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How to prepare a teaching dossier

Once considered little more than an interesting project for particularly motivated instructors, teaching dossiers have over the last half-decade graduated to the academic mainstream

by Adam Chapnick

teaching dossier

Postsecondary institutions of all shapes and sizes now require professors to submit dossiers as part of their applications for short- and long-term teaching positions, tenure and promotion.

What is a dossier?

A teaching dossier is a professional document that provides evidence of your teaching beliefs, experiences and abilities. It is generally six to 12 pages long, plus appendices. It includes three types of evidence:

Personal materials

  • a statement of your philosophy of teaching and learning
  • an account of your teaching experiences and related responsibilities
  • a summary of your commitment to professional development

Materials from others

  • evidence of teaching effectiveness (evaluations; letters of support; nominations/awards received)

Products of teaching

  • examples of teaching materials
  • course outlines

It might be tempting to call a dossier a “teaching CV,” but there are significant differences between the two. A teaching dossier always includes a statement of your philosophy of teaching and learning, is presented in narrative form, makes few explicit references to research, and typically includes a table of contents.

How is a Dossier Organized?

A dossier begins with a 250- to 750-word statement that defines you as a teacher.

If you haven’t taught yet, you can replace this temporarily with a statement of teaching goals and ideas. (You can see a few sample statements at the Gwenna Moss Centre for Teaching Effectiveness at the University of Saskatchewan; click on "Resources" on the main menu and then select "The Teaching Portfolio" from the submenu).

This is followed by a comprehensive listing of your teaching experience. Include: the title of the course and a one line description of its content; the size of your class; your specific teaching responsibilities – lecturing, labs, marking, facilitation; and a course outline as an appendix, if you designed the course yourself.

Newer instructors might have to define teaching broadly. Consider the following experiences, listed in order of importance: course instructor; seminar facilitator or lab leader; marker (specify what kind of marking); guest lecturer; and guest workshop conductor.

For junior instructors, you might add the following experiences, which you will likely delete once you have a more complete file: formal mentorship experience; coaching experience; and public speaking experience.

A section on teaching-related academic contributions and/or commitment to professional development typically follows. Note, for example, whether you: have given a talk or published an article on teaching and learning issues; subscribe to teaching-related listservs; attend departmental workshops or brownbag lunches on teaching and learning themes; have completed a teacher training course.

Follow that with a chart that summarizes any formal, numerical teaching evaluations you might have collected. And be sure to include an explanation of what the numbers on the scale mean. If you have access to departmental or institutional averages, include those for context.

If you’d like to include students’ written feedback as evidence of your teaching performance (also known as anecdotal evidence), note that you must include each and every written response from a single course (unedited). This is the only way for an outside reader to assess the data impartially. For a large course, include one page of the anecdotal comments in your dossier and the rest in an appendix.

If you have been nominated for or have won a teaching award, be sure to note that as well (use a copy of the notice of your nomination or a scanned copy of the award).

If you haven’t received formal recognition, there are other forms of unsolicited feedback: e-mail from students thanking you for your good work; a note from a colleague letting you know that one of their students said good things about you or your course; or a note from your chair applauding your contribution to curriculum renewal.

Be as liberal as you’d like with your appendices. Provide evidence of pedagogical innovations (include a hand-out explaining a new assignment you have developed), complete copies of older teaching evaluations, solicited letters from colleagues or former students, course outlines, or even a model outline of your dream course if you’ve never taught before.

Adam Chapnick is the deputy director of education at the Canadian Forces College and an associate professor of defence studies at the Royal Military College of Canada.

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