Tenure & Promotion

Tenure & Promotion Criteria 2023 (Current)

Article 28 of the Collective Agreement between the Simon Fraser University Faculty Association and Simon Fraser University specifies university-wide criteria relating to teaching effectiveness, scholarly activities, and contributions to the university and society, for promotion and tenure of Research faculty.  Article 35 specifies university-wide criteria for promotion of Teaching faculty.  In the following, the minimal expectations are specified for the Department of Biological Sciences for tenure and promotion to the rank of Associate Professor, and for promotion to the ranks of Professor, Lecturer, Senior Lecturer, and University Lecturer.


Teaching in our Department includes both undergraduate and graduate training. Success as an undergraduate teacher is paramount to our profession. The candidate must demonstrate teaching effectiveness in a breadth of courses, including large enrolment service courses and (particularly for Research faculty) smaller, specialized courses.  Departmental criteria and guidelines for evaluating teaching effectiveness are detailed below. SFU’s Methods (including Teaching Dossier) and Criteria for evaluation of teaching during biennial review and RTP are outlined in the following Collective Agreement (CA) articles: Teaching Effectiveness (28.5-28.9) Criteria for Assessing Teaching (28.10), and methods for Assessing Teaching (28.11-28.15).

For tenure and promotion to Associate Professor, it is normally expected that the candidate has graduated at least one M.Sc. or Ph.D. student (as sole Senior Supervisor) since becoming an independent researcher, and served as Senior Supervisor (sole or co-supervised) for at least one additional graduate student or post-doctoral fellow since joining the Department.

For promotion to Professor the candidate must demonstrate continued success in graduate training, with an on-going, effective and productive graduate program, which should include both M.Sc. and Ph.D. students. In addition, continuing service as co-supervisor or committee member of other graduate students, and research supervision of senior undergraduate students is expected for all Research faculty.

For promotion to Lecturer, there must be demonstrated ability as an effective university teacher and evidence of promise of educational leadership.  For promotion to Senior Lecturer, there must be demonstration of superior ability as a university teacher as well as examples of educational leadership, involvement in curriculum development, use of innovative pedagogy, or participation in other teaching and learning initiatives.  For promotion to University Lecturer, there must be demonstration of sustained record of excellence in teaching, including innovation that results in a positive impact on student learning.  There should also be demonstrated educational leadership, or significant contributions to curriculum development, or contributions to other teaching initiatives. These accomplishments must be supported by letters from internal (i.e., from another Faculty at SFU) and external referees. 

General methods for assessing teaching

  • All faculty, barring exceptional circumstances, are assessed on their teaching. General recommendations for robust assessment of teaching suggest that assessments of teaching should use multiple methods and multiple sources gathered over multiple points in time, viewed holistically and used in alignment with an individual faculty member’s career path.
  • Four main methods are described in the CA: self-assessment; peer review of course materials provided in the dossier (and/or optional classroom observation); student work; & student feedback (formal/informal).
  • Engagement with the student experience, reflecting all courses during the period of review, is a key component, informing self-reflection.
  • For biennial review, in general, BISC faculty members compile their research, teaching, & service information into a package containing CV & Narrative (with optional Appendices)The teaching portion of the narrative consists of the teaching dossier update, detailed below.  

BISC Teaching Dossier Guidelines

In their teaching dossier, all faculty summarize their teaching, give context & self-reflections and ultimately provide evidence of teaching effectiveness. The goal is to provide sufficient information, only from the period under review, to enable the TPC to holistically evaluate faculty performance with respect to the SFU and BISC criteria.  Thus, the dossier created by the faculty member should aim to be thorough but concise.  Period under review = previous 2 years for biennial review; time since appointment for RTP.

Dossier length recommendations: (approximate page length given, including figures, not including (concise) appendices): Biennial review: 1-3 pages;  RTP, early career: 2-4 pages; RTP, later: 4-8 pages. 

There are (up to) 6 components in the teaching dossier, detailed below.  For the dossier in the biennial review package, only components 1 and 2 are required, though components 5-6 may also be useful.

1. Teaching Record

  • Brief descriptive summary of the context (courses taught, students/Highly Qualified Personnel (HQP) supervised, & any other teaching-related activities).  (Full semesterly teaching record also needs to be tabulated in the CV).
  • A summary of any relevant teaching activities, and any evidence of impact on student learning, aligned clearly with SFU and BISC criteria to assess teaching effectiveness.
  • Topics may include: Course development/modification; professional development in pedagogy or in course-related expertise; teaching-related activities on professional development semester; curriculum/program development and/or assessment; mentorship and outcomes of HQP; meaningful work towards equity, diversity, and inclusion in your teaching; awards and teaching-related grants; educational leadership/contributions to broader education initiatives.
  • For biennial review, to curb the size of the document, individuals should limit themselves to one or two of their best, recent examples in support of each topic they decide to include.

2. Self-Reflection

  • Self-reflection on the teaching goals and experiences in the courses taught, including how these have led to changes in teaching practices/goals.
    • Sample prompts you might consider are: What is a change/decision you made about your teaching?  Why did you make this decision? What have you learned from this process?
  • Self-reflection on the student experience for the courses taught, including how these have led to changes in teaching practices/goals.
    • Sample prompts you might consider are: What did you learn from student feedback (course survey comments, or otherwise)?  How did (or how will) this affect your teaching?
    • Per CA articles 28.14 & 28.15, the TPC may only use SFU course survey data to “assess faculty engagement with the student experience.”  The TPC has access to aggregate frequency data, but not student comments, from SFU course surveys.  If a faculty member chooses to include any student comments in the dossier, the faculty must include all the comments for that course as an appendix.
  • If applicable: Self-reflection on the process of and feedback from Classroom Observation.

3. Statement of Teaching (required only for RTP, not biennial review)

  • Teaching Philosophy: a description of, and rationale for, your values, goals, and beliefs regarding teaching, learning, and (optionally) mentoring. 
  • Teaching Practices: a concrete description of how your philosophies are enacted in your teaching.  This may highlight classroom strategies & behaviours, course design decisions and policies, curriculum design, assessment approaches, mentorship practices, etc.

4. Classroom/Peer Observation Reports (optional, on request for RTP only; departmental process TBD)

5. Outside Considerations (optional)

  • If applicable, briefly describe the impact of any constraints or outside circumstances, constraints, or considerations that have affected your teaching during this period.

6. Appendices (optional)

  • These should be organized, relevant, & specifically referred to in the narrative and/or statement.
  • These may include: course materials (syllabi; assignments; tests; lecture notes; course policies etc.); student perspectives (formal/informal feedback/surveys; solicited or unsolicited letters); evidence of student learning (examples of student work and progress; concept inventory scores); artifacts of professional development.

Resources for teaching dossiers:

Criteria to Assess Teaching Effectiveness

In evaluating teaching, faculty are assessed holistically; the TPC considers the entire record as portrayed in the package submitted by the faculty, in the context of the SFU and BISC criteria.  We note that evaluation of teaching effectiveness is challenging and nuanced: teaching and learning are multifaceted; there are many diverse ways to be an effective teacher; and assessing impact (as compared to effort) is particularly complex. The Collective Agreement describes expected criteria (Article 28.5):

Success as a teacher is of fundamental importance for evaluating the performance of a faculty member. Matters which should be taken into consideration in evaluating teaching include mastery of the subject, generation of enthusiasm in students, maintenance of appropriate academic standards (including fair and reasonable evaluation of student work), engagement with student experience, and organization and preparation for class. Consideration will be given to the ability and willingness of a faculty member to engage in student supervision, teach a range of subject matter and at various levels of instruction, and to contributions over and above formal teaching, particularly where the contribution is of a time-consuming nature.

BISC Criteria.  In addition to the University expectations, BISC criteria include the following expectations:

  • Evidence of self-reflection using formal or informal feedback on teaching and learning
  • Evidence of impact on student learning
  • Contributions to course/curriculum development and/or renewal (if warranted)

Contributions over and above formal teaching may be considered in assessing teaching.  These may include:

  • Demonstration of innovation, including research-enriched or community-engaged teaching
  • Quality of course materials (e.g. syllabi, assignments, tests, course schedules, other course materials)
  • Meaningful work towards equity, diversity, & inclusion in teaching practices
  • Professional development supporting growth as a teacher and/or expertise in course disciplines. 
  • Curriculum/program development and/or assessment
  • Effective mentorship, scholarly communication, and/or educational leadership within a course, teaching team, department, university, or externally
  • External demonstration of excellence: Teaching awards and grants
  • Other criteria appropriate to the departmental discipline and context


The University expects a proven record of scholarly achievement, and continued growth as an established scholar. For the Department of Biological Sciences, this means that Research faculty must have established and maintained a continuing, independent research program of high quality at SFU. For tenure and promotion to Associate Professor we expect that the candidate has obtained, as principal investigator, continued external funding for several years. The total funding level must be appropriate for the sub-discipline.

At the time of tenure and promotion to Associate Professor, the candidate will have published significant results from work s/he has initiated at SFU, in refereed journals appropriate for the sub-discipline. For the assessment of the quality of the research publications, the opinions of the external referees are of special importance. The number of publications is important, but secondary to their quality and total impact, and to the applicant's contribution to the research publications.

For promotion to Full Professor the total overall career contributions of the faculty member in the area of research shall be taken into consideration, and the candidate shall have evidence of having excelled in research. Appointment or promotion to this rank requires evidence of national or international reputation in their area of expertise, supported by letters from external referees of high academic stature. The candidate must have maintained a strong, continuing research program of high quality at SFU, with appropriate funding and an appropriate publication record.


Active, collegial participation in academic self-administration is an essential contribution of any faculty member. While junior faculty members need to place an emphasis on establishing their research and teaching programs, we expect them to gradually increase service contributions prior to promotion. Minimally, candidates for tenure and promotion to Associate Professor should have served on at least one departmental standing committee, and contributed to other service demands such as ad-hoc or search committees. We expect gradually increasing service contributions prior to promotion to Professor. Candidates for promotion to Professor should have a continued record of effective service to the Department and University, and have served on various committees, including in leading roles (e.g., chairing a committee). In addition, there should be evidence of service to the broader academic community, and engaging with outreach activities relating to science is encouraged. 

Currently, the University does not expect service contributions for promotion from Laboratory Instructor to Lecturer.  Once at the rank of Lecturer, gradually increasing service contributions are expected.  For promotion to Senior Lecturer, service on at least one departmental standing committee, and contribution to other aspects of service such as outreach initiatives or search committees, is expected. For promotion to University Lecturer, continued participation in service to the Department, University, broader community, and the discipline is expected.


The university guideline for contributions of time allocated to research:teaching: administrative activities is presently 40:40:20 for Research faculty and 0:80:20 for Teaching faculty. Expectations of relative contributions to research, teaching, and service can vary among faculty due to formal arrangements (e.g., research chairs or awards, or major administrative duties). In cases with such formal arrangements, faculty who contribute relatively less to one area are expected to contribute relatively more to the other area or areas. Such situations should be discussed in the tenure and/or promotion application materials submitted by the candidate.