What is a Teaching Portfolio?
"A teaching portfolio is a coherent set of materials, including work samples and reflective commentary on them, compiled by a faculty member to inquire into and represent his or her teaching practice as related to student learning and development." -- Pat Hutchings, (1993) American Association of Higher Education.
Typically, a teaching portfolio is a dossier that includes selected documentation of your teaching effectiveness and your reflection on your teaching.
What is the Purpose of a Teaching Portfolio?
There are several reasons why a teacher would need to design a portfolio. The most common are for hiring decisions, promotion, and tenure, and sometimes for teaching awards. Typically one submits only a cover letter and CV when first applying for a job. Once a campus interview has been offered, it is a good idea to have a portfolio ready to offer as a presentation of your teaching effectiveness. However, there is great variability in this process. For example, some employers might request that you submit a Statement of Teaching Philosophy with your CV or a summary of student evaluations. Thus, it is a good idea to have a comprehensive, ongoing, and changing teaching portfolio that you can excerpt from as appropriate.
What should be included?
Teaching portfolios have as much variability as individual teachers. Peter Seldin, who has written extensively on teaching portfolios, suggests that the materials should come evenly from three different areas: 1) information from self, such as a statement of teaching philosophy and reflections; 2) information from others, such as student, faculty, or peer evaluations; and 3) products, such as course materials.
Within these categories, some aspects of a teaching portfolio that may be included are:
Statement of teaching philosophy. Most teaching portfolios include this brief (1-2 page) explication on your philosophy about teaching near the beginning.
Student evaluation summaries. Some documentation of student evaluations should always be included. The way that you present this data, however, can take many forms. Some possibilities are:
- A table summarizing the numerical end of semester evaluations for all classes taught
- Sample mid-term and end-of-semester comments from a recent class, with a reflection on how you used feedback to improve your teaching
- Copies of official university evaluation summaries
- Selected comments from students (from qualitative portion of evaluations), organized by course, or theme (about "leading discussions," "being available to students," etc.)
The exercise: Presenting and Reflecting on Student Evaluations offers suggestions for presenting this data and a writing exercise to begin writing a reflection on them.
A curriculum vitae or
A list of post-secondary courses taught if CV was sent separately. This list could provide more detailed information than a CV, such as class size and make-up (e.g., mostly upper-class English majors, a freshman core course, etc.).
Sample course materials, such as:
- Assignments and grading guide
- A student paper with comments (with identifying information removed, and with a statement of student permission)
- Lesson plan
- Exam or quiz
- Description of semester-long project
- Course website excerpts
- Reflections on materials. Write a brief reflection on the materials you have chosen to showcase (1-page maximum).
Writing Reflections on Teaching Materials includes some guidelines and writing questions to begin drafting reflections.
List of professional interactions about teaching. These activities could include serving as a mentor to new TAs, assisting in department or university TA orientation, creating assignments or exams for other TAs to use, etc.
Documentation of classroom observation by a faculty member. Some departments have formal observation practices with appropriate documentation, such as a letter.
How do I get started?
- Beginning a Teaching Portfolio: Questions to Consider is an exercise that asks you to jot down the answers to several questions which might help to guide the development of your teaching portfolio.
- Review other teaching portfolios. Look at the teaching portfolios of friends, colleagues, or advisors. When conducting a faculty search, departments often have the dossiers of prospective applicants available for review by faculty and graduate students. This is a great opportunity to see how others at the early stage in their career have presented their professional experiences. CTE also has several sample teaching portfolios for review.
- Write a statement of teaching philosophy. Articulating your values about teaching helps you choose the best pieces of evidence to support those values. For example, if your teaching philosophy highlights the importance of collaborative learning, find an assignment or project that showcases how you use this approach.
- Begin to organize student evaluations. Find and read over past student evaluations. See if you notice any trends. In what areas have you improved and how? See Presenting and Reflecting on Student Evaluations for more ideas.
- Find sample materials. Review syllabi, assignments, lesson plans, and classroom materials, and choose those which represent your best work. Begin drafting 2-3 paragraph reflective essays on each of these topics. See Writing Reflections on Teaching Materials.
- Schedule a classroom observation by a faculty member. Have the faculty member write a letter describing the observation.
How should it be formatted?
All teaching portfolios should have a table of contents. This is your central organizing document and it should be clear and concise. After that, there is great variability in how the portfolio is organized. No matter what order you choose for your documents, the American Association of Higher Education recommends that a portfolio be structured, representative and selective.
- It should follow a logical format and be easy for readers to follow.
- Formatting should be clear and consistent. Use continuous pagination and/or use tabs and dividers. Nothing turns a reader off more than a document that is disorganized and tedious to read.
- It should offer the best snapshot of your teaching practices. Include materials that best exemplify your teaching philosophy.
- It should be honest. Try to represent yourself as accurately as possible. Refrain from padding, but highlight the positives. If you include negative evaluations, show how you have used this feedback to improve your teaching, and include subsequent positive evaluations.
- It should be limited. Most people will start out with a much more comprehensive portfolio than is necessary, and much of the work will be pruning it down to the best examples of your work.
- Seldin (1997) suggests that the portfolio be divided between the narrative components, placed first, and appendices with supporting materials. Other teachers might integrate narrative components and supporting materials. Consider the pros and cons of each approach and use a format that makes sense with your materials.
Where can I find other resources?
CTE's Online and Print Resources
- American Association for Higher Education. (1993) Campus Use of the Teaching Portfolio.
- Edgerton, R. (1991) Teaching Portfolio: Capturing the Scholarship in Teaching.
- Murray, J.P. (1997) Successful Faculty Development and Evaluation: The Complete Teaching Portfolio.
- Seldin, P. (1993) Successful Use of Teaching Portfolios.
- Seldin, P. (1997) The Teaching Portfolio: A Practical Guide to Improve Performance and Promotion/Tenure Decisions. Second Edition.