What is a Teaching Dossier?
A teaching dossier is a combination of documents-narrative descriptions of teaching, sample teaching materials and teaching evaluations-that highlights and summarizes the educator’s teaching experience. A strong dossier is concise and selective. It is also authentic, sincere, well-written and well-organized. An effective teaching dossier should provide a snapshot of you as a teacher that allows a reader to identify your own approach to teaching and how you value student learning.
A teaching dossier:
- is a professional document that lists your major teaching accomplishments and provides evidence of your teaching effectiveness
- is a personal document that outlines your teaching goals and identifies areas for improvement
- is 6-12 pages in length, plus up to 20 pages of appendices (length and content will vary depending on your discipline and the institution/department to which you are applying)
- provides an accurate portrait of you in the classroom (in other words, the person portrayed through your dossier should be the same person who is asked to teach a class or give a job talk as part of a job interview)
What is a teaching dossier not?
A teaching dossier is not an exhaustive account of all the teaching you’ve ever done, nor is it a collection of all the teaching materials you’ve ever used. Neither is a teaching dossier a repetition of what’s already in your c.v. Compare:
- no mention of teaching philosophy or practice
- only outlines teaching experience
- details own academic research
- documents past achievements
Caution: A teaching dossier is also typically not an opportunity to showcase all you might have learned about pedagogical theory. Use jargon sparingly, or avoid it altogether. Quote secondary sources only if they truly support the illustration of your teaching strengths.
What is in a teaching dossier?
There are seven key sections that should be considered when organizing and structuring content of your teaching dossier:
- Statement of Teaching Philosophy/Practice
- Highlights of (university) teaching experience
- Teaching goals
- Evidence of professional development
- Student evaluations
- Faculty or peer evaluations
- Sample teaching materials
Why prepare a dossier?
There are many important reasons behind the development of a teaching dossier:
- applying for academic positions
- promotion and tenure once hired
- improving your own teaching by documenting what works and what doesn’t
- tracking student progress
- tracking teaching challenges so as to modify courses and curricula
Before you start…
Determine your teaching beliefs
- consider your teaching goals – what do you want to be able to teach students?
- consider your learning goals – what do you expect students to learn from you?
- consider the methods you use to teach
- consider how you know that your teaching is effective
Examine your assumptions about student learning and your own role as an educator
For further information, see: How to define effective teaching (pdf)
Document Your Teaching as You Teach
Document as you go
It is critical that you always document your teaching—strategies, materials and their impact on student learning:
- write down your observations about: student transformations, end-products of learning, the student-teacher relationship, standards of quality for assignments in your discipline, how your own attitudes toward teaching and learning have changed or might change
- write about exchanges with students outside of the classroom (office hours, email, after class note what they ask and how you respond, also-did you follow-up?)
- write about innovations: did you try something new in class? did you take a risk? what happened?
- compare and contrast the goals you set out for your students at the beginning of a course and what actually happens as students exit the course
- write about your best teaching experience: what do you think your students learned? what exactly did you learn?
- write about your worst teaching experience: what didn’t work? what would you do differently next time?
- describe a “teaching moment”, a breakthrough you had with your students
- write about measures taken in response to feedback on teaching: have you incorporated feedback into your teaching? what did you change?
- write about effectiveness of teaching training or professional development workshops: were you able to apply what you learned? write down a specific example from your own experience
- write about any unexpected outcomes-from your students or from your own teaching
- write about the successes of your students after they leave your course
Start collecting materials
There are many different materials that you should collect which speak to your teaching style and effectiveness:
- all course syllabi
- examples of handouts or study guides that you prepare
- sample tests or quizzes that you design
- hard copies and saved electronic copies of communication from course supervisors and students
- samples of exemplary student work (anonymous copies, kept only with students’ permission)
- course evaluations (summative) and mid-course feedback forms (formative)
- design a course syllabus for a proposed course you would like to teach one day
- keep a record of students’ achievements upon leaving your course
- teaching awards or teaching certificates or teaching workshops (related to professional development or advancement)
How Should a Dossier be Organized?
The order in which you present your materials can vary, although most people start with either the STP or their list of teaching responsibilities. When describing your teaching experience, start with your most recent work experience at the postsecondary level-when you had the greatest level of responsibility-and work your way back from there.
A good dossier generally comprises five overarching categories:
- teaching philosophy: “This is what I believe is important about teaching and learning…”
- teaching experience: “This is what I can do…”
- teaching goals: “This is what I want to do in the future …”
- evidence of professional development and growth as a teacher: “This is how I’m improving what I do now…”
- evidence of teaching effectiveness: “This is proof that I’m having an impact on students and colleagues”
Examples of table of contents
- Teaching Philosophy and Assumptions*
- Teaching Strategies and Practice *
- Teaching Goals *
- University Teaching Experience (sole-responsibility Course Instructor, Lead TA, TA for tutorial or lab, Guest lecturer, Grader, Mentor)
- Professional Development
- teaching-related publications
- teaching-related conference presentations
- teaching-related workshops delivered
- teaching-related workshops attended
- participation in departmental committees related to teaching and learning
- membership in teaching-related societies
- participation in teaching-related listservs
- Summary of Recent Student Evaluations of Teaching as a Course Instructor (numerical)
- Summary of Recent Student Evaluations of Teaching as a Teaching Assistant (numerical)
- Recent Unsolicited Letters from Students
- Solicited letter From A Faculty Member
- Solicited letter From A Student
- Possible List of Appendices:
- Recent Student Evaluations of Teaching as a Course Instructor (anecdotal)
- Recent Student Evaluations of Teaching as a Teaching Assistant (anecdotal)
- Complete list of Experience as a Teaching Assistant (if not completed above in #4)
- Course Syllabus (for most recent course taught with the greatest level of responsibility)
- Sample Assignment
- Sample Mid-course Evaluation Form
- Proposed Course Syllabus (for your “ideal” course)
- Materials from Other Teaching Experience
*These three points can be grouped together in one narrative description (in one STP), or separated out as they are here. The three categories together or the one STP should not exceed two pages in length.
- Teaching Experience
- Professional Development
- Teaching Philosophy
- Teaching Appraisals
- Quantitative Summary of Student Evaluations
- Qualitative Summary of Student Evaluations
- Unsolicited Letters from Students ·and Faculty
- A Gift from a Peace and Conflict Studies Class
- Sample Teaching Materials
- Syllabus for a Proposed Peace and Conflict Studies Course
- Scenario-based Learning Activity
- Handout on Description vs. Analysis
Examples of teaching dossier formats
Adapted from Developing a Teaching Dossier, Teaching Support Services, University of Guelph
Approach to Teaching
- Teaching Goals, Strategies, and Evaluation Methods
- Teaching Responsibilities
- Supervising and Advising Students
- Activities Undertaken to Improve Teaching & Learning
- Committee Service Re: Teaching/Teaching Issues
- Publications and Professional Contributions
Reflections and Assessment of Teaching
- Documentation of Results of Teaching
- Reflections on Teaching and Student Learning
- Future Plans Supporting Documentation (appendix should reflect items above)
- Teaching Responsibilities
- Statement of Teaching Philosophy
- Teaching Methods, Strategies, Objectives
- Description of Course Materials
- Efforts to Improve Teaching
- Student Evaluations
- Products of Teaching
- Teaching Goals: Short- and Long-term
- Statement of Teaching Responsibilities
- Course taught
- Honours theses supervised
- Graduate theses supervised
- Practicums supervised
- Reflective Statement on Teaching Philosophy and Goals
- Course Developed or Modified
- Student Ratings Summary
- Teaching Philosophy, Practices, and Goals
- Summary of Teaching Responsibilities
- Development of Teaching Materials
- Products of Good Teaching
- Steps Taken to Evaluate and Improve Teaching
- Contributions to the Development of Teaching
- Information from Students and Peers
Reflecting on Teaching
The following list of questions, to be used to guide one’s self-assessment of In-class teaching, stems from a workshop on reflective practice delivered by Dr. Nicola Simmons, University of Waterloo in 2007 for the TATP. Dr. Simmons’ questions were in turn adapted from the Teaching Behaviours Inventory developed by Prof. Harry Murray at the University of Western Ontario.
As an instructor, do you…
- Prepare adequately for class?
- Arrive in advance to get set up?
- Greet people as they enter?
- Introduce self and class session?
- Make the objectives and outline clear to the students?
- Begin class on time?
- Set ground rules for class?
- Include an “opener” towards the beginning of class?
- Begin at students’ level of understanding?
- Include teaching strategies to reach all learner styles?
- Use audio-visual materials to support the main teaching points?
- Seem at ease with the presentation?
- Effectively use voice, gestures, body language? (volume, pace, variety?)
- Use effective handouts, support student note-taking?
- Demonstrate openness and approachability?
- Have a contingency plan to meet different levels of student understanding or in case a.v. not working?
- Maintain energy levels by using a variety of strategies, incorporating breaks?
- Set challenging yet achievable objectives?
- Set a pace appropriate for the students?
- Include neither too much nor too little material?
- Explain new concepts and terms?
- Relate material to existing understanding?
- Remain flexible, but stay on track?
- Show relationship of material to job market, student interest, etc.
- Sequence the content logically?
- Monitor and communicate time limits for in-class work effectively?
- Create a natural connection from one activity to the next?
- Allow reasonable time to complete any activities?
- Ask questions in a way that encourages participation?
- Use questions to check student level of understanding?
- Clearly demonstrate interest in students’ questions? (listen attentively, allow time to respond)
- Use a variety of questioning techniques?
- Re-phrase questions when necessary to demonstrate understanding and/or to clarify for other students?
- Politely set aside questions that deviate from content?
- Allow enough time for students to respond?
- Use a variety of techniques to engage students?
- Circulate to facilitate small group process or to connect with individual students?
- Use icebreakers and other activities to draw students into the content?
- Call on students equally, using their name as possible?
- Encourage differences in points of view?
- Refrain from monopolizing discussions?
- Give feedback and encouragement to everyone?
- Correct errors constructively?
- Avoid exclusionary language or examples?
- Deal effectively with potentially disruptive behaviour?
- Review the material to assess understanding?
- Summarize material and tie forward to next class?
- Invite student comments and evaluation of the class?
- End class on time?
- Bring effective closure to the class session?
- Use an effective closing activity/metaphor/cartoon to finish?
- Does my overall approach to teaching incorporate several strategies?
- Do I provide individual feedback to each student? Is my feedback constructive?
- Do I organize my feedback in chunks, limited to what the student can reasonably correct?
- What professional development can I identify that would help me teach better?
- Do I sign up for workshops, courses, mini-conferences to help me with my professional development?
- Do I ask for formative feedback from students?
- Do I make revisions to the next class in an attempt to address the feedback?
- Do I take advantage of opportunities to watch peers teach?
- Can I describe the ways in which my teaching has changed as a result of observing/working with others?
Developing a Statement of Teaching Philosophy
Your statement of teaching philosophy is a short, one- to two-page document that should function both as a standalone essay that describes your personal approach to teaching, and as a central component of the teaching dossier. Your statement should not simply describe your experiences and initiatives in teaching, but, as Schönwetter et al. (2002) write, should provide .“a systematic and critical rationale that focuses on the important components defining effective teaching and learning in a particular discipline and/or institutional context.” (p. 84). It is personal and reflective, drawing on your own experiences as a teacher.
Your statement of teaching philosophy does several things for you. It can:
- Clarify what you believe good teaching to be.
- Explain what you hope to achieve in teaching.
- Contextualize your teaching strategies and other evidence of teaching effectiveness.
- Promote and provide an opportunity for reflection and professional development in teaching.
- Provide a means for others to learn from your experiences.
A statement of teaching philosophy is a flexible document, and can be successfully constructed in a number of different ways. One way in which statements of teaching philosophy vary is in whether or not they include descriptions of an instructor’s specific teaching strategies (e.g. a description of a particular assignment of class activity) alongside the
instructor’s teaching beliefs. Some instructors prefer to integrate these strategies into the philosophy statement; others prefer to describe them in a separate document (a “Statement of Teaching Practice”). Other common components of a statement of teaching philosophy include:
- Your definition of good teaching, with an explanation of why you have developed or adopted this particular definition.
- A discussion of your teaching methods: how do you implement your definition of good teaching?
- A discussion of your evaluation and assessment methods and a description of how they support your definition of good teaching.
- A description of your students, and their most important learning goals and challenges.
- A description of your teaching goals: with what content, skills, or values should students leave your classroom?
- What are your goals for improving your own teaching?
- As concise as possible: 1-2 pages single spaced (the document may be slightly longer if it includes information on specific teaching strategies).
- Include generous white spaces between paragraphs to allow for ease of reading and to provide space for comments.
- Written in a personal, relatively informal tone, usually in the first person. Sometimes mentioning the names of scholars who have been particularly influential to your teaching can be valuable, but the statement should generally not include a substantial review of relevant research.
- Identify one or two of your most effective teaching methods. Why are these methods effective?
- Jot down what you know about your students and how they learn.
- Review some of your teaching materials (assignments, syllabi). What are their strengths? How would you improve
- Consider some of the issues that most shape your teaching: What do you hope will be the result of your teaching? What disciplinary or institutional structures affect the way you teach? What were some critical moments or experiences for you as a teacher? How do you know that a teaching activity or a course has been successful?
- Consider how these issues are connected. Do your teaching materials reflect your understanding of your students
and their needs? Do you derive your teaching goals from a positive or negative experience with particular teaching
- Using these notes and reflections, write a draft of your philosophy statement in narrative form.
- What evidence do you have of your teaching effectiveness (teaching materials, feedback from students and
colleagues)? Does this evidence reflect what you have identified as your strengths and priorities as an instructor?
- Re-write the philosophy statement, taking into account your evidence of teaching effectiveness.
- Have someone else read the statement.
- Re-write the philosophy statement a second time, incorporating feedback from others.
Some common complaints from people who evaluate teaching philosophy statements include:
- Too general: A statement that does not reflect the particular beliefs, experiences, and circumstance of the author.
- A statement that is not reflective: it simply lists teaching techniques or experiences, but does not describe how these techniques or experiences have contributed to the author’s beliefs about what constitutes effective teaching.
- A statement that dwells too much on negative experiences or circumstances.
- Too clichéd: A statement that expresses a belief in a popular contemporary approach to teaching without establishing how that approach has been integrated into the author’s teaching.
- Too oblique: A statement that references a philosophy or belief but never describes it outright.
- Too few examples: A statement that does not include information about how the author knows his or her teaching to be effective.
Pratt, D.D. & Collins, J.B. (2001). Teaching perspectives inventory.
A free online tool for identifying your approach(es) to teaching, developed by Professors Daniel Pratt and John Collins at the University of British Columbia.
Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education. (2002). The deep end: Self-reflection: Easier said than done.
Teaching philosophies of some 3M National Teaching Fellowship award winners.
Articles & books:
Chism, N. V. N. (1998). Developing a philosophy of teaching statement. Essays on Teaching Excellence, 9(3), 1-2. Professional and Organizational Development Network in Higher Education.
Goodyear, G.E. & Allchin, D. (1998). Statements of teaching philosophy. In M. Kaplan (ed.), To improve the academy, 17,
Grundman, H. (2006). Writing a teaching philosophy statement. [PDF] Notices of the American Mathematical Society, 53(11), 1129-
Schönwetter, D., Sokal, L., Friesen, M. & Taylor, L. (2002). Teaching philosophies reconsidered: A conceptual model for the development and evaluation of teaching philosophy statements. International Journal for Academic Development, 7(1), 83-97.
What Counts as Teaching Experience
There are many different types of teaching experiences that can be included in a teaching dossier:
- Sole-responsibility Course Instructor for a course you designed
- Sole-responsibility Course Instructor for already-established course
- Guest Lecturer in a course for a professor (temporarily replacing a professor for multiple classes)
- Senior TA responsible for coordinating other TAs
- TA for a tutorial section or lab
- Project supervisor (for Master’s or undergraduate students)
- Invited Guest Lecturer in a course for a professor (individual one-off lecture as part of a larger course-the professor sought you out and asked you to deliver the lecture)
- Guest Lecturer in a course for a professor (individual one-off lecture as part of a larger courseyou sought out the professor and asked to deliver the lecture)
- Mentor of fellow teaching assistants
- Tutor (of university undergraduate students)
- Other teaching experience:
- teaching at the secondary school level
- tutoring secondary students
- teaching or training for private sector or government agencies
What if I don't have any teaching experience
- What did you like best about your learning environment as an undergraduate?
- What conditions were necessary in order for you to do your best work?
- Contrast your experience as an undergraduate with your current experience as a graduate student. What is different?
- What works better for you as a graduate learner?
- What doesn’t work as well?
- Who inspired you to pursue graduate studies? Why?
- Did you encounter models of good teaching in your past experience as a university student? Explain their teaching styles. Relate how they taught to how you learned in their classes.
- Ask to observe a professor’s lecture.
- Ask to observe a senior TA’s class or lab demonstration.
- Seek out opportunities to mentor fellow graduate or undergraduate students.
- Seek out opportunities to tutor secondary or undergraduate students.
- Volunteer to teach writing or math skills.
- Identify any other occasions in the past related to leadership and teaching others:
- training of fellow staff members at a non-university job
- peer counselor
- instrument lessons (piano lessons, etc.)
- coaching (swimming lessons, etc.)
- camp counselor
- What did you learn about teaching (and learning) from the above experiences?
- Based on these experiences, what can you say are your goals for your first contact with university students in the classroom?
- From this, devise a “plan of action” for your first university class.
- Design a sample quiz or activity or experiment that you would like to use when you start teaching.
- Design a sample course outline.
- Compile a sample reading list for a proposed course, etc.
- Explore diverse teaching strategies.
- Conduct research on innovative educational technologies (e.g., i-clickers).
What Counts as Professional Development?
- Any workshop, seminar, roundtable, panel discussion or course that is related to teaching and learning at the postsecondary level:
- TATP workshop series and TATP Certificate Program
- THE 500 course
- other faculty-based or department-based teaching courses or workshops
- CTSI workshop series
- OISE events
- Career Centre workshops related to teaching
- GSU events related to teaching
- other division-based events related to teaching
- campus-wide events related to teaching (e.g. the University of Toronto Teaching and Learning Symposium hosted by the Provost’s Office and the Office of Teaching Advancement every year)
- Participation in conferences, or individual sessions at conferences, related to teaching and learning at the postsecondary level.
- Participation in departmental committees that focus on undergraduate programs (e.g. curriculum development and planning).
- Delivering workshops for your fellow TAs on teaching and learning.
- Reviewing a book or article related to teaching in your field.
- Joining a listserv or an association related to teaching in your field.
How Do I Present Evaluations?
There are different types of evaluations that you present in your teaching dossier:
- summative vs. formative (university end-of-course evaluations combined with your own midcourse feedback forms)
- numerical vs. anecdotal (summary of statistical results plus a list of comments from students)
- faculty and peer evaluations (solicited or unsolicited letters from professors and students and fellow TAs)
- formal (i.e., university mandated) or informal evaluations
What is solicited versus unsolicited feedback?
When a student or a professor sends you an email or a note thanking you for your contribution to the course or for your hard work and availability during the term-and you did not explicitly ask for this recognition-this is unsolicited feedback on your teaching.
Unsolicited feedback can be more valuable than solicited feedback, in that it offers spontaneous and unmotivated recognition.
Solicited feedback involves seeking out a course supervisor for a course you’ve TA’d, or a student who has done well in your course (after the course is over and final grades have been approved), and asking them to write you a note about your work as their TA.
What Qualifies as an Appendix?
The appendices contain the teaching documents, or artifacts, that support your narrative claims in the rest of your dossier. This section of your dossier should contain the evidence to illustrate your teaching effectiveness.
The appendices can include a variety of different materials:
- course syllabi (for courses you’ve TA’d and a “dream” course you’d like to teach one day)
- course evaluations (if available) and letters of support (if available)
- explanatory handouts and study guides
- sample quizzes or tests
- lab worksheets or workbooks
- essay questions and reading lists
- marking rubrics
NOTE: The documents you include in your appendices should match the teaching claims in your Statement of Teaching Philosophy. For each major claim, include only one or two documents to support it. Try to limit your supporting documents in this way.
Preparing a Teaching Dossier by Christopher Knapper and Susan Wilcox, Instructional Development Centre, Queen’s University, 1998
Recording Teaching Accomplishment: A Dalhousie Guide to the Teaching Dossier by Carol O’Neil and Alan Wright, Office of Instructional Development and Technology, Dalhousie University, 5th Edition, 1999
The above publications include samples of real teaching dossiers from faculty members at various stages of their careers. They are available for on-site consultation from the University ofToronto’s Centre for Teaching Support & Innovation, 4th floor, Robarts Library, 130 St. George St.
This document from the Office of the Vice-President and Provost provides information on how teaching is assessed at U of T.
Dr. Daniel Pratt developed this online survey tool to help postsecondary instructors identify and articulate their own approach to teaching. It can be useful when trying to draft a Statement of Teaching Philosophy. The survey takes approximately 20 minutes to complete and is free. Teaching Perspectives Inventory.
Pratt, Daniel D. (and associates), Five Perspectives on Teaching in Adult and Higher Education. Florida: Kreiger Publishing, 1998. OISE/UT 374 P913F – offers a description of 5 main approaches to teaching
Schonwetter, Dieter J.; Laura Sokal; Marcia Friesen; K. Lynn Taylor, “Teaching philosophies reconsidered: a conceptual model for the development and evaluation of teaching philosophy statements” in International Journal for Academic Development, Volume 7, Issue 12002, pages 83 -97. – offers strategies for structuring and evaluating teaching philosophy statements; online link to article is included above under Online Resources
Seldin, Peter, The Teaching Portfolio: A Practical Guide to Improved Performance and Promotion/Tenure Decisions. Boston, MA: Anker Publishing, 1991. OISE/UT 378.1224 S464T – by far the most referenced source for help preparing teaching dossiers
Seldin, Peter; Elizabeth Miller. The Academic Portfolio: a Practical Guide to Documenting Teaching, Research and Service. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2008. OSIE/UT 378.1224 S464A- a newer resource by the same author of The Teaching Portfolio