APPENDIX D: Evaluating Teaching Dossiers for Department Chairs and Tenure, Continuing Status and Promotions Committee
THE PURPOSES OF TEACHING DOSSIERS AND OF DOSSIER EVALUATION
Well-constructed dossiers provide a substantive and coherent portrait of an instructor’s teaching. The dossier brings together multiple types of information about teaching, including evaluations, teaching materials, and student work and assessment, alongside the instructor’s own description and contextualization of this information. Dossiers allow teaching to be evaluated systematically and rigorously while allowing for flexibility, innovation, and individual and disciplinary variations in teaching approaches and activities.
THE FORMAT AND CONTENT OF TEACHING DOSSIERS
There is no set format for teaching dossiers. This flexible format allows dossiers to work as effective tools for showcasing individual approaches to teaching, but also complicates the evaluation process. This flexible format generally means that dossiers must be evaluated holistically, as the criteria used in teaching evaluation might be found in multiple parts of the dossier. That being said, teaching dossiers usually include most of the following components:
- Statement of teaching philosophy. This may also include reference to specific teaching strategies and to teaching goals, or these may be included as separate documents.
- Highlights of university teaching experience and responsibilities.
- Evidence of leadership related to teaching in a department, discipline, or institution.
- Evidence of professional development and ongoing learning related to teaching in the discipline or more broadly.
- Student and peer evaluations of teaching, including written reports, quantitative ratings and qualitative comments.
- Other evidence of effective teaching, such as feedback from peers or information about teaching awards.
- Sample teaching materials, such as syllabi, examples of student work or feedback on assignments (usually included as appendices).
EVALUATING TEACHING WITH A DOSSIER
In general, dossiers should tell you the following things about the instructor’s teaching:
- What it is like to be a student in that instructor’s classroom as detailed in narrative statements and through supporting teaching materials. This allows the evaluator to assess how the instructor contributes to departmental and institutional goals and priorities in teaching. Does the instructor demonstrate the kinds of teaching most important to the institution (e.g. as defined by Provostial and Divisional Guidelines)? In what ways does the instructor contribute to the overall academic experience of students in his or her classroom and in other teaching contexts?
- The instructor’s strengths and weaknesses as a teacher, as identified both through self-reflection and with supporting evidence from teaching materials, students, and other evaluators. This allows the evaluator to ensure that the instructor meets institutional or divisional standards. The dossier allows instructors to highlight for evaluators what they consider to be their pedagogical priorities and contributions. As much as is possible, the dossier should be evaluated within the context of these priorities provided they fall within relevant guidelines for effective teaching. Instructors might also identify areas of their teaching that they are working to improve, through, for example professional development activities.
- The instructor is committed to effective teaching and to ongoing teaching improvement. Such an approach to teaching leads to better instruction, and promotes the value and status of teaching within the institution. Commitment to professional development helps instructors improve and establishes professional networks and engagement in teaching at the institution and beyond. Dossiers should also highlight an instructor’s future plans for pedagogical and professional development.
THE EVALUATION PROCESS
- Evaluators should identify and review the criteria for effective teaching in their particular context. This should include Provostial and Divisional Guidelines. Individual departments may also have particular criteria and standards. These criteria should be the same as those communicated to faculty as they were developing their dossier.
- Seek evidence of this criteria throughout the dossier. As the examples in Section 3: Defining Competence and Excellence in Teaching (see Tables 2 and 3 on pp. 10-11) demonstrate, each component of effective teaching might be identified in multiple locations throughout the dossier. For example, evidence of stimulating and challenging students might be equally located in course evaluations, in teaching materials, or in narrative statements of teaching strategies and beliefs.
- Not all information about teaching effectiveness need necessarily be contained in the dossier; instructors may submit additional information about teaching effectiveness in addition to the dossier.
ADDITIONAL RECOMMENDED RESOURCES
Center for Research on Learning and Teaching, University of Michigan. (2016). Evaluation of teaching. Retrieved from http://www.crlt.umich.edu/resources/evaluation-teaching.
Cornell University Center for Learning and Teaching. (1997). Cornell University teaching evaluation handbook. Retrieved from https://cte.cornell.edu/documents/Teaching%20Evaluation%20 Handbook.pdf. [NB: Not all of the information contained in this handbook will be applicable to faculty and administrators at the U of T.]
Office of the Vice-Provost, Faculty & Academic Life. Academic Administrators Procedure Manual. Retrieved from http://www.aapm.utoronto.ca/academic-administrative-procedures-manual
Seldin, P. (Ed.). (1999) Changing practices in evaluating teaching. Bolton, MA: Anker.
Seldin, P. (2004). The teaching portfolio: A practical guide to improved performance and promotion/tenure decisions. 3rd edition, Bolton, MA: Anker.
Tables 2 and 3 in Section 3: Defining Competence and Excellence in Teaching include representative examples of ways in which material included in a dossier might be matched with criteria defining effective teaching. This chart uses the UofT Provostial Guidelines for Developing Written Assessments of Effectiveness of Teaching in Tenure and Promotion Decisions (available at http://www.governingcouncil.utoronto.ca/policies/teaching.htm). Many divisions have also developed divisional criteria defining effective teaching; as intended, Divisional Guidelines are more specific and relevant to teaching in those divisions and must be used when available as they carry the weight of policy. Such guidelines, whether Provostial or Divisional, are indeed guidelines, and are not meant to delimit or identify all possible characteristics of effective teaching. These guidelines should be reviewed with instructors early in the tenure review, continuing status review, and promotion process. Evaluators might note that evidence for each criterion might be distributed in multiple components of the dossier and that certain aspects of effective teaching might be represented by additional evidence submitted with a tenure review, continuing status review, and promotion file but not included in the dossier.