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Best Practices

The LTO Best Practices

Issue No. 50: Designing Your Dossier

Welcome to the fiftieth issue of The LTO Best Practices. Each month, the Learning & Teaching Office will be spotlighting a timely topic in education. This October, our topic is "Designing Your Dossier."

For more related tips, check out our page of resources on dossier design.

Many of the ideas from this issue of Best Practices are also available for download as a pdf.

Check out our page of Teaching Tips handouts for more downloadable documents on a variety of teaching topics.


Best Practices

man sitting at a typewriter in his officeRyerson currently requires faculty to submit a teaching dossier as part of their tenure binder. In addition, the Chang School requires dossiers for job applications for teaching positions. Many internal and external awards also require a teaching dossier. Though they are needed for these jobs and commendations, many faculty do not understand how to create a dossier.

Teaching dossiers are intended to provide a description and record of a member's major teaching accomplishments and strengths in a manner that conveys the scope and quality of the faculty member's teaching. Dossiers vary widely between faculties; however there are a few basic guidelines that every dossier must meet.

If the dossier is being prepared for tenure review, the guidelines are set out in the RFA Collective Agreement (Article 5.8 C)

If the dossier is being prepared for a Chang School job application, please refer to the Chang School guidelines on dossier preparation.

Five Tips for Building a Teaching Dossier

LTO Associate and FEAS professor Gosha Zywno has provided us with these five tips for beginning to construct a teaching dossier:

  1. It's difficult looking at a blank page - start with creating a Table of Contents, and Chapter Headings, then fill in components that don't require much reflection, such as tabulating your teaching evaluations, listing educational conferences attended, etc.
  2. Rome was not built in a day - your portfolio will grow and change over years. Don't worry if now it seems very thin and resist temptation to pad it; if you start right away, by the time you need it, you will have a satisfying document; if you start working on it a month before your application for tenure is due, you will be in trouble.
  3. Your teaching philosophy is the heart and soul of your dossier and has to be you - resist a temptation to follow the samples, or worse yet, borrow ideas. Write in first person and without using big words, avoid making statements that sound generic and theoretical.
  4. It's difficult to remember details when you need them, or to present evidence if you didn't retain it - create a collection of all documents that pertain to your teaching, from which you can cull a dossier as required for different audiences. Get in a habit of “dumping“ information into a Word document as it happens - names and dates of educational conferences attended, workshops attended, papers presented, teaching outside your unit, etc. If you have a brilliant idea as a result of a discussion with a colleague or of a class experience, write it down as soon as possible. Three days later you won't remember a thing! Over the years, retain relevant information about each course (syllabi, student evaluations, samples of student work, etc.)
  5. Get in a habit of reflecting on your teaching. It may be difficult initially, and it really helps so have someone else to talk to. Another person provides a different point of view and friendly, non-judgemental feedback. Find a likeminded colleague to be a sounding board, discuss each others' problems, ideas etc. CAVEAT: Experienced mentors are great, as long as they have no power over your career - see other departments, even universities.

Writing Your Teaching Philosphy

Your teaching philosophy is the central document around which all the other items of your dossier are built. All the evidence presented in the dossier should support the claims made in your teaching philosophy.

Kaplan et al. (2008) have divided the content of a statement of teaching philosophy into five characteristics that can be measured with a rubric. A teaching philosophy should:

  1. Offer evidence of practice; including specific examples of how theory is linked with actual teaching experiences
  2. Be student centered, attuned to differences in student ability, learning style or level; including specific evidence of methods of instruction and assessment that go beyond traditional lecture and testing methodology, and that address the diversity of the student body
  3. Demonstrate reflection; including specific examples of struggle with instructional challenges and how they were resolved, changes made, and an outline of future development as a teacher
  4. Convey valuing of teaching including setting a tone or language that conveys enthusiasm for teaching and of considering it on par with research pursuits
  5. Be well written, clear and readable.

The LTO has collected teaching philosophies from winners of the Ryerson Faculty Teaching Awards to be used as examples when reviewing teaching philosophies. We have created a page to house them, where they are arranged by faculty.

Read the teaching philosophies of award winning Ryerson faculty


Introducing the Dossier Mentorship Program

Faculty members in the process of creating their teaching dossier may be interested in a new program currently being developed by the Learning & Teaching Office. In the Dossier Mentorship Program, faculty members who would like feedback on their dossier can submit it for evaluation by one of the LTO's trained assessors. These assessors will review the dossier and provide helpful feedback on how it can be improved. We will begin reviewing dossiers by the end of October. If you are interested in participating, please register at the Dossier Mentorship Program.


Next Issue

"The LTO Best Practices" is produced monthly by Michelle Schwartz, Research Associate at The Learning & Teaching Office of Ryerson University.

Do you have any thoughts, suggestions, or best practices that you would like to see appear in this newsletter? Please send all submissions to We look forward to including your contributions in our next issue!

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Photo credit: Wiliam Ligh at Apartment, The Library of Virginia