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How to tell your authentic teaching story

A cross-institutional, open-source series helps graduate students and postdoctoral fellows articulate their teaching experiences for various career pathways.


Career readiness can be a complex and challenging endeavour for many graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, especially as they explore a range of potential career pathways in and out of academia. The ability to synthesize, articulate and leverage teaching experience through effective storytelling is a critical ingredient for success in this journey. So how do you capture a cohesive story about your teaching experience in an effective teaching portfolio?

This was the challenge that a cross-institutional collaboration between graduate students, educational developers and career professionals from five Ontario universities (Toronto Metropolitan University, University of Toronto, University of Waterloo, University of Windsor and Western University) attempted to find a solution for. The result? A “Developing Your Teaching Dossier” series (developed using H5P as an open education resource under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 License), available to everyone through the eCampusOntario’s Open Library and the University of Toronto.

Articulating your story across the four modules

The series comprises four 60-minute, self-paced, asynchronous modules. These modules recognize diverse teaching pathways and offer various modes of content presentation and multiple forms of reflection and expression, regardless of your level of experience or juncture of career exploration.

Module 1: “Reflecting on Your Teaching Experience: An Introduction to Teaching Dossiers,” defines teaching dossiers and their purpose to help you identify and recognize common components of dossiers across various academic disciplines. By exploring different frameworks for reflection on teaching experiences, you can devise a plan/system for gathering and documenting teaching experience, teaching development, and teaching-related activities as they relate to the foundations of a teaching dossier.

Module 2: “Articulating Your Teaching Values and Practices: Developing Your Statement of Teaching Philosophy,” explores the characteristics of an effective statements of teaching philosophy (STP) and explains its purpose. By reflecting on your teaching values, instructional strategies and their combined impact on student learning, you can begin to identify transferable teaching skills, articulate key beliefs about your teaching approach and build them into your own personalized STP.

Module 3: “Connecting Narratives and Evidence: Developing Components of Your Teaching Dossier,” examines the common components of a teaching dossier and strategies for aligning the various sections into a cohesive narrative. As you draft a story of your teaching values and practices, you can develop strategies for combining narratives and artifacts – key pieces of evidence that support the claims that you are making about your teaching.

Module 4: “Looking Ahead: Telling New Stories About Our Teaching Experiences,” integrates teaching dossiers into your career exploration and their connection to other professional documents (diversity statements, cover letters and job interviews). By applying the teaching values, experiences and skills articulated in your teaching dossier to other professional documents, you can enhance your ability to communicate the value of your teaching experience to a range of audiences.

Reflecting on your teaching story

The series integrates a range of voices and lived experiences of graduate students and recent graduates. Participants explore diverse strategies and methods rooted in videos and narratives, resources and samples, and interactive activities and workbooks. Dossier component samples and reflection videos from humanities, social sciences, and sciences and engineering students highlight the iterative, non-linear and versatile pathways in teaching development. What ties those diverse teaching pathways and threads together in the teaching portfolio is the teaching story. The resource invites you to identify your teaching stories and reflect on what new stories you will tell in your career development.

Fostering the teaching storytelling journey

Each teaching storytelling journey will be unique. As such, the “Developing Your Teaching Dossier” series welcomes various levels of customization to support you through the process. The series invites you to identify and seek additional supports and resources to help you tell an effective, clear and comprehensive story about your teaching experiences. Accessing supports and resources may include reaching out to your institutional career centre or a teaching and learning centre, connecting with colleagues and mentors, and exploring professional development opportunities. As you explore your teaching experiences, make sure that reflection, identity exploration, and self-development remain key ingredients of your unique storytelling journey.

Calling educational developers, career educators, learning strategists, or faculty members supporting graduate students and postdoctoral fellows! The series (and the multiple components of each module) is ready to be adapted into your current and future graduate student and postdoctoral fellow professional development programming. See the series institutional guide for how to do that and help graduate students and postdoctoral fellows tell their authentic teaching stories.

Michal Kasprzak is assistant director for the teaching assistants' training program at the University of Toronto’s Centre for Teaching Support and Innovation. Samantha Chang is a PhD candidate in the U of T’s department of art history and a faculty liaison, pedagogical support, teaching and learning in the faculty of arts and science. They are both educational developers at the university.
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