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Teaching Dossier Kit


THE TEACHING DOSSIER KIT

This informal and practical guide to the teaching dossier for faculty and TA’s at the University of Victoria includes sections on

  • what is a teaching dossier?

  • what does it look like?

  • what might be included? (including tips on writing a teaching philosophy)

  • how is it evaluated? and

  • Getting Started (with a step-by-step guide to the collection and compilation of materials, sample tables of content, a sample teaching dossier and a teaching dossier checklist.)

SOME BACKGROUND

The teaching dossier (also known as the teaching portfolio) originated in 1980 as a collaborative effort by some members of the Canadian Association of University Teachers. The dossier is "a summary of a professor's major teaching accomplishments and strengths" and provides selected short descriptions that convey the scope and quality of your teaching. It is to a professor's teaching what lists of publications, grants and academic honours are to research (a description from the latest revision of the original document from CAUT.) Many universities in Canada and the United States now require the submission and evaluation of a teaching dossier in faculty evaluation procedures; it is a flexible enough document to be used for both personnel decisions and for providing stimulus and structure for teaching improvement. A recent STLHE listserv discussion on the use of teaching dossiers prompted this comment from a teacher at McMaster University,

"...they have widened the base of knowledge and information available to university decision-makers on teaching effectiveness. In addition, the preparation of a teaching dossier by faculty members tends to increase their own self-consciousness about teaching and what it entails. Faculty members have more scope to demonstrate their teaching effectiveness and their understanding of what good teaching entails is probably deeper."

We recommend that you start and maintain a teaching dossier to keep track of your teaching activities, your philosophy of teaching, and details of your classroom experiences. The dossier will serve as a tool for self-development and provide evidence of your teaching effectiveness.

We hope that this kit will provide some useful background material, the stimulus to begin and a good framework for assembling a useful dossier, both for your own on-going teaching improvement and to make a good case for your teaching effectiveness when applying for promotion, tenure or salary increments.

The Learning and Teaching Centre (8571) can provide more information or help in creating your teaching dossier.

A. WHAT IS A TEACHING DOSSIER?

The C.A.U.T. Guide to the Teaching Dossier describes it as "a summary of a professor's major teaching accomplishments and strengths"—a selection of short descriptions that illustrate your teaching activities and philosophy. It is an evolving document that might be viewed as your annual report on teaching and it is a personal document for which you are the editor, you select the criteria and you take the responsibility. It is a purposive document: the criteria may shift as your career develops and as your responsibilities change. It can expand or contract depending on the need--tenure and promotion application, giving a routine annual report, application for a job or documentation for a teaching award for example. The documentation it contains is mostly exemplary--illustrating your best work, your students' best work or the innovations that have had the greatest demonstrable impact on student learning. It is also an opportunity to put your teaching and the products of your teaching into context for those who will be judging or evaluating your teaching effectiveness.  Typically it will contain a list of your teaching responsibilities, self evaluation and evaluation by others (students, peers, alumni, colleagues) and will include a short statement of your personal teaching philosophy, an annual assessment of your teaching development projects, a list of your long-term teaching goals and an overview of your approach to meeting these goals. You may include some examples of course materials, evaluation materials, documented student accomplishments, evidence of teaching improvement, descriptions of innovative approaches to teaching--the contents remain your decision. Preparing a teaching dossier is a two-part process involving (i) the collection and (ii) the presentation of materials.

The Teaching Dossier: what is its purpose?

From the institution's perspective

UVIC's Strategic Plan describes the need for and importance of "...formal measures for evaluating teaching effectiveness as a central component in all decisions relating to tenure, promotion and salaries of University of Victoria academic staff." The Strategic Plan reiterates the wording in the Tenure Document that there are various sites of teaching in and out of the formal classroom, "The individual's ability to teach is of great importance. Ability as a teacher may take many different forms and evaluation of teaching ability shall be based on as many kinds of evidence as possible."  The Salary Policy for Regular Faculty Members and Continuing Librarians dated May 8, 2000 notes that faculty members are evaluated according to the following three criteria—(a) teaching effectiveness (b) scholarship and professional achievements and (c) other contributions. In this same document, the definition of teaching effectiveness "means the effectiveness of all of a Member’s methods and forms of teaching and student supervision that are described and evaluated in accordance with the Evaluation Policy of the Faculty. The evaluation shall be conducted on the basis of a Faculty Member’s teaching dossier that may include items such as teaching evaluations, peer reviews, class visits, reviews of syllabi and examinations, evidence of innovative teaching, and teaching awards."  Clearly, the dossier is an ideal source from which administrators may view "as many kinds of evidence as possible." Creating and maintaining a dossier allows you to present this evidence to administrators and evaluators: it is an opportunity to describe the way you teach and why—your philosophy, a statement of your goals, a description of your innovative practices and evidence of your teaching effectiveness—and to list criteria on which you wish your teaching to be judged.

The Dean of each faculty at the University of Victoria must develop, in consultation with the faculty, an Evaluation Policy for the evaluation of members in the faculty, and this will include a description of the format and essential content to be used by a faculty member in preparing the teaching dossier for evaluation of teaching effectiveness. The authors of the C.A.U.T. Guide to the Teaching Dossier comment, "when faculty incorporate their teaching dossiers into their curricula vitae, administrators will pay careful attention to this information because it fills a vacuum among the current bases for performance review."

Some words of warning: the teaching dossier is one source of information only, albeit a very important one on the teaching role. Tenure and Promotion Committees are required to seek evidence from "as many sources as possible" to substantiate approval for promotion and tenure or salary increases. Also, not all professors and administrators will embrace the dossier concept. The following comment in The Focus newsletter from Dalhousie University (undated) is unfortunately very evident:

"At many institutions there is a disturbing xenophobia towards strangers bearing new ideas. The portfolio (dossier) concept is no exception. Their resistance can best be overcome by open and candid discussions and by field-testing the portfolio on a handful of prestigious professors."

While it is impossible to estimate how many universities world-wide have adopted the teaching dossier approach in the faculty evaluation process, from the considerable amount of literature on the topic it is clearly an idea whose time has come. The C.A.U.T. Guide argues "since teaching is undoubtedly a basic raison d'etre of universities then it would be absurd to fail to evaluate and reward effective teaching, or to do so on the basis of perfunctory evidence, such as a summary score from one item on a student questionnaire." If teaching is worth examining at all, then a reasonable commitment of time and resources will need to be made by instructors and administrators alike.

From a personal perspective

Creation and maintenance of a teaching dossier allows you to reflect on the complexities of your teaching role and consider your beliefs about teaching and learning and the philosophy that informs the way you teach. It is also an on-going history of your teaching growth and improvement. It promotes introspection, as recently described by this faculty member,

"I think it takes courage to trust this evaluation process in which a teacher discusses his or her character, ability and activities. When I started gathering material for the dossier, I found myself beginning protectively, rationalizing any shortcomings or overestimating any strengths; I dreaded being completely honest with myself for fear of finding flaws. It required an enormous amount of time spent in introspection as I took a close inward look at myself and what I did. It was an intense, ongoing but extraordinarily worthwhile experience."

While the dossier is both 'promotional' material and a reflective document it may also serve as a protective document if allegations of poor teaching are made by students, the administration or others. It provides a well-documented history of your best efforts as a teacher and reflects a proactive and thoughtful approach to teaching.

From a community perspective

U.Vic's Strategic Plan reiterates the importance and value of good teaching--to students, to employers, to the community at large and to the institution. It talks of 'public and internal accountability' for good teaching and has as one of its major goals the encouragement and reward of teaching effectiveness as a primary responsibility at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. There is a trend to upgrade the status of teaching from private to community property. The Conference Board of Canada's survey of employers suggests that colleges and universities are failing in their responsibility to provide employable graduates. They believe that the learning outcomes of a university education must include, among other things, the ability to

COMMUNICATE

  • to listen to understand and learn

  • to read, comprehend and use written material

  • to write effectively

THINK

  • to think critically and act logically to evaluate situations, solve problems and make decisions

  • to use technology, instruments, tools and information systems effectively

  • to access and apply specialized knowledge

LEARN

  • to continue to learn for life

Successful learning outcomes and competence--in large part what students, employers and the community see as the results of effective teaching--must be evident in our graduates. Dossiers should contain evidence of student learning, of innovation and of carefully crafted teaching approaches that take into account the importance of communication skills, thinking skills and learning skills.

In a conference announcement for From Accountability to High Performance in the New Public Sector (April 9 1997, sponsored by the Conference Board of Canada) it is suggested that an institution's success depends on "a change in their approach to information--in terms of what they collect, why they collect it, and how they use it" and that what we measure and pay attention to largely determines what gets done. Canada-wide we are in the midst of a significant institutional shift in an effort to become part of "the new public sector." In the future it is likely that the teaching dossiers of U.Vic faculty will be as significant as research grants on faculty c.v.'s.

B. THE TEACHING DOSSIER: WHAT DOES IT LOOK LIKE?

Suggestions on format appear in many of the sources listed in the bibliography, but it is likely that no two teaching dossiers will look quite the same. As noted earlier, the dossier can expand or contract depending upon its use--a dossier included with a job application will probably contain less 'data' than one intended for a promotion and tenure application. However, the following overview might be helpful:

  • a two-step process: collection and presentation of material

  • a loose-leaf format for easy additions/changes

  • a three to eight page document (depending on context). You must decide what's not enough or too much. A delicate balance! Edit or expand your teaching dossier to suit the context but have as much material available as possible from which to make your selection

  • a typical dossier might have four sections: Approach to Teaching (philosophy, goals and objectives), a Summary of Teaching Responsibilities and Contributions, Reflections on and assessment of teaching and Supporting documentation (as appendices)

  • begin with a brief statement of teaching philosophy (maximum one page) to place the balance of the contents in context for readers

  • keep ALL data close at hand (even a shoe-box in a desk drawer works adequately) until you are ready to prepare the dossier. It is easier to be selective than to have insufficient information. Accumulate records of teaching activities and results and summarize once a year. Preparing the dossier need not consume an unreasonable amount of time

  • keep it relatively short. Summarize data wherever feasible but retain original documents for reference

  • date and annotate all 'shoe-box' material to keep track of its source

  • start early. Think about and document your teaching activities and contributions now--don't wait until you need to make a case for promotion and tenure to think about your teaching effectiveness

  • be aware of Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act guidelines when using student evaluations or letters from students or colleagues

On the subject of size and brevity it is worth citing an e-mail message (S.T.L.H.E. listserv) from someone who evaluates dossiers (M. Scriven, January 15, 1997) who warns:

"...there are a number of traps that you have to avoid. It's nothing to get two feet of paper in ring binders from someone who keeps every letter they've written to anyone about almost anything academic, every class handout including reprinted material, half the student papers turned in, etc. The dossier will eventually be listed as a major publication. We require a well-organized table of contents and summary in a two inch ring binder. And we tend to regard excessive length as a weakness, although it wasn't directly listed that way (it's justified under presentation skills.) The main point is to be clear about what the dossier does in the great scheme of things called evaluation of faculty."

C. THE TEACHING DOSSIER: what might be included?

As described earlier, a teaching dossier might have four tabs or headings broadly describing (a) your approach to teaching (including your goals and objectives; (b) your teaching responsibilities and contributions; (c) reflections on your teaching effectiveness and an assessment of your teaching and learning successes; and (d) supporting documentation. Whatever format you choose, administrators want you to gather and present hard evidence of successful classroom practice.

What is good teaching and effective learning? 
Some different perspectives

Before making decisions about a specific format or documents to include in your dossier, it is informative and useful to read some in-house material about what your department or the university administration consider to be good teaching practice and effective student learning. If your department has a policy on the evaluation of teaching or a mission statement, it will give you a good idea of the 'big picture.' Similarly, reading the University of Victoria mission statement or strategic plan and the Tenure Document in the Faculty Handbook will provide some clear insight to the University's requirements and approach to evaluating teaching. Listed below are two further sources that will give you a wider view of what good teaching looks like. The first is taken from the Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education (from a respected source, the American Association for Higher Education, the Education Commission of the States and the Johnson Foundation) and the second lists criteria for the Awards for Excellence in Teaching from the U.Vic Alumni Association. It might also be useful to re-read the profile of 'employable graduates' from the Conference Board of Canada document.

Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education

  1. Good Practice Encourages Student-Faculty Contact. Frequent student-faculty contact in and out of classes is the most important factor in student motivation and involvement. Faculty concern helps students get through rough times and keep on working. Knowing a few faculty members well enhances students' intellectual commitment and encourages them to think about their own values and future plans.
  2. Good Practice Encourages Cooperation Among Students. Learning is enhanced when it is more like a team effort than a solo race. Good learning, like good work, is collaborative and social, not competitive and isolated. Working with others often increases involvement in learning. Sharing one's own ideas and responding to others' reactions improves thinking and deepens understanding.
  3. Good Practice Encourages Active Learning. Learning is not a spectator sport. Students do not learn much just sitting in classes listening to teachers, memorizing pre-packaged assignments, and spitting out answers. They must talk about what they are learning, write about it, relate it to past experiences, and apply it to their daily lives. They must make what they learn part of themselves.
  4. Good Practice Gives Prompt Feedback. Knowing what you know and don't know focuses learning. Students need appropriate feedback on performance to benefit from courses. In getting started, students need help in assessing existing knowledge and competence. In classes, students need frequent opportunities to perform and receive suggestions for improvement. At various points during college, and at the end, students need chances to reflect on what they have learned, what they still need to know, and how to assess themselves.
  5. Good Practice Emphasizes Time on Task. Time plus energy equals learning. There is no substitute for time on task. Learning to use one's time well is critical for students and professionals alike. Students need help in learning effective time management. Allocating realistic amounts of time means effective learning for students and effective teaching for faculty. How an institution defines time expectations for students, faculty, administrators and other professional staff can establish the basis for high performance for all.
  6. Good Practice Communicates High Expectations. Expect more and you will get it. High expectations are important for everyone--for the poorly prepared, for those unwilling to exert themselves, and for the bright and well motivated. Expecting students to perform well becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy when teachers and institutions hold high expectations for themselves and make extra efforts.
  7. Good Practice Respects Diverse Talents and Ways of Learning. There are many roads to learning. People bring different talents and styles of learning to college. Brilliant students in the seminar room may be all thumbs in the lab or art studio. Students rich in hands-on experience may not do so well with theory. Students need the opportunity to show their talents and learn in ways that work for them. Then they can be pushed to learning in new ways that do not come so easily.

Guidelines for Nominations for U.Vic Alumni Association
Award(s) for Excellence in Teaching

Candidates should:

  1. Demonstrate a comprehensive knowledge of the subject for the level of the course/courses taught.
  2. Be consistently well prepared for teaching sessions, whether lectures, laboratories, seminars or tutorials
  3. Demonstrate enthusiasm for the subject and the capacity to arouse interest in it among the students
  4. Encourage student participation in the teaching-learning process
  5. Set high standards and successfully motivate students to attain high standards
  6. Communicate effectively through various media at levels appropriate to the students' capacity
  7. Utilize methods of evaluation of student performance that stress an understanding and integration of the subject matter
  8. Be accessible to students outside class hours
  9. Have a reputation for superior teaching and be recognized for this quality by students and colleagues alike
  10. Demonstrate clearly that efforts are made to keep abreast of new teaching methods, curriculum development and course design.

    And, from the University of Victoria Strategic Plan, a vision of the university's mandate and role:

"We seek to provide a university education that fosters in students the ability to think clearly and creatively, to analyze complex issues, to exercise independent judgment, to communicate clearly in speech and writing, to interpret the cultural fabric with insight and sensitivity, and to contribute thoughtfully and constructively to society."

A teaching philosophy

The teaching philosophy part of your teaching dossier has been compared to an abstract to a scholarly paper--as a way of focusing the main points of the paper. The reflective statement of your own teaching philosophy is an important element of the document, providing evaluators with a context for assessing your work as a teacher . You will probably rewrite your statement of teaching philosophy many times as you complete the balance of your dossier.

After reading definitions of what good teaching looks like from both external and internal perspectives you will probably be in a position to begin to clarify and articulate your own beliefs, values, ethics and style--your own vision and philosophy of what good teaching looks like. A useful template for organizing your thoughts about the fit between your teaching and learning philosophy and teaching behaviour is to reflect on the following questions :

  1. To teach well one must....
  2. I believe a good university education should....
  3. Therefore in my teaching I try to...


A sample 'teaching philosophy' statement is included later in the kit, but you might choose to incorporate connections to:

  • short term and long term teaching and learning goals

  • teaching responsibilities

  • your views about students

  • your objectives as a teacher (in a particular course)

  • what you try to accomplish in your teaching

  • what you see as your responsibility and the student's responsibility

  • how your course contributes to the university's educational goals

  • how your philosophy informs how you teach

In a recent STLHE listserv discussion, an instructor comments,

"the higher goal is not to create a dossier for someone to examine once a year for the narrow purpose of securing a salary raise or promotion or the golden fleece of tenure. The real purpose is to examine yourself constantly and to emerge from the process a better more aware teacher than when you started out."

D. THE TEACHING DOSSIER: HOW IS IT EVALUATED?

While dossiers form a vital part of your own teaching improvement efforts, they are also a useful and helpful tool for tenure and promotion committees for decision-making purposes. It makes sense to find out in advance how your material will be evaluated. Some Promotion and Tenure committees may create a checklist or an assessment matrix on which to judge dossiers. They may, for example, give a weighting to such criteria as

  • knowledge of subject

  • preparation

  • enthusiasm

  • fosters participation

  • sets high standards and expectations

  • evaluation methods

  • communicates effectively

  • accessibility

  • reputation

  • innovative methods

  • adequacy of evidence

Committees may request original documentation as supporting evidence, for example, summaries of student evaluations of teaching (provided to you by your department,) invitations to contribute articles on improving teaching performance, student workbooks or assignments, original letters from students or colleagues. You should retain such original material until the committee's deliberations are completed.

The Teaching Dossier: Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act guidelines

The University of Victoria is subject to British Columbia's Protection of Privacy laws. If you plan to include letters from individuals, samples of student work, student evaluations or any other materials that someone else has given or sent to you, it is necessary to get their written permission to use these in your teaching dossier. If you have solicited material from students or colleagues for inclusion in your Teaching Dossier, this should be noted. While not directly applicable to Teaching Dossiers, the following guidelines on evaluations are useful to keep in mind:

  • Evaluations of instructors are accessible only to the instructor and university officials who require the information for their work, such as Department Chairs and ARPT committees

  • Written evaluations of courses are accessible if notice has been included to inform students that comments will be passed on to instructors and committees and if all personal identifiers are removed

  • Multiple choice evaluations resulting in a computer-generated statistical report are accessible

  • It should be indicated at the top of an evaluation form that the anonymity of the writer will be protected and that the form is being distributed with the knowledge and consent of the instructor.

Departmental practice varies on the collection and distribution of students’ anecdotal comments so you should check your own department’s policy.

On application for reappointment, tenure or promotion, the primary responsibility falls upon the candidate to prepare and provide a dossier that includes evidence with regard to the candidate's teaching effectiveness. The candidate may include both the statistical analysis and the anecdotal comments as part of the dossier. However, a difficult and resolved question arises when a candidate submits only a selected sample of favourable anecdotal comments or only anecdotal comments from some but not all courses that the candidate has taught. In circumstances where a candidate submits only selected positive comments, an ARPT committee must determine whether it will place any weight on anecdotal comments. (from Student Ratings of Instruction at the University of Victoria, Guidelines and Suggestions, March 1999)

The following information from the University Secretary's office suggests that an ARPT Committee will need to make a copy of your teaching dossier or make extensive notes on it while it is under consideration for promotion and tenure purposes or other personnel decisions. The original dossier should be returned to you, but the copy (or notes) must be retained by the committee for a year following their decision. The original dossier remains your property.

"While your dossier is in the possession of the Promotion and Tenure Committee or other official evaluating body) it is a university record. The FOI Act states that personal information used to make a decision about a person must be retained for one year. If the dossier is returned to the instructor, a record should be kept of the type of material considered so that if an appeal occurs and the committee has to review its decision that the same material is used in the review as was used the first time. The FOI Act excludes from its purview a record containing teaching materials as long as that record is not submitted to the University for official purposes. The same is true of research information. Once it is submitted on a grant proposal it becomes a record of the University."

If you need clarification or further information on how these B.C. laws affect teaching dossiers contact the University Secretary's office at 8100.

E. GETTING STARTED: A two-stage, seven-step process

While there is no definitive template for a teaching dossier the following may be useful in getting started. It is a two-part process--the gathering of information and data and the presentation of this material. Which items to include is your decision and will depend, in large part, on the purpose for which you are preparing it . You may decide to describe some items at length and to keep others very brief--look at sample teaching dossiers or portfolios in some of the books listed in the bibliography or the sample dossier to get a sense of the different approaches to presentation. We have listed the Table of Contents from six sample dossiers to illustrate some possibilities. Above all, remember that you are presenting a thoughtful and careful compilation of your teaching activities and achievements and its purpose is to make the best possible case for your teaching effectiveness.

Before you compile your dossier...

  1. Begin gathering information which pertains to your teaching activities as soon as possible. Keep everything that concerns your teaching (perhaps in a shoe box in your desk drawer)--you can be selective when the time comes to prepare your dossier. Some things to retain might be: 

    course outlines, examinations, summaries of student evaluations, copies of your diary pages showing the frequency of contact with students in office hours, samples of students' work, unsolicited letters from students and colleagues, peer evaluations, mid-course feedback, one-minute papers, copies of flyers of workshops attended at the Learning and Teaching Centre and other professional development activities, books read on learning and teaching, contributions to newsletters or journals on teaching, supervision of directed studies, invitations to other campuses, committee work on teaching, learning or curriculum committees.
  2. Read your department's mission statement, the University's mission statement or strategic plan, the Tenure Document in the Faculty Handbook, descriptions of 'best practice' in teaching to get a sense of how your department, the university, educational organizations and the community feel about excellent teaching.
  3. Summarize your teaching responsibilities.
  4. Write a teaching philosophy statement. Remember that the purpose of the teaching philosophy statement is put the balance of material in context for the reader. You may include short term and long term goals and objectives within your philosophy statement or write a Conclusion at the end of the dossier including 'future improvement' plans. It is likely that you will make changes to this statement as you complete the balance of your dossier.
  5. Select criteria for effective teaching. What are your strengths and accomplishments and how will you document these? Write a factual statement itemizing and summarizing these in each area and include samples or examples as appendices. 
  6. Arrange and organize criteria in order and create a table of contents--depending on the use of the dossier.
  7. Assemble supporting data. You may or may not choose to include some of this material as an appendix to your dossier, but it is important that you indicate on your summaries that the material is available for review upon request.

TABLE OF CONTENTS FROM
SIX SAMPLE TEACHING DOSSIERS

Dossier 1

  1. Statement of Teaching Responsibilities and Objectives
  2. Syllabi, Reading Lists, Assignments, Exams and Handouts from courses taught
  3. Description of Efforts to Improve my Teaching
  4. Peer Evaluation of both my Teaching and Teaching Skills
  5. Student Teaching Evaluation Data from all courses taught for the past year
  6. Videotapes of my instruction
  7. Measures of Student Achievement
  8. Other Evidence of Good Teaching
  9. Future Teaching Goals
  10. Appendices

Dossier 2

A. Statement of Teaching Responsibilities

  1. Course taught
  2. Honours theses supervised
  3. Graduating theses supervised
  4. Advising
  5. Practica supervised

B. Reflective Statement on Teaching Philosophy and Goals

C. Courses Developed or Modified

  1. Ed.B. 516
  2. Ed. B. 345

D. Student Ratings Summary

Dossier 3

  1. Statement of teaching responsibilities (courses taught, teaching strategies and advising)
  2. My approach to teaching
  3. Teaching goals and objectives
  4. Course development
  5. Student ratings summary
  6. Appendices

Dossier 4

  1. Statement of pedagogical philosophy, strategy and implementation
  2. Statement of teaching responsibilities
  3. Summary statement of documentation

Dossier 5

a) Contents
b) My approach to teaching
c) Resume of teaching-related activities

  1. Education
  2. Academic appointments
  3. Professional associations
  4. Service to the university

a. Faculty Development
b. Undergraduate program administration

  1. Teaching awards
  2. Professional Development

a. Presentations at Learning & Teaching Centre
b. Workshops and meetings attended

  7.  Current educational research and projects

d) Summary of student evaluations of teaching
e) Appendices - teaching materials (supporting documents included)

Dossier 6

  1. Introduction
  2. Philosophy and future goals
  3. Classroom standards
  4. Individual class objectives and activities
  5. Examples of course enrichment
  6. Measures of teaching effectiveness
  7. Awards
  8. Appendix

 

A Hypothetical Teaching Dossier
Barbara Allen
Department of Biology
August 1997

Contents:

  1. Statement of teaching responsibilities
    a) courses taught, teaching strategies and 
         student contact
  2. My approach to teaching
  3. Goals and objectives
  4. Student ratings summary
  5. Course development
  6. Appendices

____________________________________

1. Teaching responsibilities

(a) Courses taught, teaching strategy and student contact

Biology 200/Introduction to Evolution and Biological Diversity (3.0)

500 students a year

15 3-hour lectures and two tutorials per week

This is the sixth consecutive year that I have taught this introductory course on the principles and processes of evolution and the diversity of life. Curriculum includes natural selection, genetic basis of variation, speciation, evolutionary change and evidence of evolution; origin, evolution and adaptive radiation of major groups of plants and animals including the fungi and protists. Practicals involve students handling live and preserved specimens.

This course is required for all honours and majors biology students. In 1996 the enrollment in this course increased from 120 to 500 students necessitating a change in format and content. I redesigned the course to accommodate a large-class format including the introduction of interactive computer exercises, CD Rom presentations and additional tutorials. I give all the lectures in one term and am assisted in laboratories by four instructors and twelve student demonstrators. I meet informally with every student for five minutes at least once during the term to discuss their progress.

Biology 360 Cell Biology (1.5)
140 students a year
37 lectures a term

I taught this course for the first time in the Spring of 1997. Included in the curriculum are the structure and function of animal and plant cells and tissues, membrane structure, transport, cellular compartments, cytoskeleton, cell growth and division, cell adhesion, extracellular matrix, tissue organization and renewal. An outline of Biology 360 is included in the appendices. Students advance from text books, Scientific American offprints and well structured lectures illustrated with slides, to review, scientific literature and a less structured, informal series of lectures. Emphasis is placed on the experimental approach to understanding cells. I meet individually with students three times a term to coordinate and discuss their work and progress. I also maintain a computer bulletin board and listserv for Biology 360 students requiring them to contribute to on-going discussion and reflection on their research findings.

2. My Approach to Teaching

The most important aspect of teaching, from my perspective, is that students learn and retain information and are stimulated by the subject matter. My concern for students and their learning is expressed in many ways

  1. I ensure that my courses are updated regularly to include current readings, evaluation of new texts and an annual review of my slides. I subscribe to The Biology Teacher journal and am aware of the latest teaching strategies and learning effectiveness techniques in Biology teaching
  2. I conduct extensive mid-course evaluations of my courses at least four times during the term and use the one-minute paper at the conclusion of every lecture to ensure comprehension. A sample summary of one-minute paper results can be found in the appendices

  3. My office hours are open -- students may drop by at any time either in my office or laboratory. I provide advice on academic matters and career choices. Informal contact with students is a very important aspect of teaching for me, although given the size of my classes it can become overwhelming at times. I feel that even one face-to-face meeting with a student in my classes makes a difference to their attitude and expectations.

  4. I serve on several committees related to curriculum and teaching effectiveness at both the departmental and university level

  5. I organize the annual event, Go Biology, for high school students considering taking first year Biology at the university. This one-day event welcomes 75 students from local high schools and involves a tour of the Biology Department facilities, attendance at a special Introductory Lecture and an opportunity to meet faculty and staff. Organization and presentation of this event won the university award for Innovation in Approaches to First Year Teaching Award in 1996 for the U.Vic Biology Department.
  6. I regularly attend teaching and learning improvement workshops at the Learning and Teaching Centre. In 1996 these included: January 96 Evaluating and Grading Writing Across the Disciplines; February 96 The One Minute Paper - how it works; March 96 Approaches to Handling Disruptive Behaviour in the Classroom. I also present a monthly seminar (1.5 hours) to Graduate T.A.'s in the Department on aspects of Teaching Biology.

3. Goals and Objectives

Personal contact with students, encouraging and inspiring high school and university students to make a career in the biological sciences and on-going learning for myself are crucial aspects of my approach to teaching and to university education. I see the benefits of having students who are eager to learn and I enjoy making the torrent of new information in Biology accessible to these students. I am also aware of the necessity for large classes and I am endeavouring to find ways of making these classes less intimidating and more interactive for students. I am committed to constant evaluation of both my teaching and the material in my courses. I believe in working with students to make learning the enriching and empowering experience it should be, regardless of class size. I am committed to becoming familiar and comfortable with new computer technology over the next term so that I might use this tool in my large classes to enhance instruction and student learning. My long-term goal is to produce a modularized computer kit for Introductory Biology students (on CD Rom) to include all current slides and course materials. Overall, I am also committed to ensuring that the learning experience for students in my large classes is not diluted. I believe that with meticulous planning, a sincere attitude and the use of a variety of large-class teaching strategies such classes should be as engaging, interactive and dynamic as the best the university has to offer.

4. Summative & Formative student evaluation of my teaching

Summary of Student Ratings 91/92 92/93 93/94 94/95 95/96
Overall instructor rating 4.1 4.4 4.5 4.6 4.7
Overall course rating 3.8 4.0 4.3 4.4 4.6
Enthusiasm 4.5 4.6 4.7 4.8 4.9
Clarity 4.9 4.9 4.8 4.8 4.8
Availability to students 4.9 4.8 4.9 4.7 4.9
Ability to explain 4.3 4.5 4.7 4.7 4.8
Presentation skills 4.1 4.5 4.5 4.6 4.6
Promotes a respectful classroom 4.6 4.6 4.6 4.7 4.7

(Mean score for overall instructor rating, Biology Dept., 3.9 on a 5.0 scale)

(Original summaries of student ratings are available from the Office of the Dean, Faculty of Science and from the Department Chair, Biology)

The above student evaluation data is summative, i.e. 'official' student evaluations used to give administrators information about teaching performance. I strongly believe in formative evaluation to keep teaching and learning on track. I use four mid-course evaluations to establish whether students are understanding the material covered and that my enthusiasm, clarity and presentations are adequate. This data enables me to make necessary adjustments in both the course content, the rate of delivery and to correct any personal teaching failings. At the end of every lecture I use a one-minute paper, asking all students the questions:

"What was the most useful/meaningful thing you learned in this class?"

"What aspects of the topic are unclear and need further explanation?"

I review this feedback and address any misconceptions or unclear points at the beginning of the next class.

A summary of the four mid-course evaluations and a sample One Minute Paper is attached as an appendix.

5. Course development

I have played an active role in developing a new course for the first year medical school program at U.B.C. The course, Introduction to Physiology, will be a model in the undergraduate program for its innovative use of problem-based learning, laboratory experiments and clinical demonstrations. I am working with my U.Vic and U.B.C. colleagues and students to improve and enhance the learning experience of first year medical students. The course will be run for the first time in the Spring of 1997 with 45 students.

6. APPENDICES

  1. Course outlines
  2. Copies of assignments
  3. Copies of exams (midterm and final 1996 & results)
  4. Examples of exemplary student work
  5. Lecture outlines
  6. Unsolicited letters from students
  7. Summary of meetings with students outside class time
  8. Student ratings of instruction summaries (formative and summative)
  9. Sample of one-minute paper response
  10. Flyer from a presentation for the Learning and Teaching - Centre on using one minute paper
  11. 11. Summary of contribution to U.B.C. 1st year Medical course (and letters of appreciation from colleagues)


This is a comprehensive list of possible supporting materials that might document the scope and quality of your teaching activities. Select those that suit the context and style of your own dossier.

THE TEACHING DOSSIER CHECKLIST

Step 1: Over the term/year, gather materials on

Teaching: undergraduate and graduate

  • teaching philosophy/approach to teaching

  • instructional quality/learning outcomes

  • availability to students/classroom time

  • classroom innovation/experiments

  • course design (to meet learning objectives)

  • quality of course materials

  • project supervision

  • quality of supervision

  • completion success

  • goals and strategies for teaching improvement activities

  • Curriculum Development

  • department (e.g. course sequence)

  • university (e.g. program development)

  • national/international (e.g. consultant, interaction with ministries, schools, other universities)

Recognition

  • nominations/awards

Leadership (teaching & learning)

  • department (committees, TA training etc.)

  • university (committees, new faculty)

  • other (community, conference contributions)

Faculty development

  • Learning & Teaching Centre events attended

  • guest lectures

  • informal mentor

  • peer consultant

  • workshop leader

Scholarship

  • projects on teaching/learning issues

  • teaching publications

  • teaching society membership/participation

Supportive evidence

  • course materials (outlines, handouts, exams, reading lists)

  • from students (formative & summative evaluations, examples of exemplary work, letters, other feedback)

  • from alumni

  • from colleagues

  • from administrators/other

 Review related documents. Some or all of the following might be useful sources from which to view the role of teaching from various perspectives -- your department, the university and the community. The Learning and Teaching Centre can suggest several additional publications from which to gather background information.

  • Departmental statement of teaching goals/roles

  • University mission statement or strategic plan

  • Tenure document in Faculty Handbook

  • Alumni Award Criteria for Excellence in Teaching

  • Seven Principles of Good Practice in Undergraduate Education

  • Conference Board of Canada Profile of Employable graduates

  • Freedom of Information & Protection of Privacy Guidelines

  • Evaluation guidelines from ARPT committee (if available)

  • Sample Teaching dossiers from members of your dept.

  • Materials from Learning and Teaching Centre

  • Summarize your teaching responsibilities and teaching-related activities:

  • courses taught, when

  • course descriptions, level

  • number of students

  • frequency of lectures/labs/tutorials

  • TA’s involved

  • coordination of parallel sections

  • fieldwork or practica supervision

  • directed studies/project supervision

  • instructional design

  • innovative exercises

  • curriculum development committees (dept., university, national)

  • nominations/awards/grants

  • leadership (dept., university, community, conference contributions)

  • teaching workshops attended or given

  • mentoring/peer consultant

  • teaching publications

  • teaching society memberships/listserv participation

Write a statement of your teaching philosophy and teaching improvement goals (also referred to as a Reflective Statement, Pedagogical Philosophy, My Approach to Teaching, Philosophy and Future Goals). Try to keep this statement brief (approximately one page) and remember that its purpose is to put your teaching dossier in context for evaluators. It might be useful to question -

  • why do you teach the way you do?

  • what are your teaching/learning beliefs, values, ethics, style?

  • what is important about a university education?

  • what is your definition of good teaching?

Write your teaching improvement goals (These might form part of your Teaching Philosophy, Approach to Teaching or Closing Comments or may be listed under a separate heading)

  • short term goals

  • long term goals

  • incorporating computer technology in your classes

  • professional development activities to undertake

  • different teaching strategies to try

  • plans for coping with challenges of larger classes

  • books to read

  • career aspirations

  • teaching and learning conferences to attend

  • new things to learn

  • mentoring

Consider criteria for effective teaching. What are your accomplishments? What are your strengths? What is the evidence of improved student learning? Summarize -

  • formative and summative student evaluations (with your explanatory notes as necessary)

  • exemplary student work

  • teaching highlights (successes, innovations, experiments)

  • unsolicited letters from students, alumni, colleagues

  • teaching awards/grants/nominations

  • articles written on teaching/learning

  • history of improvement over time

  • other measures of teaching effectiveness

Arrange and organize file folder and create a well-organized Table of Contents (by list or description). Put materials in a 2" ring binder

  • teaching philosophy statement

  • statement of teaching responsibilities and teaching related activities

  • teaching improvement goals and objectives
    summaries of :

  • summative and formative evaluation data

  • measures of student achievements

  • descriptions of efforts to improve teaching

  • unsolicited letters from students/colleagues/alumni

  • implementation of innovative teaching strategies and results

  • current educational research

  • courses developed or modified

  • awards/grants/nominations

  • closing comments or conclusion

  • supporting data (as appendices)

Assemble supporting data. From your gathered material select relevant supporting documents. Ensure permission has been granted to include letters, student work or materials from others. You may or may not decide to include this material as an appendix to your dossier, but you should indicate on your summaries that it is available for review upon request.

Suggestions:

  • start now

  • edit and update your dossier annually

  • keep it brief

  • have a colleague review and comment on the dossier before submission to a decision-making committee

  • consider working on a dossier with a colleague--it promotes a collegial exchange on teaching and learning

Where can I get further information and help?

The Learning and Teaching Centre located in the Harry Hickman Building, Room 126, 721-8571; email ltcdir@uvic.ca. We have several books on the background, preparation and use of teaching dossiers (also known as portfolios.) We also run two Teaching Dossier workshops a year.

F. BIBLIOGRAPHY -- THE TEACHING DOSSIER/PORTFOLIO

Boice, Robert The New Faculty Member. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1992.

Brascamp, L.A., J.C.Ory. Assessing Faculty Work. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. 1992.

Centra, J.A. Reflective Faculty Evaluation: Enhancing Teaching and Determining Faculty Effectiveness. San Francisco: Jossey Bass, 1993.

Centre, J.A. Determining Faculty Effectiveness. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1979.

Millis, B. Putting the Teaching Portfolio in Context in To Improve the Academy, POD Network, 1991.

O’Neil, C. and Wright, A. Recording Teaching Accomplishments: A Dalhousie Guide to the Teaching Dossier. Office of Instructional Technology, Dalhousie University, 1992.

Seldin, P. and Associates. Successful Use of Teaching Portfolios. Bolton, MA: Anker Publishing, 1993.

Seldin, P. and Associates. The Teaching Portfolio: A Practical Guide to Improved Performance and Promotion/Tenure Decisions. Bolton, MA: Anker Publishing, 1991.

Shore, B.M. and others, The Teaching Dossier: A guide to its preparation and use. Canadian Association of University Teachers, revised edition 1986.

Smith, Stuart L. Report of the Commission of Inquiry on Canadian University Education. Ottawa: Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada, 1991.

The Learning and Teaching Centre has several books on the background, preparation and use of teaching dossiers or portfolios. Drop by the Centre if you would like to review or borrow material.

Where can I get further information and help?

The Learning and Teaching Centre, Harry Hickman Building, Room 126, 721-8571; email ltc@uvic.ca. We have a comprehensive guide for U.Vic faculty members and several books on the background, preparation and use of teaching dossiers (also known as portfolios.) We also run two Teaching Dossier workshops a year.

Acknowledgement:
The Teaching Dossier was developed by:

Barbara Judson

   
 
 
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