Preparing Your Teaching Dossier: Quick Tips From Our Guide

Erin Macnab, Programs Coordinator, CTSI

If you are a faculty member, instructor, or graduate student, chances are you have encountered the concept of a “teaching dossier.” Maybe you have heard the term but are not quite sure what the dossier is or why you need one, or maybe you are getting ready to develop your own dossier but are feeling lost in a sea of course evaluations, emails and other documents. Well, CTSI is here to help!

Basically, a teaching dossier is a portfolio of documents that paints a picture of your major strengths and accomplishments as a teacher. It is used in various performance reviews and can be requested as a part of academic job applications. It can also be a valuable personal tool for examining your own successes and challenges in the classroom. For these reasons and more, it is an extremely useful exercise for all those engaged in teaching at U of T to develop a personal teaching dossier.

If you are getting ready to prepare a dossier for career advancement purposes or to reflect on your development as a teacher, I encourage you to take advantage of the resources we offer at CTSI, starting with our comprehensive guide, Developing & Assessing Teaching Dossiers.

Drawn from this guide and our workshops, the three quick tips below are a great starting point as you begin the challenging yet incredibly rewarding process of documenting your major teaching accomplishments and strengths.  Each tip links directly to the section of the guide that addresses it in more detail. However, I do strongly encourage you to read the whole resource if you are undertaking this process.

1. Start Early & Save Everything
The first step in developing a teaching dossier is to become a collector. Save all your course materials, course evaluations and student comments. The earlier in your academic career you can start collecting material, the better, as making this a continuous process will allow you to show development and growth. Many people have an actual physical box they add material to, along with a folder on their desktop or in their email. Save everything! You will narrow down the materials later, and having a big pool to start with is always better. That nice email you got from a student in your first class? Perhaps it won’t appear directly in your dossier, but it can help shape the way you think about your teaching and your development, which brings us to…

2. Develop A Teaching Philosophy
What do I consider good teaching? What is my identity as a teacher? How have I developed as an instructor over my career? The Statement of Teaching Philosophy, a vital component of your teaching dossier, provides you with the opportunity to engage with these questions. Writing this one to two page narrative document is an important step in creating your teaching dossier, as it allows you to reflect on your pedagogical practice and gives shape to the evidence that follows. The linked guide gives key advice on drafting a clear, concise and meaningful Statement of Teaching Philosophy.

3. Take Advantage of Professional Development Opportunities – And Document Them!
So, you’ve thought about your teaching and have some documentation to show what you’ve done. Now you’re thinking of working on improving in certain areas and gaining overall competencies. When you prepare your teaching dossier, it is important to include a description of any professional development you’ve undertaken. In addition to showing an investment in improving your own skills, it allows you to directly demonstrate how you have addressed any issues or problems in your teaching. CTSI offers a range of workshops, institutes and resources for both instructors and graduate students. If you’ve ever taken advantage of professional development opportunities related to teaching in your department or in discipline more broadly, document those as well. You can also talk about mentorship that you have sought around your teaching, whether from colleagues in your department, discipline or from another source.

Hopefully, the tips above will provide you with an entry way into developing your teaching dossier. In addition to the extensive guide linked above, CTSI offers a number of other resources and services for faculty, course instructors, graduate students and teaching assistants who are developing their teaching dossier. These services include confidential individual consultations, in-class observations, assessment plans, workshops and clinics, and microteaching. A complete list of services and information on how to set up a consultation or observation is available online. Graduate students and teaching assistants should also take a look at the TATP Teaching Dossier resource.

Setting the Tone NOW: Engaging Students in your Course Evaluations

By Cherie Werhun, PhD, Teaching Assessment & Course Evaluation Coordinator, CTSI

Let’s be honest: Course evaluations are the last thing on an instructor’s mind in early September. Rather, this is the time when last minute course reading selections are being made, TA assignments are being worked out, and drafts of multiple versions of a course syllabus are being reviewed and reviewed and…

Here’s the thing, though. Thinking about the role course evaluations – or more broadly, student feedback – plays in your course now can play a significant role in how students respond to your request for it later.

Instructors who set the tone early – or who create a learning environment that integrates the student perspective and experience into both course design and delivery — tend to benefit at the end of term from students who see the value of providing feedback to their instructors.

Why? By integrating regular feedback opportunities into your course, students have direct evidence that their instructor actually reads and applies the student perspective into their teaching. They witness the value and impact of providing their feedback.

So, how can you as an instructor set the feedback tone early?

Consider a few basic tips:

1.    During your first class, when reviewing the course syllabus with your students, try to highlight changes to your course content, new readings, or activities, for example, that have resulted from previous student feedback. Similarly, when reviewing your course content and schedule, highlight aspects that you have worked on to enhance student understanding of the overall course material. In other words, explicitly show your students how their process for learning the course material is just as important to you as the content of the course material.

2.    At the end of your first class, consider handing out a brief questionnaire, or assigning a one-minute paper, asking students to provide their immediate impressions of the course content, the layout of the course, and/or any areas that they feel apprehension/excitement. During subsequent classes, be sure to mention their feedback and then specify how you are responding to it within the context of a specific class or the overall course.

3.    Consider placing brief opportunities for subsequent feedback throughout your course. For example, you might wish to hear what students thought of a film, a discussion activity, or a problem set. Ask them! Alternatively, you might wish to include a short mid-course feedback, as well. This shows your students that you are interested in their learning experience throughout the course, which provides an opportunity for you to monitor and adjust what you do.

Providing opportunities for your students to provide feedback about their learning of the course material – and then demonstrating how you respond to this feedback – creates the space within your course for reciprocal communication that will set the tone for final feedback when students are invited to complete course evaluations. Investing early in this process will ensure that students see the value and impact of their feedback immediately and throughout your course.

If you would like to consider other strategies to talk to your students about the importance of their feedback in your course, CTSI has a resource document on the Course Evals tab within Portal. Also, if you would like additional guidance, please connect with the Course Evaluations Team at course.evaluations@utoronto.ca. Have a great semester!

Evaluating participation

Students in discussion at desks

Image by lynn dombrowski; Used under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Evaluating student participation in tutorials or seminars can be a challenge for everyone from first time TAs to experienced instructors.

Recently, I came across an interesting suggestion posted on the Student Participation/Active Learning page on the website of the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia.  They offer the suggestion of providing students with the opportunity to assess themselves part-way through the term and receive feedback.  The blockquote below shows the choices that the University of the Sciences suggest for students to engage with for self-assessment:

  1. I contribute worthwhile comments several times during every class. Please cite an example
  2. I contribute one or more worthwhile comments almost every class. Please cite and example
  3. I often contribute or participate in class discussions. Please cite an example
  4. I occasionally contribute
  5. I rarely contribute

Large Classroom Teaching: a new online resource from CTSI

We’re excited to announce that our new online learning module on Large Classroom Teaching is now available. This has been a collaborative project between CTSI staff, Teaching Academy members (winners of the President’s Teaching Award) and Tyler Blacquiere, our work-study student. One of our goals in producing this module was to bring colleagues together via video clips to share their experience and expertise. Walking into a large classroom – whether that’s 60 or 1600 students – can be a daunting experience for students and instructors alike. Rather than reinventing the wheel (and assuming that there is something called the ‘teaching wheel’), we’ve compiled interviews and resources from instructors, staff and graduate students who offer their knowledge and real life experiences working in the large class setting. The module highlights work already happening on UofT campuses. Instructors describe their  methods to engage with students, and how students can engage with each other, even when there are hundreds gathered in a single room.

Our module, divided into four broad categories (planning, strategies, assessment and technology), is designed to help instructors and teaching assistants as they build and deliver their courses. There is so much more to teaching than simply providing content. There is more to assessment than mid-term tests. Visit our module and explore the almost 100 short clips (yes, 100! I was pretty impressed when I added them all up) and resources available online.   They can be used by individual instructors as they refine their teaching approaches, or can  be used by groups in workshop and seminar settings through CTSI or as department-based discussions.

Please keep in mind that we want to continue building this module, highlighting and exploring initiatives across all three campuses. If you have an experience that you would like to share – or have specific questions regarding this module or large classroom teaching – please feel free to contact CTSI at any time.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o-mKiU6aOe8

Coming Soon – Large Classroom Teaching

The Centre for Teaching Support & Innovation will soon launch an online module on Exploring Large Classroom Teaching. The University of Toronto’s faculty and graduate students have a fair bit of experience in this area (as you might imagine) and we have looked to them for insight and advice on this topic. We’ve divided this section into four areas (Planning, Strategies, Assessment and Technology) with videos, resources and tip sheets available.

We hope to launch in a few weeks. Please stay tuned!

The Portal’s Wiki: a Quick Guide

The latest update to the Portal introduced a new Wiki tool.  A wiki is a collaborative tool that allows students to contribute and modify one or more pages of course related content. Members of a course can develop content on these shared pages using only a web browser.  Students can work together to create an assignment or build on a collection of ideas.  Instructors can create a single wiki for all members of the course or for specific groups. Student contributions to the Wiki tool in the Portal can be viewed and graded.

Getting Started
To create a course wiki, the instructor selects the Wiki tool option in a content area (e.g., Course Documents or Assignments) and enables the settings to make the wiki open for editing.  Grading options and rubrics can be applied to the wiki if applicable.
Continue reading