Teaching Dossiers and Philosophy Statements

Description of Activity

A key strategy to building a campus culture that values ongoing growth and reflection about teaching is through the development of teaching philosophy and dossiers (Knapper and Wright, 2001; Seldin et al., 2010). EDU colleagues have collaborated, both within and outside of the unit, to develop and facilitate multiple workshops on teaching philosophies and dossiers to instructors, post-doctoral scholars and graduate students at the University of Calgary. We also offer numerous group and individual consultations related to this work.

Members of our academic community variously express interest in creating an effective teaching dossier or a teaching philosophy, either in preparation for a teaching awards nomination package (such as the University of Calgary Teaching Awards program), to support an academic job search, as a component of a tenure and promotion application, or for their own growth and development.  In response, we have developed workshops and resources to provide participants with an opportunity to reflect on and articulate their beliefs about teaching and learning, and to prepare a dossier that aligns core beliefs to strategies and evidence that demonstrate the scope and quality of one’s teaching practice.

Documentation and Materials

Workshops and Resources

Since 2014, faculty members within the Educational Development Unit have hosted over 16 workshops related to teaching philosophy statements and teaching dossiers to approximately 500 participants.  Workshops have been hosted within the Taylor Institute, as well as across faculties such as the Werklund School of Education, the Faculty of Arts, the Faculty of Social Work, the Cumming School of Medicine, and the Hotchkiss Brain Institute.  The following example resources have been created in support of these workshops:

Creating a Teaching Dossier Handout

Preparing a Teaching Philosophy Statement Handout

Preparing a Nomination Dossier Workshop Slides (November, 2016)

Sample Teaching Philosophy Statements (from past University of Calgary teaching award recipients)

Writing a Teaching Philosophy Statement blog post

What Makes a Strong Teaching Award Nomination Letter blog post

Carol Berenson and Natasha Kenny have delivered the following conference presentations related to dossiers, portfolios and philosophy statements.

Kenny, N. (June, 2016) Communicating why we do what we do to enable others and effect change in postsecondary education: creating an educational development (ED) philosophy statement, Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education Conference, Western University and Fanshawe College, London, ON.

Berenson, C. (May, 2016) Creating your teaching dossier.  Invited CSSHE to provide a pre-conference session for graduate students at Congress, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB.

Berenson, C. and Kenny, N. (May, 2016) Creating your teaching portfolio.  Invited to provide a session for Career Corner at Congress, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB.

Kenny, N. and Berenson, C. (May, 2016) Teaching Philosophy Statements: Using the SOAR framework to creatively explore what, why and how we support student learning in postsecondary education.  University of Calgary Conference on Postsecondary Learning and Teaching, University of Calgary, AB.

A more recent development has been initiated to support 3M National Teaching Fellow nominators and nominees, in preparing a 3M nomination package.  Given the emphasis of the 3M fellowship on both teaching and educational leadership, this has inspired us to develop materials related to producing an educational leadership philosophy statement.   Although many resource exist to support instructors in developing teaching philosophies and dossiers, few exist to support them to articulate and evidence their educational leadership philosophies and practices.  In response, we have created the following resources:

Preparing an Educational Leadership Philosophy Statement Handout

Writing an Educational Leadership Philosophy Statement blog post

In order to further build capacity for this work across our campus, we have invited a small working group to collaborate on producing resources on communicating evidence of teaching and educational leadership.   Plans are also underway to offer an interactive workshop session at STLHE 2017 for faculty and to build the capacity of educational developers from across Canada to offer resources related to articulating educational leadership philosophy statements.

Also related to this work, Natasha Kenny collaborated with members of the Educational Developers Caucus of Canada to co-author a guide on Educational Developers Portfolios and to prepare a publication for To Improve the Academy.

McDonald, J., Kenny, N., Kustra, E., Dawson, D., Iqbal, I., Borin, P., & Chan, J. (2016). Educational Development Guide Series: No. 1. The Educational Developer’s Portfolio. Ottawa, Canada: Educational Developers Caucus. Available at: https://www.stlhe.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/ED-Guide-No1_The-Educational-Developers-Portfolio_Final.pdf

Kenny, N., Iqbal, I., McDonald, J., Borin, P., Dawson, D., Chan, J., and Kustra, E. (in press) Exploring the potential of educational developer portfolios. To Improve the Academy: A Journal of Educational Development.

Assessment Strategies and Results

Workshop evaluations reveal that respondents rate the average overall quality of the teaching dossier and philosophy statement workshops ranging from 4.5 – 4.8, where 1 is poor and 5 is excellent.  Responses to the workshop evaluation question, “What strategies will you be able to apply after attending this workshop?” indicate themes such as:

  • Personal reflection and clarification on teaching and learning beliefs, practices and approaches.
  • Developing strategies for self-reflection.
  • Developing confidence in aligning teaching beliefs, strategies and evidence of impact.
  • Developing confidence and awareness in collecting, gathering, and communicating evidence of impact and student learning.

Responses to the workshop evaluation question, “What did you find most useful? What did you like best?” suggest that participants value the opportunity to collaboratively discuss their teaching beliefs and strategies, and appreciate the practical resources and examples related to aligning and communicating their teaching philosophy and beliefs. Some example comments from these evaluation questions are highlighted below:

  • It took the mystery out of creating a teaching dossier and provided concrete examples of how to collect evidence and present it. Having multiple facilitators was really helpful.
  • Conceptualizing the dossier, getting both the big picture as well as being asked to sit down and write some of my thoughts. I think this will all help with the ideas of alignment.
  • The frank outline and handouts that provide concrete examples.
  • The interactive component because I was able to glean ideas from other diverse perspectives which I could include in my own philosophy. Those perspectives also affirmed my beliefs.

Graduate students, in particular, appreciate learning about teaching dossiers as they move through their programs.  They leave our workshops with a commitment to reflecting on how they will evidence their teaching as part of their current TAship as well as in preparation for their future academic and professional roles.

The following testimonial have been received in unsolicited emails following teaching dossier support sessions:

…I recently accepted a Faculty position and I must say many of the conversations from your teaching dossier presentation informed my application package and preparation on interview day.  It was such a learning moment….

The process has been really great.  I have enjoyed pulling it together and writing the narrative was really rewarding.

Past University of Calgary Teaching Award Recipients, reflect on the value of preparing a nomination dossier as part of the University of Calgary Teaching Award Program in UToday stories:

 “It’s great that I received the award and that validation is really nice, but internally the whole process was amazing for me as a practitioner. If anyone is interested at all in self-reflection and they want to understand how they teach or their teaching practice, then go through the nomination process.” Lisa Stowe, 2016 University of Calgary Teaching Award Recipient for Experiential Learning Initiatives


“It was a rigorous process but it was also really valuable to think about what your teaching philosophy is and how you view teaching, and to pull together evidence that supports your work as a teacher,”  Kyla Flanagan, 2015 University of Calgary Teaching Award recipient for full-time academic staff.


Reflection and Impact

Given the number of ways that teaching philosophies and dossiers are used, demand for the teaching dossier and philosophy statement workshops across the university community is on-going and steady, with workshops offered multiple times each semester, and often exceeding capacity.  The resources and handouts developed have been used and adapted across campus. In addition, this work has garnered attention at national-level and international conferences and in peer-reviewed publications. Our ever expanding reach is testament to the importance of this work.

Along with meeting their practical needs related to preparing an awards nomination dossier, a tenure and promotion package or a job application, the participants often value the opportunity to think deeply about their teaching beliefs and practices. The transferability of the framework that we have developed to support this reflection and process to other sites such as educational development and educational leadership speaks to its broad applicability. We look forward to our future collaborations that will build robust interdisciplinary resources for evidencing both teaching and educational leadership.


Knapper, C., & Wright, W. A. (2001). Using portfolios to document good teaching: Premises, purposes, practices. New directions for teaching and learning, 88, 19-29.

Seldin, P., Miller, J. E., & Seldin, C. A. (2010). The teaching portfolio: A practical guide to improved performance and promotion/tenure decisions. John Wiley & Sons


Project collaborators: Carol Berenson, Natasha Kenny, Cheryl Jeffs

ePortfolio authors: Carol Berenson, Natasha Kenny

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *