Teaching Dossiers

“Teaching dossiers are to teaching what lists of publications, grants and honors are to research and scholarship” (Peter Seldin, 2004).

A teaching dossier (or teaching portfolio) is a professional document that summarizes your beliefs about teaching and provides evidence of your teaching experiences and abilities.

Preparing Your Teaching Dossier

Putting together a teaching dossier provides the opportunity to reflect on your teaching experiences, contributions, and strengths and share feedback from students and colleagues. Your teaching dossier conveys the range of your teaching contributions, including elements such as:

  • student-centered approaches
  • efforts to improve or expand your pedagogical knowledge and practices
  • course design and teaching methods
  • self-evaluation and reflective practices
  • facilitation and leadership skills
  • roles in curriculum development
  • engagement with teaching scholarship
  • commitment to teaching.

Consider keeping track of teaching dossier elements from your first teaching experience. Keep copies of syllabi and student feedback, and record successful learning activities and assessments, course design and redesign activities, and contributions to curriculum work. It is far easier to have all your materials for your dossier readily at hand when you need to create the document than to try and find evidence after the fact. Develop a habit of consciously compiling the teaching-related activities and events that you are involved in. Having too much material to choose from for your dossier is better than not enough.

Content of the Teaching Dossier

Teaching dossiers are usually 10-15 pages, excluding appendices. The common sections found in most dossiers are outlined below. However, faculty members should ask their department Chair or Dean if there are discipline-specific or internal guidelines for preparing their dossiers. See the Information for Western Faculty section to learn how teaching dossiers are used in the tenure and promotion process, according to Western’s Faculty Collective Agreement.

1. Teaching Philosophy Statement

This 1- to 2-page statement describes your beliefs about teaching and how these influence the way you teach (i.e., why you make the pedagogical decisions that you do).


2. Teaching Responsibilities

Teaching responsibilities are typically formatted as a list from most to least recent (to a maximum of 7 years).

Additional Options

  • invited lectures (student-focused; not research-focused)
  • supervision of a teaching/research practicum or field placement
  • academic counselling, career planning, or non-research advising
  • special projects or activities relating to students (e.g., orientation activities, academic events)
  • educational outreach activities
  • Key information in this section includes course titles, codes, enrolments numbers, and succinct descriptions of your roles and responsibilities in each course.
  • Consider using subheadings to distinguish different teaching roles (e.g., Courses Taught, Course Coordinator, Teaching Assistant, etc.)
  • The dossier also typically includes a list of graduate and undergraduate students supervised in research, as mentorship is considered to be an aspect of teaching.
  • Remember to include copies of your most recent syllabi in the appendix.

3. Evidence of Teaching Effectiveness

This section of dossier typically includes a summary of both numerical ratings and selected feedback comments from students (to a maximum of 7 years). This section may also include short reflections on the feedback received and steps taken to address student input.

Numerical Ratings*

  • Western's Student Questionnaire on Courses and Teaching (SQCT) changed in September 2017. Because the measurement scale has changed, data from the old questionnaire and data from the new questionnaire is not comparable and must be compiled separately for purposes of promotion and tenure or performance evaluation.
  • Course instructors typically include the numerical data for two items found on the SQCT: 1) effectiveness as a university instructor; 2) the course as a learning experience.
  • You may also want to include summary data from some of the other items on the questionnaire that highlight your teaching strengths.
  • Consider presenting numerical data in a table. Remember to include course codes, dates, and number of respondents.
  • Be sure to explain the rating scale (e.g., old questionnaire Outstanding [7] to Very Poor [1], new questionanire Strongly Agree [7] to Strongly Disagree [1]).

Selected Comments*

  • Consider choosing ~3-5 student comments from each course taught that highlight your strengths as an instructor.
  • The more courses you have taught, the more selective you will have to be in your choices in order to keep the length of your dossier manageable. Consider providing comments from only the most recently taught courses, or combining feedback for the same course across multiple terms.

Solicited and Unsolicited Letters from Students

  • For the process of promotion and tenure, the Chair or Dean solicits the written opinions about a faculty member’s teaching from current and former graduate and undergraduate students, as well as members of faculty. Any written letters or emails from this formal solicitation are then included in the teaching dossier.
  • Unsolicited letters or emails from students complimenting your teaching, or whose research you have supervised may also be included.

Peer Feedback

  • If you have received feedback on your teaching from a peer or colleague, consider including a signed letter or summary of this feedback in your dossier.
  • You may also include colleague evaluations of your student feedback or course materials, such as syllabi and assignments.

Additional Options for Evidence of Teaching Effectiveness

  • teaching recognition, nominations, and awards
  • invitations to teach or contribute to teaching materials outside your department or the university
  • visiting professor positions
  • external funding obtained to develop teaching materials
  • evidence of student success due, in part, to your supervision (e.g., awards, scholarships, acceptance for advanced study).

*Note for Graduate Teaching Assistants: If formal feedback for TAs is not common practice in your department, consider designing your own feedback survey to distribute to students once the term is complete and marks are submitted.


*Note: Graduate students and post-docs completing the Western Certificate in University Teaching and Learning must include descriptions of 3-5 key instructional strategies in their submitted dossier. Consider using this section as a way to expand on and provide examples for strategies mentioned in your teaching philosophy statement. 

4. Teaching Strategies and Innovations

This section of the dossier is flexible.* You may want to highlight instructional strategies that you employ with success in your classroom or share innovative teaching strategies that you have adopted. You may also want to describe your contributions to course or curriculum revision and development.

Consider sharing descriptions of novel methods/materials such as texts, course handbooks, cases for problem-based learning, manuals, assignments, software, eLearning modules, etc. If available, include evidence of impact of your innovations (e.g., data from program evaluation studies, or letters of support from colleagues, students, or curriculum experts).


5. Professional Development in Teaching

This section describes the professional development experiences (conferences, courses, workshops) you have engaged in to enhance your abilities as an instructor. By including this section, you demonstrate engagement with and commitment to teaching. Descriptions typically include the program title and date, time commitment, and a brief description of key takeaways or outcomes.  


6. Educational Leadership

Educational leadership is the practice of engaging colleagues in developing and implementing shared visions, values, and goals that support learning for all students. Educational leaders promote meaningful changes that have a deep impact beyond the classroom.

Evidence of Educational Leadership

  • developing discipline-specific teaching resources for the department
  • bringing faculty together to address department-wide assessment strategies, challenges, and opportunities
  • establishing a community of instructors interested in enhancing their teaching practice and student learning
  • mentoring faculty within the department to incorporate student-centred practices and approaches to face-to-face and/or online instruction
  • developing resources or programs for mentoring new faculty or graduate students
  • addressing department-specific learning needs or departmental challenges
  • creating initiatives that encourage faculty/student collaborations.

7. Scholarship of Teaching and Learning/Research on Teaching

This section of the dossier illustrates your role in teaching and learning research and highlights how you have contributed to advancing teaching practices in higher education.

Evidence of Scholarly Activities 

  • grants held for research on teaching and learning
  • peer-reviewed research publications on teaching and learning in higher education
  • presentations on teaching research, course design, or curriculum issues
  • other scholarly communications about teaching and learning (e.g., contribution to a newsletter, teaching blog, etc.).

8. Sample Teaching Materials

Example teaching materials are typically included as an appendix. Consider including sample materials that align with your teaching philosophy and/or demonstrate achievement of student learning outcomes.

Possible Sample Teaching Materials 

  • outlines of successful class sessions or learning activities
  • assessments that illustrate student learning; innovative or authentic assessments
  • excerpt of outstanding student work
  • proposed course syllabus.

Information for Western Faculty

In accordance with the Faculty Collective Agreement, for the purposes of Promotion and Tenure, every full time faculty member is required to provide a record of his/her teaching in the form of a teaching dossier (Promotion and Tenure article, clauses 3.1.1 and 6.4b).

While the teaching dossier represents only one component of the faculty member’s file that is considered by Promotion and Tenure committees, it is very important in ensuring that the faculty member being considered receives a fair and thorough evaluation of their teaching contributions. Full teaching dossiers are used only for decisions on faculty tenure and promotion and for teaching award nominations. They are not required for annual performance appraisal or salary adjustments.

For current faculty members, the Promotion and Tenure clause 3.1.1 in the Collective Agreement is fairly broad on what to include in your dossier, stating that “The evaluation of performance in Teaching shall be based on a teaching record which may include any material deemed by the candidate to be relevant to the work of Teaching.” The clause goes on to state that, “The teaching record shall also include any available results of Student Questionnaires on Courses and Teaching. Evaluations of a Member’s performance in Teaching shall take into account factors that may bias such Student Questionnaires on Courses and Teaching.”

If you would like feedback on your teaching dossier, please contact ctl@uwo.ca to book an appointment with an Educational Developer. These appointments are typically booked a few weeks in advance.

Information for Western Graduate Students and Post-Doctoral Scholars

For graduate students and post-docs completing the Western Certificate in University Teaching and Learning (or applying for teaching positions), we encourage you to include as many of the dossier elements as possible in order to provide your audience with a comprehensive picture of your teaching experiences and abilities.

Early career instructors will have varying levels of teaching experience and information to share in their dossiers. Avoid including blank sections if you are currently unable to provide information for particular components (e.g., Student Feedback, Educational Leadership, or Scholarship of Teaching and Learning). However, take the time to reflect on how you might acquire these data or experiences in the future (e.g., by asking your students to complete an anonymous survey at the end of the next term).

When you have completed your Teaching Dossier (and Written Project for the Western Certificate on University Teaching and Learning), please submit your documents for feedback in order to book a feedback consultation with an Educational Developer.

If you are not completing the Certificate and would like feedback on your teaching dossier, please contact ctl@uwo.ca  to book an appointment with an Educational Developer. These appointments are typically booked a few weeks in advance.

CTL Programs

The following programs periodically have workshops on preparing teaching dossiers:

 


Further Reading


References

Seldin, P. (2004). The teaching portfolio (3rd ed.). Boston, MA : Anker Publishing.