What is a teaching portfolio?
A teaching portfolio is a structured collection of many different types of evidence to reflect upon, describe, and document one’s teaching philosophy, short- and long-term goals, practices, and achievements.
A teaching portfolio may include, for example:
- Details of your teaching responsibilities including, if applicable, supervision of honours or postgraduate research students;
- Description and reflection of your educational practice/philosophy;
- Your publications focussing on teaching;
- Your student ratings and comments, reports from others, self-assessment, and team deliberations;
- Demonstration of how scholarship informs your teaching as in membership of professional associations, actively participating in professional development activities and programs;
- Evidence of the nexus between teaching and learning and your research and scholarship;
- Evidence of innovative teaching styles;
- Your teaching awards, grants, or other measures of recognition;
- Samples of unit outlines, course materials, and assessment proformas or rubrics;
- Administrative responsibilities in regards to units and honours or postgraduate student supervision.
In structuring your teaching portfolio it is recommended to provide a reflective commentary of the significance of the selected components and their contributions to your current teaching.
Why develop a teaching portfolio?
Teaching portfolios can provide a record of your own professional development as it evolves over time. Portfolios are not static documents but are an evolving record over time. Teaching performance and achievements are also important criteria in many universities’ promotion policies, teaching and research supervision awards, and selection and appointment procedures, such as probation. Teaching portfolios are a way of demonstrating one’s teaching ability in order to provide a record of skills and evidence of performance.
Kinds of teaching portfolio
Teaching portfolios can be viewed as:
- A personal record drawn up as a means of presenting information, often in response to specific university guidelines for example the Teaching and Curriculum Development criteria set out in a relevant promotion policy;
- A reflection of your work in a structured manner;
- A process of self-evaluation and goal setting; and
- A method to teaching enhancement in which you can gauge successes, opportunities for improvement, and means for fulfilment.
How the teaching portfolio can be structured
Six steps are involved in preparing a teaching portfolio:
- Clarify your responsibilities (teaching, scholarship, curriculum development, community engagement, and administration associated with teaching).
- Reflect on your philosophy, short- and long-term teaching goals, and teaching and learning style. Consider what basic claims about teaching you will make, and why.
- Organize the material to support your claims in line with the evaluators' guidelines or needs.
- Select and append your best evidence. You need to ensure that appropriate choices of material are made that provide evidence of teaching performance in terms of purpose and audience.
- Write a reflective commentary drawing all of the portfolio components together in a cohesive manner.
- Show your draft to a colleague.
According to your purpose and audience you may decide to present your teaching portfolio as hard copy documents or in electronic form (a digital portfolio).
The following material, drawn from the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching, Pennsylvania State University, provides an excellent overview of how to prepare a teaching portfolio.
Before assembling your teaching portfolio, begin planning by thinking about purpose and audience. For example, your purpose may be to develop a portfolio for either promotion or continuation in employment. Each purpose brings an audience with a unique set of expectations and needs. Reflecting on purpose and audience can help give shape to your portfolio.
- What is your main purpose in creating this portfolio? What basic argument about your teaching will you make, and why?
- Who are the primary readers? What do you know about their beliefs about good teaching? Are their beliefs consistent with your own?
- What types of evidence of teaching effectiveness will be most convincing to these readers? What evidence will they expect to find?
In many ways, a teaching portfolio is an argument; it is developed around the claims you wish to make about yourself as an academic. One way to highlight these claims in your portfolio is to present them in your teaching philosophy, where you will generally address questions such as:
- What are the most significant claims you will make about the effectiveness of your teaching?
- Why do you believe these claims are significant?
Ultimately, however, your claims about teaching will be most convincing to readers when they are supported by documentation from a variety of sources – students and colleagues, and yourself. Many of the materials and data that can be used to document teaching are regularly gathered by you and your School (e.g. unit evaluations), which makes constructing this section of the portfolio less daunting than it might at first seem. Useful evidence can take many forms, and needs to be carefully selected and presented for the portfolio's purpose and audience, so that it is easy to read and understand.
As you gather the data to support your claims, consider the following questions:
- How are your beliefs about teaching and learning reflected in your actions as a teacher?
- What evidence will show readers that your teaching reflects these beliefs?
- What evidence can your students provide? Your colleagues? What evidence can you provide?
- Which of the data listed above do you (or your School) regularly collect? How can you begin to collect the rest of the data you need?
Shaping and Organizing
Now you can decide how and in what order to present the data you have gathered from students and colleagues, and yourself. Again, consider the perspective of your audience and what type of evidence they will find convincing. Have you selected, organized and presented the data in a way that brings the most compelling evidence into focus for your readers? Does each piece of evidence serve a purpose, supporting a claim you have made about your teaching?
Assessing and Refining Your Draft
Finally, when you have drafted your portfolio, think back to your analysis of the audience and purpose and consider whether your document will achieve what you set out to do. Does your portfolio give the reader a sense of who you are as an academic? What is the most striking claim you make about your teaching in the portfolio? Will the evidence presented for this claim be convincing for this audience? Are all of the claims and evidence offered for teaching effectiveness relevant?
- Centra, J. (1993). Reflective faculty evaluation: Enhanced teaching and determining faculty effectiveness. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
- Courts, P. & McInerney, K. (1993). Assessment in higher education: Politics, pedagogy, and portfolios. Westport, CT: Praeger.
- Cox, M. (1995). A department-based approach to developing teaching portfolios: Perspectives for faculty and department chairs. Journal on Excellence in College Teaching 6(1), 117-143.
- Davis, J. & Swift, L. (1995). Teaching portfolios at a research university. Journal on Excellence in College Teaching 6(1), 101-115.
- Edgerton, R., Hutchings, P. & Quinlan, K. (1991). The teaching portfolio: Capturing the scholarship in teaching. Washington, DC: American Association for Higher Education. An excellent introductory discussion of the teaching portfolio and its benefits for individuals and departments. Discusses form and content. Contains several samples.
- Eison, J. (1996). Creating a teaching portfolio: The SCRIPT model. Tampa. Faculty of Education, University of South Florida, Center for Teaching Enhancement.
- Gibbs, G. (1988). Creating a teaching profile. Bristol, England: Teaching and Educational Services.
- Hutchings, P. (1994). Peer review of teaching: From idea to prototype. AAHE Bulletin 47, November, 3-7. A report on the progress of AAHE's project to invent and promote strategies of collegial teaching reviews. Useful in teaching portfolio construction for its emphasis on using many strategies for peer review besides classroom observation.
- Rodriguez-Farrar, H. (1995). Teaching portfolio handbook. Providence, RI.: Center for the Advancement of Teaching, Brown University.
- Roe, E. (1987). How to compile a teaching portfolio. Kensington, New South Wales, Australia: Federation of Australian University Staff Associations.
- Seldin, P. (1997). The teaching portfolio: A practical guide to improved performance and promotion/tenure decisions (2nd ed.). Bolton, MA: Anker Publishing. In many ways, a seminal work. A good place to get started building portfolios. Contains several sample portfolios.
- Seldin, P. (1993). Successful use of teaching portfolios. Bolton, MA: Anker Publishing.
- Shulman, L. (1988). A union of insufficiencies: Strategies for teacher assessment in a period of educational reform. Educational Leadership, November, 36-41. Discusses new ways to approach teacher assessment. Proposes that since no one test is sufficient for assessing teachers, a combination of alternative assessments be used, such as portfolios that reflect both the efforts of candidates and the advice of mentors or peers.
- Smith, R. (1995). Creating a culture of teaching through the teaching portfolio. Journal on Excellence in College Teaching 6(1), 75-99.
Teaching Portfolios Websites (As of July 2005)
- This link takes you to a modified version of the original Deliberations site on teaching portfolios. It consists of pre-workshop discussions and materials for a workshop organised by the International Consortium on Educational Development (ICED) in 1997. These include issues about teaching portfolios, a bibliography, and an extract from Peter Seldin's book "The Teaching Portfolio - A practical guide to improved performance and promotion/tenure decisions".
- A selection of sites on a teaching portfolio topic which you might find useful
- Center for Teaching Effectiveness at the University of Texas at Austin.
Example of an electronic portfolio
- University of Western Australia guidelines for preparing a teaching and learning portfolio.
- Teaching Portfolio (PDF, 423.67 KB)
- National Tertiary Education Union document on preparing and presenting a teaching portfolio, developed for its members.
- University of New South Wales guidelines on preparing a teaching portfolio.