This post is by Lisa Kurz, Cassie Coble, Allen Davis, J Duncan, Olga Kalentzidou, Cody Kirkpatrick, Margaret Lion, and Katie Metz
In January the CITL offered a series of webinars (facilitated by the co-authors of this blog post) on career development for teaching faculty, covering topics such as writing a teaching statement, summarizing student evaluation results, engaging in service in support of teaching, and organizing a teaching dossier in preparation for annual review or promotion. While detailed information on these topics, along with recordings of the webinars and other materials, can be accessed here, this blog post summarizes some of the most important themes woven throughout the webinars.
Start early. As soon as you begin to teach, you can start to collect documents and artifacts about your teaching, begin to formulate your philosophy of teaching, and plan for career or professional development. Avoiding procrastination can help alleviate some of the stress of assembling your dossier.
Early on, find out what your unit (department, program, and/or school) thinks is important in teaching, and what they expect from you in your role as a teacher. Here are some of the topics you may want to raise with your department chair or a senior mentor, if you have one:
- Are innovative teaching strategies such as service learning or intensive writing valued?
- How important is it to engage in research related to teaching (e.g., SOTL research)?
- How much value is placed on attending or presenting at professional conferences on topics related to teaching in my discipline?
- How much service am I expected to engage in at the unit or campus level (e.g., serving on departmental committees, or on the BFC) or the national level (e.g., working to support a professional society or as a reviewer for a journal)? Are specific types of service particularly valued?
Save everything: every syllabus, assignment, slide presentation or recorded lecture, in-class activity, and exam. Some corollaries of this point:
- Save your student evaluations of teaching (OCQ results), including both the quantitative data and open-ended responses. Also, save results of informal evaluations such as Classroom Assessment Techniques or mid-semester evaluations, because they can help you tell the story of your teaching (see number 7 below).
- Save emails from students, especially if they provide feedback on your course or ask for a letter of recommendation.
- Save examples of student work (with the students’ permission and made appropriately anonymous), if you think you might want to use it to show how students achieve your learning goals.
- Try to save things in an organized way so that you can find them and add to them easily in the future.
Take a broad view of what constitutes teaching, as you collect artifacts. In addition to classroom teaching, you may want to collect documents related to other activities such as training and supervising AIs or undergraduate teaching assistants, mentoring graduate or undergraduate students, or creating new courses or curricula. If you participate in assessment of your unit’s learning goals, or work on internal or external program reviews, these activities might also be seen as relating to teaching duties or service. So if you participate in them, save artifacts for later documentation.
Engage in professional development to improve your teaching and learn new pedagogical strategies. This will help you show that you’re continually working on enhancing your teaching skills – that is, that you can show an “arc of development” in your teaching. There are both formal and informal ways to do this. You can attend workshops offered by CITL or arrange for a one-on-one consultation about your teaching, contact FACET to arrange for a peer review of your teaching, or even work with a colleague to support each other by visiting each other’s classes and giving each other feedback on syllabi and teaching strategies.
Be reflective about your teaching. Ask yourself: What went well in that class session, that assignment, or that course as a whole? Where did students struggle, and how might I help them learn course content better in the future? This can be especially useful after you teach a course for the first or second time, when it’s easy to identify things that could have gone better. But this kind of reflection can be valuable even for courses you’ve taught many times. After all, there are always new teaching strategies to consider as well as new ways to assess students’ learning. At a broader level, you might reflect on what you do well as an instructor, and what skills you’d like to work on. How would you like to grow as a teacher?
In your dossier, tell your story. When you see students struggle to learn certain concepts, or when your OCQ results are lower than you’d prefer, or when you want to try a new activity or pedagogical strategy, construct a narrative about the experience. What was the problem or challenge you wanted to address? What do you think caused the problem, and how did you decide to address it? If you changed your teaching to address the challenge, how did that work out? Can you show how your change improved your students’ learning or their experience in your course? How might you continue to address this challenge in the future?
Another kind of story to tell in your dossier is the story of your strengths as a teacher. After you’ve identified what you’re particularly good at as an instructor, describe how your strengths play out in your courses and how they impact student learning.
The most obvious place to tell these stories is in your teaching statement, but you can highlight them in other places in the dossier as well. To support and document your story, refer to artifacts and documents you’ve collected.