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.