Why you shouldn’t post your teaching dossier online

January 30, 2018

Students and colleagues sometimes ask me if they should post their teaching dossier or portfolio online. My answer is immediate: No!

Those who know me know that I am a big fan of developing a strong online professional presence. I encourage students and colleagues to keep their LinkedIn, Twitter, and other online professional profiles current. But there’s something about a teaching dossier that’s different. I couldn’t put my finger on it until I read an article by White & Conrod (2016) where they tell the story of how their teaching philosophies were plagiarized.

Your teaching philosophy is a key element of your dossier. Developing it is hard work. It involves some deep reflection, brain work and soul-searching. You dig deep into yourself to figure out who you are as an educator, what matters to you and why it matters. Honestly, articulating your teaching philosophy may be the single most difficult element of putting together your teaching dossier. When it’s done, it should be a reflection of who you are and what matters to you as an educator.

Other people may have similar philosophies, but in the end, your statement is about you and your values. It is yours and yours alone.

If you post it online, it becomes easy for others to cut-and-paste what you have shared. These may not be bad people. They may be too afraid or too intimidated to engage in the deep reflection required to develop a philosophy of their own. Who knows? My point is, don’t make it easy for others to steal your teaching philosophy.

Share your dossier selectively, with those who need it, such as employers or those evaluating your teaching. You might also choose to share your dossier with those who would benefit from it, such as students or junior colleagues. That does not mean you have to post it publicly online. You have other options:

Alternatives to posting your teaching dossier publicly online

  1. Share print copies of your work. This may sound old fashioned, but if someone does not require digital access to your dossier and a paper copy works just as well, why not? You might choose to add “Confidential” to the header or footer to make it clear you do not want it to be shared widely.
  2. Save a copy of your work in a digital format that is hard to copy. An protected .pdf isn’t foolproof, but it is an option. Another option is to save your work as a .jpg., but if you choose this route, be sure that the .jpg is high quality and easy to read.
  3. Save your work as a password protected or “read only” online document. Share the password or link with caution.

Again, share selectively and make it clear that your work is not for distribution.

I suspect that some people who are vehement believers in open access or the sharing culture may disagree with my stance on this issue. There are plenty of websites that offer tips about how to post your entire dossier online. Don’t get me wrong. I share lots of my work online, free of charge in an open access format. It may be OK to share parts of your teaching dossier publicly online, such as your previous teaching experience, but not all of it. The key is to think critically about what you want to share and how you choose to do that.

It is important to understand that the more publicly you share, the easier you make it for others to copy-and-paste your deep thoughts, rather than engaging in their own soul-searching journey. If you want to offer others a short-cut and do the hard work for them, that is an option. But if you’d rather not, think twice before posting your entire teaching dossier publicly online.

The point is for you to think critically about who you want to have access to your inner most values about teaching. In my view, your teaching philosophy is a key element of your identity as an educator. Don’t make it easy for others to steal your professional identity.

Reference:

White, M. A., & Conrod, J. D. (2016). Is nothing sacred? Our personal teaching philosophies have been plagiarized. University Affairs. Retrieved from https://www.universityaffairs.ca/opinion/in-my-opinion/is-nothing-sacred-our-personal-teaching-philosophies-have-been-plagiarized/

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This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.

Opinions are my own and do not represent those of the Werklund School of Education or the University of Calgary.

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How and why my students wrote their own final exam

December 13, 2010

I teach a first-year university course called “Effective Learning”. This semester, topics included managing exam stress, how to prepare for exams and strategies to during a test including such things as reading over the exam before you start writing and answering the questions you know first. Most of the assessment I did for this class was strength-based evaluation such as group projects, evaluated presentations and portfolios. We did one test at the end of the semester.

I decided to engage the students in the exam development process. We spent time in class reviewing what types of exam questions were acceptable (e.g. multiple choice, short answer, essay) and what content would be covered. The questions were based on material from the two textbooks, as well as materials from in-class presentations and discussions. All the material covered from the first day of the semester was to be included in the final exam.

Earlier in the semester students had worked with a partner to present a presentation that was a synthesis of two readings each. For the development of the test questions, students worked with the same partner and prepared questions on each reading they had done their class presentations on some weeks earlier. Students were challenged to come up with at least 5 questions per chapter and to include more than one type of question (multiple choice, short answer, etc.)

Students prepared test questions and handed them in to me.  I compiled them into one document, noting which questions related to which chapters in the text or readings from the course pack. I also noted which students had contributed which questions. The questions were distributed to all students for study purposes. The result was a 10-page study guide comprised of potential test questions that they themselves had generated.

I let them know that I would be selecting from their contributed test questions and that I would also be adding some questions of my own that would not be shared before the exam.

The process of having students develop test questions proved to be a useful learning exercise for them. They got to experience what it is like to write exam questions and the thought-process that goes into it. Knowing that this was not simply an academic exercise but that some of these questions would actually appear on the final exam added a much-needed element of authenticity. Students took the exercise seriously when they knew that it would impact their peers.

Finally, they reported being more engaged with both the material and the study process when they had the opportunity to contribute questions. Suddenly it wasn’t an exam inflicted upon them, so much as a challenge they co-developed and were ready to take on.

Related post:

Course design: 7 ways I engaged my students in the process http://wp.me/pNAh3-nV

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Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


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