Creating Materials for Your Dossier
If you are a new faculty member with limited years in the classroom, drawing on a limited collection of course materials and evidence of your teaching effectiveness, or an experienced instructor who feels that the materials you have available don’t accurately reflect the scope of your teaching, you might find it useful to develop additional materials specifically for your dossier. This might include:
In addition to including the results of your formal, end-of-course evaluations, you might consider developing and administering mid-course evaluations. These evaluations, which are generally formative and often more qualitative than end-of-course evaluations, can provide you with additional evidence of your teaching effectiveness. Importantly, you can also develop evaluations that provide feedback on specific teaching approaches or strategies that are important to you and that you have highlighted elsewhere in your dossier. For suggestions on developing and administering mid-course evaluations, see the CTSI instructional guide Gathering Formative Feedback with Mid-Course Evaluations.
EXCERPTS FROM A TEACHING JOURNAL
A teaching journal can help you record and illustrate specific examples of particular teaching approaches or of your process of reflecting on and improving your teaching. A teaching journal is also a place to note ideas for changes to your course content or teaching strategies. You can use the teaching journal as a place to brainstorm ideas for your statement of teaching philosophy or strategies or as a place to collect anecdotes and examples that can be used to illustrate the claims throughout your dossier. For example, you might record the results of a particularly successful class activity or assignment with examples that you can insert into your description of teaching strategies. Alternatively, you might reflect on an unsuccessful class discussion to try to identify the reasons it did not work, identify strategies you hope to try in the following class session, and then note the results of those changes.
COMMUNICATIONS FROM STUDENTS
It is possible to include in your dossier examples of communications – written notes, emails, etc. – from students that were not solicited by you or on your behalf. When including a communication from a student, be sure to select a note that highlights something specific about your teaching. Perhaps a student in your class struggled with one particular assignment but was able to improve by the end of the term thanks to targeted feedback from you. If an email communication refers to this support and consequent improvement, then it is a good example to include with your supporting documentation. Similarly, you may want to include an exchange you had with a student over email in order to illustrate how you interact with students through a semester, how you advise them with regard to career development or course selection, etc. The point is to always be judicious when including such communications – the examples need to point to something specific about your approach to feedback, or working with students, or assignment design, or learning support, etc. Generic notes of thanks or appreciation, while pleasing, are usually not powerful enough to include in the dossier as evidence.
THREE IMPORTANT THINGS TO NOTE ABOUT STUDENT COMMUNICATIONS:
- When considering whether to include these kinds of student communications in your dossier, always check with your Chair/Program Director/Dean to ensure this is an accepted practice in your unit or division.
- If including such communications is possible, best practice is to seek permission of the student and to anonymize the communication – although, if the student grants permission, it is possible to include an email communication in your dossier “as is”, i.e. the full email text with name and subject/date indicated.
- You should not solicit letters from students at any stage of your formal tenure review, continuing status review, or promotion review. Departments and divisions have processes in place to ensure feedback is collected from your students during the formal review process. They will take care of contacting your students. Please note that if you do solicit letters from students, these students may become ineligible to provide feedback on your teaching during the formal review.
EXAMPLES OF STUDENT WORK
Student work can be used to demonstrate that students are meeting the educational outcomes of your courses or that the feedback you provide contributes to the development of students’ skills. The excerpt below from Dalhousie University’s guide to developing a teaching dossier provides details on incorporating examples of student work into your dossier:
From O’Neil, C. & Wright, A. (1999). Recording Teaching Accomplishment. Office of Instructional Development and Technology, Dalhousie University.
What are the possible ways to document successful student work or projects?
Evidence of student accomplishments can be provided in a number of ways, including student examination scores, a record of pre- and post-tests results, copies of students’ papers, journal, workbooks, etc. (“before” and “after” work can be used to illustrate students’ intellectual and skill development), lists of your students’ publications, research, and other academic work, and so on. Some professors include examples of a range of student work, accompanied by the feedback given to students (e.g. comments on papers, suggestions for how to improve). You might also ask colleagues who teach courses for which yours is a prerequisite to comment on how well prepared our students are for further studies. Evidence obtained from students and about students is intended to illustrate how your teaching contributed to meeting course and/or departmental learning objectives and to student development. Reference to student work would be made in the dossier itself, whereas the work samples would normally appear as appendices.