APPENDIX C: Frequently Asked Questions About Dossiers
Q. Where are the data from my student course evaluations stored?
A. For instructors teaching in divisions that are using the institutional online system, course evaluation data, in the form of your past Instructor Reports, are always available through the “Course Evals” tab on the U of T Portal. For instructions on how to access, view and download your reports, please go to http://courseevaluations.utoronto.ca/faculty-admin/. Note that you will be asked to log in with your UTORid. For instructors teaching in divisions not yet on the online system, the location and process for maintaining evaluation data may vary by department and division. However, in general, after evaluation results have been processed/reported for your department, instructors are usually provided with a summary sheet that includes frequency scores and means, and with the original evaluation forms completed by individual students.
Departments often also maintain copies of evaluation records, but it is nonetheless important that individual instructors collect and store their own evaluation data. Instructors whose courses are evaluated through the institutional online system should download and save their Instructor Reports as soon as they are emailed the link to access the reports. For instructors teaching in divisions not yet using the institutional online system, check with your department administrator to see how you can obtain your evaluation results if you do not receive evaluation results by the beginning of the following semester.
Q. Are there any guidelines for including students’ work in my dossier?
A. Yes. Privacy considerations and the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA) suggest the following guidelines:
- Unless there is a compelling reason not to (unless, for example, the student has contributed a solicited letter about your teaching, and you wish to link their work to the letter), you should anonymize the student work by obscuring or changing their name. CTSI can clarify the regulations for your particular context if there is a case in which you would prefer not to anonymize student work.
- If possible, do ask students whether they are comfortable with you including their work in your dossier. This can be done informally after you have identified the work you wish to include (alternatively, if you wish, you can let students know at the beginning of the semester that
you might want to use their work, and allow them to communicate whether or not they are comfortable with this). This is, however, simply a courtesy and not a regulation.
- Keep students’ work secure. For example, do not include their work – even if anonymized – in a publicly-accessible electronic version of your dossier (e.g., posted on a departmental website). This could make students’ work vulnerable to appropriation by others.
Q. Can (or should) I include other media (such as a recording of me teaching) in my dossier?
A. This is more common in some contexts and for some purposes (e.g. some teaching awards) than for others. In general, while a video or audio file might be a great addition to your dossier, it is best not to include any essential information in a format other than that which can be easily reproduced or accessed, primarily because a review or hiring committee will need to distribute your materials to all evaluators. Rather than a physical object, you might consider including a link to an online video or audio file (include the actual location of the link rather than embedding it in an electronic document in case your dossier is printed and copied), but again recognize that not all evaluators may have access to a computer while they are evaluating your dossier.
Q. What if student evaluation questions don’t reflect the way I teach?
A. Many course evaluation questions reflect particular teaching contexts and approaches to teaching that may not apply equally to every instructor’s courses or teaching strategies. This can be particularly true for faculty teaching in courses with multiple instructors or in courses with some degree of alternative delivery – for example, courses that include a practicum or a service or experiential learning component. If you feel that the questions on your course evaluation instrument do not fully reflect the structure of your courses or your approach to teaching, there are several ways in which you can contextualize, present, and supplement evaluation data to better reflect your teaching:
- The interpretation of course evaluation data for courses with multiple instructors can be a challenge. In a course with multiple instructors, be sure to clarify, in contextualizing your evaluations, which questions reflect your own teaching, and which may reflect the course more broadly.
- Add additional questions to the standard evaluation form on specific issues of importance to you. For instructors teaching in courses that are evaluated through the institutional online system, you have the option in some divisions of adding additional items from an instructor item bank. You can select items that connect more directly to your teaching goals. For guidance on how to add items to your questionnaire from the instructor item bank, please go to: https://courseevaluations.utoronto.ca/faculty-admin/instructors/adding-course-evaluation-items/. Note that you will be prompted to log in with your UTORid. Other forms in divisions not yet using the online system will often have space to add additional items.
- Conduct a mid-course evaluation on issues not addressed in the standard evaluation form. See Section 11: Creating Materials for Your Dossier or the CTSI publication Gathering Formative Feedback for Mid-Course Evaluations for suggestions on developing and administering mid-course evaluations.
Q. I’m not sure whether a particular initiative should be classified as research or teaching for the purposes of evaluation for tenure or, continuing status review, or promotion. Where does research end and teaching begin?
A. There are particular aspects of many academic careers that blur the boundaries of research and teaching – indeed, arguably, this is a positive dilemma! This frequently occurs with issues such as the supervision of undergraduate and graduate research and course and curriculum development. In general, while most such activities certainly do belong in a teaching dossier (unless specified otherwise by your department or by convention in your field), they should be presented and their significance described in terms of what they represent about your approach to teaching or your teaching effectiveness. For example, you might include information about the publications of your supervised students, but this might be presented in the context of your particular approach to supervision, or presented as evidence of your effectiveness in mentoring – instead of, for example, simply presenting the publications as a list organized by topic. It is equally important to highlight the scholarly activities you may have undertaken that serve to keep your teaching relevant and fresh, and that highlight your ongoing efforts to maintain currency with emerging research and important debates in your disciplinary field. Ideally, any mention of research activities in the dossier should highlight how the research has informed your teaching.