Teaching Portfolio

Your Teaching Portfolio documents your teaching activities and includes sample teaching materials and a teaching philosophy statement.

A Guide to the Preparation of your Teaching Dossier

Index


A Guide to Constructing Your U.W.O. Teaching Dossier for Graduate Students

by Colin Baird, Director, Educational Development Office (1996-97)
Modified for graduate students by Natasha Patrito Hannon (October 2011)

A Teaching Dossier (known also as a document that summarizes a faculty member's teaching accomplishments and activities. At Western, it has been adopted as part of the documentation required for decisions on faculty tenure and promotion. As the 1986 CAUT guide states, the "teaching dossier is to education what the list of publications, grants, and university awards is to research".

Since individuals and teaching activities vary so widely, no two teaching dossiers will look alike. Various institutions differ in the content rules for such documents, however for the purpose of the Western Certificate in University Teaching and Learning, your dossier should include the following sections:

  • Table of Contents
  • Teaching Philosophy Statement, (An explanation of why you make the pedagogical decisions that you do.  See discussion and examples below).
  • Teaching Responsibilities (a list of the courses you've taught or acted as a teaching assistant for over the past seven years with a short description of your role therein)
  • Evidence of Teaching Effectiveness (may include summary tables of numerical student ratings over the past seven years, selected written comments from teacher evaluations, reference letters from students, summaries of peer teaching observations, etc…)
  • Key Teaching Strategies and Innovations (a list, with description, of 3-5 key instructional strategies that you routinely employ in your classroom or innovative teaching ideas that you’ve employed with success)
  • Professional Development in Teaching (descriptions of professional development experiences that you have engaged in to enhance your instructional abilities)
  • Outlines for courses that you have TAed or instructed over the past two years (Limit each outline to a maximum of 5 pages, trimming any longer outlines to display only the most critical information)
  • Outlines for courses that you have created and are proposing to teach

Other optional dossier sections are also described in the Preparing Your Teaching Dossier section of this guide.  Please refer to the chart in the next section for additional details.

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Preparing Your Teaching Dossier

The Teaching Dossier is a highly personal document that reflects your unique approach to teaching and student learning. We recommend that you review samples of dossiers and philosophy statements to develop a clear understanding of their structure and organization.  However, if you find yourself drawing from the ideas of others when developing your dossier, please consult the online resource "How not to plagiarise" and, where in doubt, cite sources appropriately.

If a dossier or philosophy statement that you submit in support of the Certificate is deemed to have been plagiarised in any way, you will have to wait a minimum of six months before you are able to submit revised (and wholly original) documents and receive the Certificate.

In the two-column document below, the content requirements for your teaching dossier appear in the left-hand column and some suggestions to help prepare the corresponding items are given in the right-hand column.

CONTENT AREA AND SPECIFICATIONS

SUGGESTIONS

Teaching Philosophy Statement

  • A succinct, clearly reasoned statement of your personal beliefs about teaching and how these have influenced your choice of teaching methods, i.e., an explanation of why you do what you do...maximum length 2 pages
    (Required)

(See separate discussion and examples below)

Teaching Responsibilities

  • List of all courses or segments of courses taught (as a TA or lead instructor) in the past 7 years, plus a description of your role therein  (Required)

 

List the title and number of each course with the years you've taught it; include a description of your instructional duties.

Example:
GEOG 3461 Land Use and Development  Issues  (Fall 2009, 2010)

Created and presented tutorial sessions, marked assignments, guest lectured, activated and supervised online course supplement, consulted with students on final project

  • Course outlines (maximum length 5 pages each) for all courses TAed or independently instructed in the past 2 years  (Required)  

Include these as appendices at the end of the portfolio

  • List of all students supervised, including graduate and undergraduate theses, independent study, and practicum supervision
    (Optional)

As a graduate student, you may have been involved in the supervision of an undergraduate research project or independent study.  If so, list the student name, year(s) of supervision and title of project as well as a brief description of your supervisory role.

Example:
Paul Elan, Photolithographically patterned surface modification of poly(dimethylsiloxane)          (Fall 2006) 

Developed project description; conferred with the student to identify their research interests and establish timelines and tenable goals for their work; trained student on all relevant equipment and experimental techniques and was available for consultation as their research became increasingly independent and self-driven

Evidence of Teaching Effectiveness

  • Graphical or tabular summary of formal student ratings for all courses taught in the last 7 years, when available (Recommended)

Include a summary table of student ratings from the university teaching evaluation forms. See dossier Example XX for a succinct way to construct a table of the required data.  The average of your ratings for each year and/or for each course could also be displayed. 

Please include the following information on your table:  i) total number of students in the course, ii) total number of respondents to the evaluation, iii) Scale upon which the evaluation is based (i.e. UWO employs a 7-point scale)

  • Letters or emails from students, parents, former students, or employers of former students...letters should be designated as solicited, or unsolicited, and if solicited, the letter of solicitation should be included. (Recommended)

Unsolicited letters or emails commenting on your teaching from students (past and present), their parents, etc. can be abstracted or included in an Appendix, as appropriate.

If you request letters about your teaching, all replies must be included along with a copy of the letter of solicitation. (An example of the solicitation letter is shown at the end of this document.) If numerous replies are received, they should be placed in an Appendix, with only a list of respondents given in the dossier itself.  Note:  Letters should ONLY be requested AFTER you are no longer responsible for a student’s marks and they have received their final course grade.

  • Colleague evaluations based on direct observation of classroom teaching (Recommended)

If you have taken part in the Teaching Mentor Program or another form of teaching observation, summaries of observer comments may be included in the portfolio.  Briefly describe the context for the observation and provide selected comments from the observers’ feedback.  If desired, complete copies of the observers’ feedback can be included in an appendix in addition to the comment summaries provided in this section.

Recognition of Teaching Excellence

  • Teaching awards or nominations
    (Optional)

List any awards which you have received or for which have been nominated, with dates.

  • Invitations to teach or contribute curriculum materials to other institutions or departments
    (Optional)

 

Key Teaching Strategies and Innovations

  •  A list, with description, of 3-5 key instructional strategies that you routinely employ in your classroom or innovative teaching ideas that you’ve implemented with success (Required)

Succinctly describe key teaching strategies that you often incorporate into your teaching

Example:
Review previous lecture at the beginning of each class. At the beginning of each lecture, I spend two to three minutes reviewing the major topics from the previous lecture, restating important theorems and definitions. This serves a number of purposes. By doing this at the start of each lecture, it provides a consistent start to each lecture and is a cue for students to focus on the lecture. Since the review only covers previous material, no new content is missed if there are small disruptions from students entering late. It also helps place the previous material in context for the present lecture.

Mention any materials you've developed, including lab manuals; new assignments; computer software produced for use by students; audio or video files for on in-class or online use, etc.

  • Contributions you have made to development of new courses or revision of existing courses (Optional)

Since you may also have completed the ‘Course Design’ project in fulfilling the Western Certificate requirements, briefly include a description of your proposed course and the rationale for its development and inclusion in your current departmental offerings

Professional Development

  • Brief description of steps taken to improve your teaching, including workshops and seminars attended, courses completed, and peer consultation.
    (Required)

List, with dates and brief descriptions where available, any activities run by the Teaching Support Centre, or by your unit or your scholarly association, etc. that you have attended, such as "how to teach" courses, workshops/seminars on teaching techniques or curriculum development, etc. List also any "peer consultation" or mentoring you have undertaken to have colleagues provide you with feedback on your teaching through classroom observation, etc.

Educational Leadership

  • Membership on curriculum or educational policy and planning committees
    (Optional)

 

  • Membership on committees responsible for evaluating or improving teaching
    (Optional)

 

Scholarship on Teaching

  • Papers published or presented on teaching or curriculum issues, including articles proposing or evaluating new teaching methods or curriculum developments
    (Optional)

Cite any papers published, talks presented (e.g., at professional conferences) or grants obtained in the area of teaching/curriculum development.

  • Informal, unpublished research on teaching (Optional)

Describe briefly any informal, unpublished research you've undertaken on teaching methods or content for your courses.

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Writing Your "Teaching Philosophy"

Constructing this half page can be the most difficult part of putting together a teaching dossier. Although no general prescription can be given for its construction, we reproduce below the advice iven in several Canadian guides for dossier construction, and follow it with some examples written by various faculty members across the country. (Note that some of these examples are more lengthy than that suggested in the UWO dossier guidelines.) See also the sample dossiers suggested.

Dalhousie's Guide to the Teaching Dossier suggests that in the statement "you will reflect upon such questions as what you intend to accomplish through your various teaching activities (both short-term and long-term teaching goals), why you consider these goals to be important, and how your teaching practices promote student learning."

According to the Guide for Preparation and Use of the Professional Teaching Dossier published by Western's Faculty of Medicine, the statement of teaching philosophy "may include, but not be limited to, discussion in each of the following:

  • your personal theory of learning (e.g., what happens inside students when they learn)
  • the goals for instruction (what should be learned)
  • the role(s) and responsibility(ies) of the student in this process
  • the role(s) of the instructor in this process
  • a description of the variables which promote learning

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Examples of "Teaching Philosophy" Statements

taken from Dalhousie University's Guide to the Teaching Dossier

 

Example 1

Teaching Philosophy – Professor of Chemistry

By their very nature, people are inquisitive. The goal of education should be to encourage seeking answers, as it is in this way that we advance. I seek to facilitate this advancement of knowledge, and the main theme of my teaching philosophy is reasoned thought.

Whether in the classroom or in meeting groups of the general public, my goal is to encourage thinking in rational ways, so that this can be applied in other, unfamiliar situations. I particularly emphasize learning to think about trends and directions (e.g. increasing this will decrease that), rather than rote memorization of facts.

In order to further encourage seeking answers to the questions around us, I try to encourage the questions themselves. All teachers should do so, but it is difficult to "allow the time" for this to take place, especially in a classroom setting. One way in which I have done this is to design a course based on answering questions. This is the Materials Science class that I have been developing since 1990. (Materials science has been deemed one of the two most important topics in chemistry currently--the other is biotechnology--but classes in materials sciences are extremely rare.) The class is based on first asking the questions (why are materials coloured as they are? how is heat stored? why is marble cold to the touch? etc.), and then developing the principles to explain the concepts as needed. This is just the reverse of most physical science classes where principles are presented and then a few examples are added at the end.

I am presently writing a textbook for this class. Judging from the interest in this class when I spoke about it at a national chemistry meeting and interest in a paper describing this class published in Canadian Chemical News, I expect that the publication of this textbook will lead to development of similar classes at many other institutions.

Another important element of my teaching philosophy is encouraging reasoned written and oral work, especially in developing logical arguments. A major factor of this is spending my time making suggestions, as students can only learn to present their ideas more effectively if someone shows them how and why modifications could be made to their natural style to make it clearer.

Finally, I aim to encourage a sense of wonderment in the world around us. Although I am a scientist and teach mostly science students, this is not, in my mind, an exclusive club. We are all scientists. We all wonder about the world around us. We must continue to ask the "how?" and "why?" questions in order to advance. Only if answers to these questions continue to come (either from the teacher, or, better yet, through reasoned thought on the part of the one asking), will the questions continue to flow.

Example 2

Teaching Philosophy or Approach – Professor of Law

My teaching is somewhat eclectic and resists a neat philosophical classification. What I will attempt to do is to identify some themes which emerge from my teaching and let others determine whether these themes constitute any coherent pattern.

At the outset, I would state that teachers impart more by way of example than precept, and that students are very perceptive in recognizing when a teacher does not practice what (s)he preaches. There are several values that I try to teach students, both by my words and my actions. Included among these are the following: the importance of organization, preparation, and homework; respect for other people and their views; the public service obligations of the lawyer; the value of clear and effective communication in both written and oral form; the importance of fair process; the centrality of equality, to name but a few.

Another important theme of my teaching is to emphasize the value of critical scholarship, which not only clearly describes the present state of the law but explores what the law should be. I make a point of including in my in-house case books (prepared from scratch and revised every year) scholarship that questions and challenges the state of the law as presented in the statutes, regulations, and cases. I also encourage students in their own research papers to move beyond the mere description of the present state of law to make constructive suggestions for law reform. I have been gratified by the number of my students who have not only written these scholarly plans for change but have gone on to get them published (see Appendix 4). It is important for students and teachers to realize that pedagogy and scholarship are allies rather than enemies in the academic enterprise.

While it is hard to say this without sounding like a cliche, I try to teach in a human and humane fashion. This is a theme that I articulated in my 1982 article on the "Social Cost of Incompetence" (see Appendix 7). Unless there is a climate of mutual respect in the classroom, students will be very reluctant to add to the conversation. I have been pleased that my formal evaluations (Appendix 2) and the informal student feedback (Appendix 3) would suggest that I have had some success in creating a learning environment in which students feel safe, yet stimulated. This means they are free to contribute to the class and develop their ideas. I like to think that it is this human touch which explains the touchingly positive response to my winning of the Law Teaching Award last year (see Appendices 3,5, and 8). One of my objectives is to do my small part to humanize the law and remind students that the law is really about resolving people's problems.

A final theme in my teaching, which I will emphasize, is teaching in an inclusive fashion. This theme of inclusiveness is reflected in my curriculum vitae (Appendix 1), pedagogical publications (Appendix 7), course innovations (Appendix 6), peer evaluation (Appendix 8), and continuing education (Appendix 9). The best indications of my views on this topic can be found in my Breaking Barriers Task Force Report and my Dalhousie Law Journal article on "Institutional Responsibility and the I.B.M. Programme at Dalhousie" (see Appendix 7). In the 1990s and beyond, we must take account of diversity in our teaching. This means who we teach, what we teach, and how we teach must take account of equity concerns and celebrate the diversity of our student body.

Example 3

My Approach to Teaching – Professor of Medicine

The teachers I have had who stand out in my memory have some attributes in common: they presented their subjects in a way that caught my interest, clarified difficult topics and led me through complex areas, and put knowledge into context so that its relevance was apparent. These role models have influenced my approach to teaching: I view myself primarily as a facilitator of learning, rather than as an expert who simply delivers information to students. When planning a curriculum or interacting with students, I am always conscious of their different learning styles and rates, what they have already learned and what they will need to learn in the future. Feedback from students has been vital to the process of growth I have undergone since I began teaching: I learned from them, for example, the pacing of lectures, and effective ways to help them learn in small group discussions.

Personal contact with students is essential to my approach. Many need encouragement to talk to their teachers, so I emphasize my availability for informal discussion and my willingness to help them sort out any problems they have with what they are learning. My experience as a teacher is greatly enriched by this contact with students. I am fortunate to teach in a professional school where I can follow the progress of the students through the program and sometimes beyond graduation.

As I gained experience and confidence as a teacher, I came to regard teaching as my primary professional responsibility. Consequently, I moved into areas of teaching administration and faculty development. My current position as Assistant Dean legitimizes my efforts to effect changes in the medical curriculum, and places me where I can have an influence on the "learning climate" of the medical school. I am able to help my colleagues develop as teachers in my roles as local chair of the Canadian Association for Medical Education and as a TIPS teaching skills instructor. Several years ago, I began to be interested in the theoretical background for teaching and learning. I have attended meetings and workshops to learn about this and am currently enrolled in a distance-education diploma course in medical education. I have begun to do collaborative education research.

As a physiologist working in a professional school, I benefit from having students who are eager to learn an intrinsically-interesting subject. On the other hand, basic science teachers are often handicapped by having no clinical training, and therefore find it difficult to know the relevance of what they teach to the practice of medicine. Moreover, there is a torrent of new information in the basic medical sciences, and medical students have likened it to trying to sip from a fire hose. I have developed some teaching strategies to ameliorate these problems, including collaboration with clinicians for curriculum planning and teaching, and articulating clear educational objectives for myself and my students. Further, student autonomy is important in this situation: students must be encouraged to play an active role in determining what and how they learn. In so doing, they will develop the life-long learning skills needed to cope with progress in medical practice.

As chair of one component of a year-long course in Body Systems, I have had the opportunity of putting these strategies into practice. With my clinical colleagues, I have modified the content and format of the renal systems component so that it provides a bridge between preclinical and clinical sciences, and fosters students' self-educational and self-evaluation.

I played an active role in developing a new course for the first year of medical studies: Introduction to Physiology is a model in our undergraduate program for its innovative use of demonstrations. As chair of this course, I continue to work with my colleagues and students to improve it and to demonstrate its unique qualities to physiologists around the world.

Example 4

Statement of Teaching Style – Professor of Business

I bring a lot of energy to my class. If I can't get excited about my subject, why should my students?

Accounting is viewed by many as boring; there are right and wrong ways to approach questions, and finite answers to many questions. Of course, it is far more than that as accounting should be viewed as a complex language with many shades of gray that necessitate complex judgement calls. I try to get beyond the procedures.

The major course I teach at Dalhousie is a required course in the commerce program, and many non-accounting-oriented students must take this course. The course involves computer work, and many non-computer-oriented students must take this course. I work to make this course not just survivable, but interesting as well.

There are a number of things I try to accomplish for my students:

  1. A positive atmosphere. Students are called upon to discuss questions, but mistakes are treated as opportunities to explore misconceptions, not as a reflection of a student's abilities.
  2. A window on the world. Almost any event you can link to the business world, (The Exxon Valdez, the collapse of Olympia and York, etc.), has accounting implications. Examples such as these are used to remind the students that accounting is the language of business, and the events that must be described are, at times, quite dramatic.
  3. Fair playing field. I go to some lengths (individualizing computer assignments, etc.) to ensure that students know that there is no easy way out.
  4. Access to a caring individual. No, I don't know all their names. But when I am teaching 190+ undergraduates, I work with my office door open, and I am available to help.
  5. Computer troubleshooting. Many students give up on computer exercises in total frustration when they reach an impasse. I try to be available, both in scheduled lab times and in impromptu "walk arounds" through the labs, to ensure that students learn from the computer exercises.
  6. Empowerment. I believe that anyone can do well in accounting if they are willing to spend the time at it. Some pick it up quickly, some need to spend more time. If I provide any value added, it is in encouraging all my students to be interested enough in the subject to invest more time. Then, I try to make sure they spend their time productively.
  7. Respect. Students work hard, earn their grades, and are entitled to their opinions. My task is to facilitate their learning process.

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Sample Teaching Dossiers

Included below are several different dossiers prepared by faculty members and graduate students across a range of academic disciplines.  While none of the samples are formatted precisely according to the dossier guidelines detailed above, they certainly act as valuable examples for the organization, structure and content of your dossier.

Douglas Stebila (Graduate student, University of Waterloo, 2008) 
Excellent philosophy statement and good description of frequently used teaching methods

Laura Kerr (Faculty member, Queen’s University, 2007)
Very good Teaching Responsibilities, Teaching Innovations, and Evidence of Teaching Effectiveness sections.

Jody Wright  (Graduate student, University of British Columbia, 2012)
Excellent philosophy statement and Teaching Experience & Responsibilities section.

Andreas Glombitza  (Faculty member, Universität Tübingen, 2012)
Excellent philosophy statement and Teaching Goals & Strategies section

Umer Noor (Faculty member, Humber College, 2012)
Excellent work sample section

Kyle James Matthews (Graduate student, Brown University, 2012)
Excellent philosophy statement, Experience, Training, and Effectiveness sections.


Steps for Submitting Your Teaching Dossier

  1. Once you have completed BOTH your Teaching Portfolio and your Written Project, submit these documents together via email attachment to tsc@uwo.ca.
  2. Upon receiving both your portfolio and project, you will be directed to a registration site in order to book your consultation with an Educational Developer who will review your submissions with you and suggest revisions.

This consultation will take place at least 2 weeks after submission and is required for completion of the Western Certificate in University Teaching and Learning program.