required/elective. This may also include undergraduate/graduate supervisory, practicums, clinical teaching, and educational leadership roles.
  • Brief reflection on your primary roles and responsibilities related to teaching and learning.

Strategies and Supporting Materials

  • A detailed description of selected strategies and supporting materials (e.g. assignment description, representative excerpts from syllabuses, example learning material and assignments [e.g. lab workbooks and reports, projects, creative work, field work], photos that document student learning experiences, screenshots that capture learning materials and resources). Full syllabuses or sample course assignments and learning materials may be included in the Appendix.
  • Brief reflection on how these strategies and supporting materials link back to your teaching philosophy, what these strategies say about your strengths and accomplishments, what you have learned through these strategies and activities, and how will you continue to grow and improve.

Educational Service and Leadership

  • A list and description of engagement in initiatives implemented, and/or service contributions that help strengthen teaching and learning or enable other’s growth and development as educators (e.g. teaching and learning committees, working groups, task forces or curriculum committees, informal or formal mentorship).
  • Brief reflection on how you have contributed to these activities, how this work relates back to your beliefs or approaches to teaching and student learning, what this work says about your strengths, what you have learned through these experiences, and how you hope to further grow and develop.

Professional Learning and Development

  • A list and description of professional learning and development activities related to teaching and learning (e.g. programs, certificates, courses, workshops, conferences).
  • Brief reflection on why you engaged in these activities, what you learned from them, how you have incorporated these learnings into your practice, how these learnings have influenced your beliefs or approaches to teaching and student learning, and where you hope to further grow and develop.

Engagement in discipline-based educational research (DBER) or the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL).

  • Description of engagement in DBER and SoTL, including a list of projects and outcomes (e.g. project reports, results, conference presentations, publications).
  • Brief reflection on why you engaged in these activities, how they link back to your teaching practice, what you have learned from these activities, how you have incorporated these learnings into your practice, how these learnings have influenced your beliefs or approaches to teaching and student learning, and where you hope to further grow and develop (including future scholarly engagement related to teaching and student learning).

Goals

  • Short and long-term goals related to teaching and student learning to provide evidence of continuous growth and development.

Section B: Evidence from Students

This section should provide evidence of the scope and impact of your practices and accomplishments, from students’ perspectives.

Course Evaluation Data

  • Summary of course evaluation data (e.g. student ratings of instruction or other course evaluation data presented in a table over multiple learning contexts, years, and courses). It is recognized that this data may not be available or appropriate in all contexts.
  • Brief reflection on what you have learned from this data, how this data and related comments connect to your philosophy and practices, what this data says about your strengths and areas for improvement, and what actions you will take to grow and improve.

Student Comments

Examples of unedited student comments from multiple courses or learning experiences, where they are available. Full sets are most often presented in an appendix.

  • In large courses, a representative selection of comments or full sets of comments answering one or two questions may be provided with an explanation of how the comments were prepared.
  • Summary of formative feedback received from students (e.g. mid-semester feedback).
  • Testimonials that speak directly to areas highlighted in your philosophy or strategies.
  • Brief reflection on what you have learned from these comments, how these comments connect to your philosophy and practices, what this data says about your strengths, and what actions you will take to grow and improve.

Sample of student work

  • Examples of student work that support your teaching beliefs, strategies, strengths and accomplishments. This may include exemplars, successive drafts of student work, and evidence of success (e.g. career placement and progression, graduate school admission, student publications and conference presentations that were prepared under your supervision or as a result of your teaching and learning activities).
  • Brief reflection to put these examples in context, on how these connect to your philosophy and practices, what they say about your strengths, and what actions you will take to grow and improve.

Section C: Evidence Provided by Peers

This section should provide evidence of the scope and impact of your practices and accomplishments, from your colleagues’ perspectives.

Awards and Recognition

  • A title and description of nominations and recognition regarding your contributions to teaching and learning. Many readers may be unfamiliar with these awards, so it is helpful to provide context (e.g. Is this a faculty-level, institutional, professional, national or international level award? Why did you receive this/these awards? Who nominated you?).
  • A list of external invitations to speak or teach based on your contributions to teaching and student learning.
  • Example statements or testimonials from colleagues regarding your teaching and learning practices.
  • A summary of peer evaluations and reviews of your teaching or course learning materials.
  • Brief reflection on what these awards, nominations and peer feedback pieces have meant to your growth and development, how they demonstrate your strengths, what you have learned, how they relate back to your beliefs or approaches to teaching and student learning, and how you hope to further grow and develop.

Summary or Conclusion

  • A brief reflection to summarize and highlight the information presented in the dossier, how this information best demonstrates your beliefs, strengths and accomplishments, what you have learned through this process, what it has meant to your growth and development as a teacher, and how you hope to further grow and develop.

Appendix

This section should include complete documentation and letters of support from others that support the information presented throughout the teaching dossier.

Complete documentation

  • Documentation to support statements of accomplishment throughout the dossier as indicated above (e.g. course outlines, assignments, course materials, examples of student work, course evaluation results, peer observation reports, SoTL publications).

Letters of Support

  • Signed letters from former students and peers that complement or elaborate on your teaching beliefs, strategies and accomplishments. Quotations from these letters may be integrated throughout the dossier to provide further evidence of effectiveness.

Where do I start?

My advice to anyone creating a teaching dossier is to start with your philosophy, and to build a table of contents based on the above structure. You may not have information to present in all sections, so start with the sections you are most confident and comfortable with and trust that the best teaching dossiers are always a work in progress.

Reference

Kenny, N.A. and Berenson, C. (2014). Creating a Teaching Dossier. Calgary, AB: Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning.

Examples and additional resources

You can find example dossiers at:

http://www.queensu.ca/ctl/what-we-do/teaching-and-assessment-strategies/teaching-dossiers

Additional resource related to preparing a dossier and philosophy statement can be found at:

http://www.ucalgary.ca/taylorinstitute/resources/teaching-philosophies-and-dossiers

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