Improving the Promotions Dossier with the Enhanced CV

Abstract

In contrast to trends calling for the use of an educator portfolio to present evidence of accomplishment in the promotion dossier for faculty with a career focus on education or patient care, we propose use of an Enhanced Curriculum Vitae (CV). Rather than dedicate the time to create a portfolio that contains redundant information with the CV and is often ignored or treated as ‘second class’, we believe that, with a few simple additions, faculty can include nearly all of the content in the CV which they might have presented in a portfolio. We propose two types of additions. One is adding categories to the CV to be more inclusive of educational or clinical contributions (e.g., teaching, mentoring, and course leadership) not often included in the research-centric CV. The other is adding terse annotations to selected items listed in the CV to clarify quantity, quality, and scope of specific accomplishments (e.g., selection process of honors and awards, learner evaluation highlights).

We argue that, in lieu of peer-reviewed publication, educators be allowed to include other types of work products with the CV in the promotions dossier, such as a course syllabus, a representative instructional product, or clinical care guidelines.

Introduction

Because academic medicine has become more accepting of educational and clinical accomplishments in support of rank advancement, in this Perspectives article, we argue that greater thought needs to be given to how information regarding such accomplishments can best be presented to participants in the promotions process (e.g. individuals asked to write letters of reference, members of promotions committees).  The goal, as always, is to ensure that participants in the promotions process pay attention to the evidence and then give it careful and fair consideration in light of institutional priorities and values

We make this argument–specifically as it applies to educational accomplishments—based on many years of experience working with a wide variety of clinician educators seeking rank advancement at institutions supportive of promotion based on educational accomplishments. Quite simply, we have learned that attempts to present a faculty member’s educational accomplishments in an educator portfolio tend to be less successful than presenting the same evidence using an annotated or Enhanced Curriculum Vitae (CV). For this to work, modest enhancements to the traditional CV are necessary. We also argue that as institutions become more accepting of accomplishments in education and clinical care as evidence of readiness for advancement, promotions dossiers need to allow educators to submit products such as syllabi or instructional materials in lieu of standard peer-reviewed publications.

The challenge to present diverse accomplishments fairly

In academic medical communities, faculty participate in clinical, educational, and investigational activities, with most faculty members participating in more than one of these areas and often in all three. In recent years, many institutions have broadened their promotions processes, as espoused by Boyer (1990) to include scholarly accomplishments in all these areas as legitimate domains for consideration in rank advancement (Simpson et al., 2007).  A manifestation of this trend is inclusion of different career tracks, most often including research, education, and clinical care.

The challenge, created by this trend, is the need for fair representation and consideration of academic accomplishments in promotions dossier across all of these areas. While Glassick’s (2000) criteria promote a similar standard to evaluate scholarship from any area, what has been challenging is finding the best way to present the unique types of evidence required for careful consideration and awarding of credit for the scholarship achieved in education and clinical care (Baldwin, Gusic and Chandran, 2010; Simpson et al., 2007).

Our experience suggests that the traditional CV does not capture this diversity and that a more inclusive format is needed. Generally, the standard promotions dossier consists of the traditional CV, copies of a limited number of the publications listed in the CV, and a short personal statement. The traditional CV has evolved to best capture the accomplishments of investigators, measuring success by peer reviewed grants and publications. Scientific peer review (i.e., NIH study sections, journal editorial boards), in effect, allows the promotions decision-makers to defer to the judgments of other scientists or experts, so little additional information about the items listed is needed. As a result, the listing of these accomplishments in the traditional CV tend to conform to very specific formats, designed to communicate needed information for each type of accomplishment most efficiently. For example, the listing of grants typically includes the funding agency, amount awarded, and the individual’s role in the funded project, while the listing of publications is limited to standard biographic information (authors, title, journal, date). These formats have become very familiar to individuals involved in the promotions process. Thus, the traditional CV and by extension the promotions process tends not to fully capture the accomplishments of educators and clinicians, whose activities are not peer reviewed in the same manner as researchers.

After working with numerous faculty educators who have been nominated for promotions, we have learned that simple lists of products produced is not sufficient to represent the wide diversity of their accomplishments. Most often, more explanation about the what, why, who, and how of the accomplishment, including the type of peer review, is usually needed. Furthermore, these accomplishments frequently do not typically result in the kinds of traditional peer-reviewed publications that are typically attached to a promotions dossier.

The educator portfolio – pros and cons

For well over 20 years, the use of an educator portfolio has been recommended as a companion to the traditional CV in the promotions dossier for faculty with substantive involvement in education (Simpson et al., 2007; Baldwin, Gusic and Chandral, 2010; Niebuhr et al., 2013; Shinkai et al., 2018). An educator portfolio is designed to detail educational accomplishments of faculty. It often includes a personal statement of philosophy and intent, and may include many of the same educational accomplishments listed in a traditional CV, but with greater detail. Furthermore, the portfolio often includes additional accomplishments because they do not fit into the categories of the traditional CV.

While portfolios privilege the attitudes and activities of educators, we have come to question whether educator portfolios offer the optimal way to present the accomplishments of non-research oriented activities for the purposes of promotion. One reason portfolios are suboptimal is that many individuals involved in promotions considerations are not familiar with them and may largely ignore them. In addition, generally only “educator track” faculty assemble portfolios, thus the educational contributions of non-educator track faculty, including clinicians, may remain underrepresented. The length and narrative quality of the educator portfolio may be alienating to non-educator faculty thus limiting their utility. Finally, having a supplement that only educators submit may paradoxically serve to further marginalize educators from the general community of medical faculty.

The Enhanced CV

At Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, these concerns led a group of educators from multiple clinical departments (led by BFR and DLC) to form a workgroup to think about the best way to: 1) organize educational achievements and products; 2) share them with promotions committees. We considered many models, and the model that was proposed and ultimately adopted was what we came to call the “Enhanced CV.” This is a standard CV that allows for more expansion than is traditionally used, particularly for educational accomplishments and materials; although this expansion can be adopted for other areas as well, such as clinical work. It brings the educational materials back into the CV and out of a separate educator portfolio, asking all faculty to highlight their educational work (not just those who identify as “educators”) and allows those on educator tracks to have room and flexibility to highlight their unique accomplishments. After similar discussions, the University of Utah School of Medicine has used a similar, yet less formal and less widely adopted Enhanced CV.

As faculty have adopted the Enhanced CV, we have learned first-hand about its effectiveness in capturing the variety and detail of a faculty member’s accomplishments. Including terse, bulleted annotations of selected accomplishments allows promotion’s decision makers to judge the magnitude of effort, degree of quality, and impact of accomplishments, including those where no external, standardized process of peer review was possible. Table 1 contains some representative examples from the Enhanced CV of RJG, which was included in a successful promotions dossier. The examples illustrate the type of annotation used as well as the types of content not typically included in the traditional CV.

Table 1
Table 1: Examples of Annotation from Enhanced CV of RG

The idea of annotation is not new per se, as they have been used in the traditional CV for grants (e.g. details about funding agency, grant amount, etc.) because the title of the grant alone fails to communicate sufficient information to appropriately weigh the impact and magnitude of each grant listed. The Enhanced CV can just as easily include annotations about other types of accomplishments which reviewers can read to fully understand and appreciate the impact of those accomplishments, such as quality improvement projects, public health guidelines, and educational innovations. For example, faculty at the University of Utah have found annotations particularly helpful in clarifying the different levels of selectivity in the peer review and acceptance processes of posters, oral presentations, and workshops at professional meetings.

The Enhanced CV offers individuals involved in the promotions process a common, systematically organized format for all faculty that flexibly and fairly presents their diverse scholarly accomplishments. As a result, the Enhanced CV is particularly useful as academic institutions move towards using multiple tracks rank advancement, each with unique forms of scholarly contributions.

Substitution of unique educational work products

Most promotions dossiers we have seen call for the faculty member to select a handful of publications (e.g., 5 at Columbia) from those listed in the CV to include in their entirety with the CV. Of course, such publications are representative work products that highlight the faculty member’s accomplishments. We believe that dossiers for educators need to allow substitutions of publications for more appropriate peer-reviewed work products generated by educational activities, such as a syllabus or chapter of an instructional text. We also believe that, similar to annotations in the CV, providing limited annotations within these documents helps provide important background information to enhance reviewer’s understanding and ability to judge the quality and merit of the work represented (providing its own form of peer review).

Experience with a promotions dossier with the Enhanced CV

In 2010, the Columbia University Medical Center launched a three-track structure for academic advancement: 1) investigator, 2) educational leadership and scholarship, and 3) applied health sciences. An important aspect of this launch included use of the Enhanced CV for all three tracks in the promotions dossier. It also included broadening the types of work products that could be included in the promotions dossier. No educational portfolio was encouraged, nor considered necessary.

As a result, the recommended promotions dossier for all faculty, regardless of track consists of 1) 1-2 page personal statement that clarifies and highlights the faculty member’s “story” as presented in the Enhanced CV, 2) The Enhanced CV and 3) Up to five appropriate work-products (not limited to publications). These documents are sent to individuals requested to write letters of reference and subsequently to members of the promotions committees. The University of Utah follows a similar process, without the five work-products. The personal statement is meant to capture the “impact” of the faculty’s work.

The Enhanced CV is designed to help promotions committee members understand the scope of the educational contribution, which is often central to promotions decisions. For example, committee members on other tracks may understand the number of hours that go into writing a grant, but might not appreciate the hours that go into conceptualizing, planning and executing a medical school course. In addition, educational work products such as websites, videos, and syllabi have been of great interest to promotions committee members and have helped bring the educator’s work to life. Given the confidential nature of promotion committee deliberations, it is difficult to cite specific promotions decisions where the improved dossier was critical to the outcome, nevertheless, feedback from committee members at both Columbia and Utah, who have seen the Enhanced CV, suggest that dossiers with the Enhanced CV and relevant work products have helped to encourage more careful and in depth consideration of the accomplishments represented–regardless of whether they were associated with research, education, or clinical practice—and that the evidence presented is appropriate to each track and considered equally valid.

Our experience with helping educators prepare for the promotions process also suggests that the Enhanced CV helps educators capture and understand the extent of the work they do and have done. Too often, educators do not capture educational activities, such as designing curricula, advising and mentorship, in their CVs, including only finished peer-reviewed products. Using the enhance CV not only helps educators to include these critical, often incredibly time-consuming activities, it helps them to better understand their roles as educators.

As would be expected, we estimate that Enhanced CVs are 20 to 50% longer than traditional CVs depending upon the additional content and annotations. While this may add to the time required to review the CV, it is still likely much less time than would have been required to review both a CV and a portfolio. Furthermore, because the Enhanced CV continues to emphasize the list-like format of the traditional CV, reviewers can easily scan and count the various types of listed content and thereby get a holistic view of the ‘story’ represented and then can re-review the same lists but this time pay attention to the details in the annotation and get a sense of the meaning and impact of specific items.

In light of the concern about adding length to the CV, over time, we have refined our understanding about the types and amount of annotations in the Enhanced CV that are most helpful to readers. For example, one common mistake has been to use annotations that are too lengthy, potentially overwhelming the reader and leading them to lose sight of the story represented in the chronological listing of accomplishments. Another mistake, not unique to the Enhanced CV, has been to try to include everything, rather than to prioritize and highlight with annotation the accomplishments that best represent the breadth and depth of a person’s accomplishments. As with many things, even with the Enhanced CV, “less can be more”.

Conclusion

While recent trends calling for the use of an educator portfolio in the promotion dossier for faculty with a career focus on education or clinical care, have been well meaning and thoughtfully led, we have argued that educators may be better served with the use of an Enhanced CV. This argument recognizes that the CV is a familiar format to all involved, including promotions committee members as well as individuals asked to write letters of reference. With a few simple additions, most notably brief annotations, faculty can include nearly all of the content in the CV that they might have presented in a portfolio. This model is designed to help both promotions committee members understand the work of clinician educators, and helps the educators themselves capture the breadth and depth of their work, and to even help define their critical roles in medical education. Our hope is that disseminating this model will help us take the next steps in testing the effectiveness of this alternate method for capturing the work of clinician educators.

Acknowledgments:

The authors wish to recognize the general contribution to the development of the Enhanced CV made by members of promotions committees at Columbia University and the University of Utah and by faculty colleagues brave enough to be early adopters of the Enhanced CV format. We particularly want to recognize the contributions of Lisa Saiman, MD MPH and Susan Rosenthal, PhD who championed and helped shape these ideas from the outset.

Declarations:

Funding/Support: None.
Other disclosures: None.
Ethical approval: Not applicable.
Disclaimer: None.
Previous presentation: Emerging Solution: Managing Evidence of Educational Scholarship with the Enhanced CV. 2016 AAMC Learn Lead Succeed Meeting. Seattle WA.

Keywords/phrases:

Enhanced CV, promotions dossier, educator portfolio

Take home message:

  • A traditional CV typically does not include important non peer-reviewed educational work products
  • A traditional CV typically does not include important non peer-reviewed educational work products
  • Using an Enhanced CV can improve the promotions process
  • An educator portfolio is lengthy and less likely to reviewed fully by the promotions committee
  • An Enhanced CV is meant to include the essential information of a traditional CV and that of a portfolio

References

Boyer, E. L. (1990) Scholarship reconsidered: priorities of the professoriate. Princeton, NJ: Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

Glassick, C. E. (2000) ‘Boyerʼs Expanded Definitions of Scholarship, the Standards for Assessing Scholarship, and the Elusiveness of the Scholarship of Teaching’, Academic Medicine, 75(9), pp. 877–880. doi: 10.1097/00001888-200009000-00007.

Niebuhr, V., Johnson, R., Mendias, E., Rath, L., et al. (2013) ‘Educator Portfolios’, MedEdPORTAL Publications. doi: 10.15766/mep_2374-8265.9355.

Shinkai, K., Chen, C. (A., Schwartz, B. S., Loeser, H., et al. (2018) ‘Rethinking the Educator Portfolio’, Academic Medicine, 93(7), pp. 1024–1028. doi: 10.1097/acm.0000000000002005.

Simpson, D., Fincher, R.-M. E., Hafler, J. P., Irby, D. M., et al.
(2007) ‘Advancing educators and education by defining the components and evidence associated with educational scholarship’, Medical Education, 41(10), pp. 1002–1009. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2923.2007.02844.x.