Sunday, November 22, 2009

How to Prepare a Teaching Dossier

For those of you who are, like me, currently attempting to navigate the bewildering, intimidating and - unfortunately - often disheartening process of applying for a faculty position, this article by Adam Chapnick is definitely worth a read (and a bookmark!). It appeared in a Canadian online resource called University Affairs a couple of weeks ago, and provides a step-by-step guide to putting together a teaching dossier - which many applications ask for, without really explaining what the expectations are in terms of length, contents, etc. Chapnick goes into quite a bit of detail, and provides some great guidelines on things that may seem like small details, but end up being precisely the kind of issues that stump us the most as we scramble to tailor application packages, meet deadlines, and juggle reference letter requests. Here's a brief excerpt of Chapnick's article - be sure to check out the original for further elaboration about what each category of "evidence" actually entails.
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 [he adds that this usually consists of a 250- to 750-word statement that defines you as a teacher, and if you haven’t taught yet, you can replace this temporarily with a statement of teaching goals and ideas.]

* an account of your teaching experiences and related responsibilities [title of the course + one line description of its content + size of class + specific teaching responsibilities – lecturing, labs, marking, facilitation; a course outline as an appendix, if you designed the course yourself] [newer instructors might have to define experience broadly. Chapnick recommends that you consider other types of teaching 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.]

*a summary of your commitment to professional development [note 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.]

Materials from others
*evidence of teaching effectiveness (evaluations; letters of support; nominations/awards received) [include a chart that summarizes any formal, numerical teaching evaluations you might have collected. Include an explanation of what the numbers on the scale mean. If you have access to departmental or institutional averages, include those for context.]

Products of teaching
* examples of teaching materials [vidence 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 [course outlines that you've designed yourself, or a model outline of your dream course]

[...] 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.

Chapnick also recommends that applicants check out the sample statements and guidelines provided on the Gwenna Moss Centre for Teaching Effectiveness at the University of Saskatchewan website. Click on The Teaching Portfolio in the lefthand navigation bar; and then, The Parts of a Portfolio). If you've found any other guides or good advice online for getting through the job application process or for putting together good materials, please let me know!

1 comment:

mark said...

great find!

What I find most frustrating is that there doesn't seem to be a standard in US institutions. Some places want a "teaching statement," some want "evidence of teaching," and others don't want anything about teaching (though, admittedly, I've mostly been applying to research universities).

Still, depending on who I talk to, the materials that I *do* need to provide vary. For some people a teaching statement is a short paper (~6 pages) on teaching philosophy (complete with APA references, etc.), while for others it's an even shorter (~2 pages) summary of teaching experience. And, as far as I can tell, evidence of teaching is most like what you describe as the dossier...

Can we just forget all this and hang out at a beach somewhere, already? (preferably in a virtual world, of course)