Reflecting On and Documenting Your Teaching Experiences
One of the ways you can document your teaching experiences and reflections on your teaching is to develop a Teaching Dossier (also called a teaching portfolio).
A teaching dossier is a catalogue of your teaching experiences that demonstrates your thoughtful, reflective, and successful approach to teaching through a statement of your overall beliefs about teaching, linked to specific practices, and evidence that these practices are successful.
You may choose to develop a teaching dossier to reflect on your teaching experiences or to record information that you might include in future job applications. If you are thinking of applying to faculty or other teaching-related positions, you may be required to include a full or partial teaching dossier in your application. Starting to compile information and draft sections of your teaching dossier early on will make preparing applications easier and can be a good way to reflect on your practice.
The following list is a brief introduction to the sections of a teaching dossier with examples of information and materials you may want to start saving while you are a TA to include in your dossier. For more information, the Office of Teaching and Learning offers workshops for graduate students about teaching dossiers and teaching philosophy statements as part of the University Teaching Foundations program. Components of a teaching dossier include:
- Statement of Teaching Philosophy: a statement of what you believe and value about teaching as demonstrated through specific practices, which are supported by evidence and demonstrated effectiveness.
- Teaching Experience: facts of what you taught (e.g., number of students, type of course, responsibilities)
- Teaching Strategies: when you taught, how did you do it? (e.g., active learning strategies, approaches to feedback)
- Evaluation of Teaching: how do you know your teaching has been effective? (e.g., student evaluations, informal student feedback, peer or supervisor evaluations)
- Professional Development: what opportunities have you participated in to learn more about teaching and develop your teaching approaches? (e.g., workshops, conferences)
- Future Goals: what are your short or long-term goals for yourself or for your students?
- Appendices: evidence of your teaching approaches that support the claims made in other sections of the dossier (e.g., lesson plans or activities you designed, feedback)
Schonwetter et al. (2002, p. 84) define a teaching philosophy statement as, “a systematic and critical rationale that focuses on the important components defining effective teaching and learning in a particular discipline and/or institutional context.” A teaching philosophy statement clearly and logically communicates what your fundamental values and beliefs are about teaching and learning, why you hold these values and beliefs, and how you translate these values and beliefs into your everyday teaching and learning experiences.
Teaching philosophy statements evolve over time; communicate personal philosophical beliefs of teaching and learning; demonstrate a strong connection to scholarly research and literature in higher education; and show a clear commitment to continual improvement.
Developing a teaching philosophy statement is often a challenging and rewarding experience that requires time, research, and personal reflection. No matter what your experience in higher education, preparing a teaching philosophy statement can be an enlightening experience, which provides direction, meaning and purpose to your teaching and learning experiences.
Based on your role as a TA, you can prepare a teaching philosophy statement built upon your fundamental beliefs about teaching and learning in higher education, with a clear focus on your future teaching goals. Although teaching philosophy statements take time, start with key words, ideas and phrases that describe your approaches to teaching and build from there.
A teaching philosophy statement is typically 1-2 pages in length (although this guideline may vary with context). It outlines your three or four beliefs/values about teaching and learning, describes 1-2 examples of how you put each belief into practice, explains how you know these practices work, and often includes evidence from scholarly research and literature in higher education. A teaching philosophy statement is often organized into the following sections:
- Introduction: introduce/state your three beliefs
- Belief 1
- Belief 2
- Belief 3
- Belief 4 (if needed)
- Conclusion or concluding sentence
The following are additional questions that you can use to reflect on your first semester and/or to help develop a teaching philosophy statement and dossier:
What is your approach to teaching? What teaching strategies do you most often rely upon? Why?
What characteristics describe an ideal university learning environment?
What are your strengths and skills as a teacher? What strategies have been particularly effective in terms of student learning and engagement?
What areas of your teaching require improvement? Why? How do you intend to improve?
What strategies have you used to evaluate and gather feedback on the effectiveness of your teaching?
What have you learned about yourself as a teacher? Have your students, peers, or the instructor provided direct feedback? What have you discovered about your teaching based on this feedback?
What teaching tasks do you find the most rewarding? Which teaching tasks do you find the most challenging?
What is the most significant thing that has happened to you as a TA?
What is your proudest teaching moment? Why?
What teaching moment do you feel most dissatisfied about? How can you improve upon this?
What are your future teaching goals?
Now it’s your turn! Check out the complementary activities to start recording information related to your teaching experience that you may use when developing a teaching dossier and to answer some reflection questions.
Schonwetter, D.J., Sokal, L., Friesen, M., and Taylor, K.L. (2002). Teaching philosophies reconsidered: a conceptual model for the development and evaluation of teaching philosophy statements. The International Journal for Academic Development. 7: 83-97.