The Nomination Dossier: Part 2

1.0—Cover Page and Table of Contents

Not mandatory, but certainly appreciated.

2.2, 2.5, 2.6—Nominator’s and Nominee’s Contact Information

2.2: Please include all requested contact information. Someone from the Fellowship program, the media, your home institution, or even international colleagues may want to reach you urgently. One phone number might not be enough. And please do not hesitate to add extra email addresses and social media accounts.

2.5: In addition, please provide contact information for the nominee’s department head and dean, the local and campus news media, and the development offices and alumni associations. When new Fellows are identified publicly, institutions, sponsors, media, 3M Canada, and STLHE officers will want to reach any number of people at the home university. They may be looking for local or institutional contacts, interesting stories, or opinions on current issues in higher education.

2.6: As mentioned above, new Fellows will attend the STLHE conference (20-23 June 2017) and the Château Montebello retreat (10-14 November 2017).

At the STLHE conference, representatives from the Fellowship’s sponsors—3M Canada and STLHE—will invite and welcome new Fellows into the Society and the Fellowship. Fellows will also meet recipients from STLHE’s other award programs.

At the retreat, in an inspiring natural setting, the ten new Fellows gradually become a cohesive unit – a cohort – during four days of engaging, personal conversations about teaching, students, academia, and scholarship.

New Fellows are expected to attend the retreat and strongly urged to attend the conference; if you know you cannot attend the retreat, please delay your nomination for another year. The intrinsic values of the Fellowship are rooted in these two events.

3.0—Nomination Letter and Letter of Endorsement

Good nominations begin with a comprehensive letter, carefully encapsulating the whole dossier. Some call it the Executive Summary. The letter tells the reviewers what to look for and where to find it. The nomination letter will be written by someone working closely with the nominee and who is familiar with the entire dossier. Bringing forward the reader’s first impressions of the nominee, the nomination letter is one of the most important documents in a successful dossier. The most compelling letter will evoke a vivid, three-dimensional sense of the nominee.

An authentic letter of endorsement from a senior administrator (e.g. the Provost, Vice-President Academic, Vice-President Teaching & Learning, or Dean of the nominee’s faculty) should show the extent to which the institution values the nominee. An authentic letter says something meaningful about the nominee; it communicates a sense of how the institution benefits from the nominee’s distinctive contributions.

4.0—Philosophy of Educational Leadership (Signed and Dated)

Educational leadership weighs equally with teaching excellence in the selection of 3M Fellows.

The nominee writes the Philosophy of Educational Leadership, giving a personal account of leadership.

As the Committee’s first opportunity to hear the nominee’s own voice, the reflective Philosophy of Educational Leadership is a crucial part of the nomination. An effective philosophy statement is personal and genuine. It distinguishes the nominee’s approaches to educational leadership. It provides a conceptual framework that explains the values, principles, and goals that underpin the nominee’s decisions and actions. It helps readers connect with the evidence provided elsewhere in the dossier.

Outstanding teachers love teaching, and they look for ways to spread their affection to others. The compulsion to teach well is a constructive virus, devouring complacency and requiring the host to infect as many other people as possible. Past leadership statements have introduced teachers who have changed institutional cultures by the persistent force of their ideas and passion. They persuade departments to revise their courses and programs, and the new courses and programs appear effervescent, even to an outsider. They create and offer professional development to colleagues in their home organizations and across the country because they want to share a fresh idea. They mentor colleagues who become better teachers. They inspire others through their writing and through their advocacy because they are deeply invested in teaching.

5.0—Evidence for Educational Leadership

In this section, please include the factual evidence to support the narrative in section 4.0. Highlight specific projects, recognition, assessments of impact, and other supporting documentation here. A long list of workshops pasted from a curriculum vitae will not be as convincing as summarized evidence to support the key points presented in the Leadership Statement. Please note that the committee is looking for the impact the nominee’s leadership has had on higher education in particular.

Also, please keep in mind the significance of the nominee’s role. At its most persuasive, educational leadership goes beyond the nominee’s assigned duties, transcending the confines of the home institution and even the discipline or program. It makes a difference through deep and significant change. Serving on committees and attending teaching workshops will provide only modest support for a case. But creating campus or national initiatives or inspiring changes internationally can be persuasive. Explain why something is important, why and how it makes a difference, and what the nominee did to make that difference.

Keep your eye out for educational leadership expressed in unconventional ways, too. An online instructor opens her virtual classroom to other instructors and asks them to participate actively in the design and development of her course. And then she gives it away, to them and to their students, as long as they also agree to share it openly and free of charge. A post-secondary instructor in Canada works with instructors in South Africa to improve a global economics curriculum.

While expressions of leadership will be unique to each nominee, the following attributes often recur in successful leadership profiles:

  • A culture changer: Someone who influences the direction of a unit or institution, inspiring a shift in organizational culture toward teaching.
  • An innovative strategy, deeply embedded in practice: A nominee might implement an existing strategy well and over a long period (case studies, flipped classrooms, open learning); or adapt an existing strategy in unique ways for a particular setting; or invent a new strategy. In each case, the nominee shares it with a wide audience over a sustained period.
  • Advocacy for a social or institutional mission/project, making a difference beyond the walls of the institution.
  • Intelligent passion and vision for how the discipline connects to larger social needs/possibilities/values.

Teaching and educational leadership are often intertwined. Throughout the dossier, a nominator will be able to find examples to call attention to the candidate’s leadership (e.g. in the Teaching Philosophy, the Teaching Strategies, Awards, Teaching Materials, Student Comments, and Letters of Support). If you undertake to amalgamate this kind of evidence, please be sure to call attention to it.

6.0—Statement of Teaching Philosophy (Signed and Dated)

The reflective Statement of Teaching Philosophy, like the Philosophy of Educational Leadership, is a crucial part of the nomination. An effective philosophy statement is personal and genuine. It distinguishes the nominee’s approaches to learning and teaching. It provides a conceptual framework that explains the values, principles, and goals that underpin the nominee’s teaching decisions and actions. It helps readers connect with the evidence provided elsewhere in the dossier.

Claims made in the philosophy statement should be substantiated in other parts of the dossier. The Committee appreciates both evidence embedded within the statement itself and inserted page references that make it easy to find.

7.0—Description of Effective Teaching Strategies (Signed and Dated)

The nominee writes this section. It is often presented as a narrative. Two or three samples of effective strategies can be clear windows into the nominee’s teaching. The nominee should tell a story of what was done, provide the rationale behind the strategies, offer evidence for their effectiveness, and describe the learning outcomes. The story might describe a novel assignment, a series of lab experiments, exceptional fieldwork, innovative lecturing, and so on. This section should help the Committee to understand how the nominee’s teaching philosophy is enacted.

8.0—General Guidance on the Documentation of Teaching Excellence

The 3M National Teaching Fellowship recognizes excellence in undergraduate teaching. Evidence of exceptional graduate teaching is certainly relevant, provided the nominator has first made the case for exceptional undergraduate teaching.

How can one distinguish “graduate teaching” from “undergraduate teaching”? A graduate student, typically, has completed a baccalaureate degree, with a major subject, and has gone on to study in that subject at the master’s or doctoral levels. A modern university, however, is not always so straightforward.

In some disciplines, entering students may have baccalaureate degrees, but theirs is not a “post-graduate” program in the sense that it focuses on the bachelor’s degree specialization. A student entering medical school, for instance, may have a B.Sc. with a major in molecular biology, but her work toward the M.D. will have far different emphases. Similar distinctions hold for other professional degrees, such as Education, Law, Veterinary Medicine, and Dentistry. In brief: for the purposes of this fellowship, teachers in professional programs are performing undergraduate teaching.

The Selection Committee appreciates peer reviews of the nominee’s teaching. The value of such evidence increases with details and specifics—anecdotes, examples, descriptions, stories, and observations.

8.1 —Institution’s Recognition of Teaching Excellence

Begin, please, with a paragraph listing all teaching awards for which the nominee is eligible. Include brief information about the awards, their criteria, and their selection processes.

8.2—Nominee’s Teaching Awards

List the nominee’s teaching awards. A copy of the Call for Nominations for an award will contextualize the award and give a sense of its importance, but it can devour valuable space in the dossier, so be concise. Other useful information includes the number of faculty members eligible for the award and the number of such awards granted in any given year.

8.3—Statement of Teaching Responsibilities*

This is an important section to set the context for your work as a teacher. Explain briefly your normal teaching responsibilities: for example, you might tell us the normal teaching assignment in your unit and for your type of contract, relevant details about the student profile in your classes, whether your courses are required or elective, or anything that is unique to your context.

Provide a table showing course titles, course level, dates, class sizes, and other pertinent information, covering courses taught within the past five years.

*By “undergraduate,” we mean any post-secondary student below the graduate level.

8.4—Examples of Course Materials

Please do not simply copy course outlines and major assignments into the dossier without interpretation. If you are convinced that certain course materials will clarify or burnish claims of teaching excellence, excerpt noteworthy elements and explain why they are significant.

The explanation is crucial because the Committee needs to connect the materials with other messages in the dossier. Do the materials illuminate some part of the nominee’s attitudes and orientation? Some aspect of the teaching philosophy? A novel or important teaching method appearing earlier in the dossier? Please be explicit in your explanations.

8.5—Data from Student Ratings

Because of the huge diversity in the ways Canadian universities and colleges conduct teaching evaluations, the Selection Committee members are very appreciative of anything you can do to help them interpret your nominee’s formal student ratings. Here are some suggestions:

  • Explain how student ratings are normally conducted.
  • Do not include uninterpreted raw data.
  • Identify the person(s) who summarized the data and how the summary was prepared: this person cannot be the nominee.
  • Include a one-page table showing all courses taught by the nominee in the last five years, the enrollment in each course, the number of completed evaluations, and the mean rating received for the global question for each course.
  • Include a statement of the normal number of courses taught by faculty in the candidate’s department.
  • Usually, dossiers should not rely entirely on feedback from classes with fewer than ten students because such small samples tend to be less reliable and persuasive than data from larger classes.
  • That said, the Selection Committee recognizes that small class sizes are the norm in some disciplines, such as clinical teaching, art, music, or drama. If such feedback predominates in the dossier, please explain how the numerical data and comments were collected and how they are significant.
  • Help your nominee by accounting for irregularities in the data (low ratings that result from significant changes to a course, gaps in ratings that are due to a leave of absence or special assignment or reduced teaching responsibilities, change in the rating form, etc.).
  • In the absence of a global question (one that asks students to express an overall judgment about the instructor as a teacher), you might calculate a mean for all available questions. Please explain what you are substituting for the global question and why.
  • In order not to disadvantage those who teach very large classes, we ask that complete sets of comments from two or three classes be included in the dossier, but please put them in the appendix, where they will not be included in the page count.

8.6—Student Rating Form

Include a blank copy of the student rating form, or at least, a clear statement of the global question(s), together with the possible responses.

If the nominee’s university, faculty, or department does not require formal student evaluations of teaching, the Selection Committee understands that you will be assembling the best evidence available: e.g. unsolicited letters, the instructor’s own evaluation questionnaires, anecdotes, anonymous student comments, comments from peers. You may have to search for this kind of evidence, and assembling it may be a challenge, but it’s worth the effort.

8.7—Course Development Efforts

Please provide evidence for excellence in the design of no more than three newly-developed courses. Describe the rationale for and process used to develop and refine the course. If the course is successful because of design innovation, explain what is unique and effective, giving evidence. Are students learning something different because of the design? How do we know?

8.8—Other Evidence of Teaching Excellence

Many teachers demonstrate excellence and commitment in unconventional, unprecedented, radical, unheralded, or novel ways Examples of profound relationships with students’ learning can hide in this “other evidence.” Did a teacher’s students learn what “homeless” means by living homeless for a week? Was a class moved to a location that welcomed mothers with infants? Did a forestry instructor organize protests with students? Did an accounting teacher connect students with seniors to give pro bono advice about tax planning?

9.0—Signed and Dated Letters from Colleagues and Students

Four to six letters are usually sufficient. The best letters are specific and authentic.

To avoid redundancy, each letter should address a separate facet or two of the nominee’s teaching or leadership. Elements might include commentary on student engagement, support for student learning, professional value of the courses, effective teaching strategies, curriculum design, campus-wide impact, teaching reinforced by research, peer mentoring, and so on. Examples trump adjectives.

Please do not ask for letters from current students. They are vulnerable by definition, even when they express a strong, unprompted desire to play an active role in supporting the nomination.

10.0—Summary Conclusion

This optional section gives you a valuable opportunity to include arguments or evidence that do not quite fit into other sections. And, of course, it gives you space further to tie the pieces of the dossier together into a persuasive summation

11.0 —Appendix: Student Comments from Two or More Classes

This form of evidence is less helpful when it is a list of superlatives, without further elaboration, but when an instructor is outstanding, superlatives tend to flourish. A brief analysis of the evidence by someone other than the nominee should accompany this section. Please include complete sets of unedited comments from at least two classes in an appendix, and explain how the comments were prepared. You might consider highlighting what the comments say about the nominee’s teaching. Please include the number of comments and the total number of students in the class. These comments are not included in the page count.