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Creating a Teaching Portfolio

 
The Academic Services staff of The Teaching Center is available to consult with Washington University graduate students as they prepare and refine their teaching portfolios for use on the academic job market. (To make an appointment, please contact Dr. Beth Fisher).

Introduction: Definition, Major Components, and Purpose
What Can You Do To Make Your Teaching Portfolio Effective?
Tips for Organizing and Presenting your Portfolio
When Should You Begin to Create a Portfolio?
How Can You Improve Your Portfolio?
Links and Resources

imageIntroduction

What is a teaching portfolio?
A teaching portfolio is a collection of documents that together provide a record of

  • the ideas and objectives that inform your teaching
  • the courses you teach or are prepared to teach
  • the methods you use
  • your effectiveness as a teacher
  • how you assess and improve your teaching

While dissertation abstracts and research summaries document your expertise in research, the teaching portfolio documents your expertise in teaching. If you are a graduate student or postdoctoral fellow preparing a teaching portfolio for the academic job market, the portfolio will necessarily be both forward- and backward-looking, with examples drawn from courses you have taught or assisted in and from courses you are prepared to teach in the future. While you should always present to search committees a version of your portfolio that is well-organized, clear, and polished, you should also think of your portfolio as a work-in-progress that you will continue to revise throughout your academic career. Finally, your portfolio should be selective rather than comprehensive. It is NOT a holding place for all your teaching materials; it presents the syllabi, assignments, and other materials that best illustrate your teaching approach and methods.

What are the major components of a teaching portfolio?

1. A Teaching Philosophy Statement

A concise, specific statement of your approaches and methods is the lynchpin of the portfolio. (See Writing a Teaching Philosophy Statement.)

2. Examples and Evidence of the approaches and methods you outline in the Teaching Philosophy Statement. These documents might include the following:

  • Sample Syllabi (See Preparing a Syllabus.)
  • Courses Taught (note if TA or course instructor)
  • Courses Planned (tailor for specific applications)
  • Sample Assignments and Assessments
  • Essay assignments
  • Exams
  • Comments on student papers
  • Evidence of Teaching Effectiveness
  • Student evaluations
  • Evaluations by faculty member or other observer
  • Teaching awards
  • Video of a class
  • Evidence of Professional Development
  • Teaching workshops, seminars, publications, etc.

Why create a teaching portfolio?
A Teaching Portfolio is a useful tool that can help you

  • develop, clarify, and reflect on your teaching philosophy, methods, and approaches
  • present teaching credentials for hiring and promotion in an academic position
  • document professional development in teaching
  • identify areas for improvement
  • prepare for the interview process

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imageWhat Can You Do to Make Your Teaching Portfolio Effective?

Shape Content and Format with the Audience in Mind
The key to creating an effective portfolio is to shape both content and format for a specific audience. Take care in selecting and organizing materials in a way that will be helpful to readers who, as members of search committees, are often deluged by application materials from hundreds of applicants. Each component should serve a specific purpose. More specifically, the examples and evidence you include in your portfolio should illustrate the approaches and methods you describe in the Teaching Philosophy Statement.

While you do not have to have a specific job or search committee in mind when you are beginning to compile your portfolio, it is essential that you anticipate and speak to the concerns of an academic search committee. At this stage of your career, it is this audience that is the most important when it comes to evaluating the portfolio and your expertise in teaching. (Later in your career, the audience will change to include colleagues in your field and, perhaps, a promotion-and-tenure committee.) Try to anticipate the questions that a search committee would want your portfolio to answer. For a list of potential questions about teaching that may be motivating search committees, see Writing a Teaching Philosophy Statement.

Ask faculty mentors, as well as graduate-student peers who have interviewed for academic positions, what they think search committees are looking for; these individuals are your best sources for learning about the expectations and issues that are particular to your field.

Consult the job advertisement and the Web site of the school to which you are applying to get a sense of the school’s mission and students, and the relative importance given to teaching and research within the school and the department.

Consider compiling a “master portfolio” in a three-ring binder or file-folder system, then culling materials from the “master portfolio” to create a portfolio that is tailored for a specific position to which you are applying. Keep in mind the type of position (e.g., teaching “load,” tenure expectations) and the specific teaching responsibilities that you would expect to fulfill in that position. Rather than including a random selection of syllabi for courses you are prepared to teach, for example, if you are applying for a position at a large university, you might include three syllabi: one for an introductory undergraduate course, one for an advanced undergraduate course, and one for a graduate-level course. If you are applying for a position at a small, liberal-arts college, you might include syllabi for a required, introductory lecture course or laboratory, a course for “non-majors,” and a more advanced seminar.

Being selective is especially important when including student evaluations. If you have plenty of evaluations in your files, do NOT include all of them in your portfolio. Instead, include two or three complete sets, with brief introductions that summarize each set and reflect on how you have used the feedback to improve your effectiveness as a teacher. You should also consider attaching the course syllabus, which will provide a context for the committee as they review the evaluations. It is NOT necessarily a good idea to include only evaluations that are positive. Search committees understand that the best teachers do not always get unanimously positive student evaluations. They may also suspect that you purposefully excluded evaluations that were negative and thus give less weight to the evaluations than you might expect. More than showing that students “like” you, your goal in including evaluations should be to show how you use feedback to improve your methods and to think critically about how best to improve student learning.

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imageTips for Organizing and Presenting Your Portfolio

Your teaching portfolio will not be effective if it is poorly organized, sloppy, or overly long. Here is a list of features that can help you organize your portfolio in a way that will make it easy for the search committee to use your portfolio to evaluate your teaching effectiveness:

  • Title page
  • Table of contents (or menu if your portfolio is electronic)
  • Introduction or summary of portfolio contents
  • Sections, with brief summaries of content for each section
  • Most important: a summary that reflects on evaluations and how you have used them to improve your teaching effectiveness (see discussion of student evaluations, above)

Take care to present the portfolio in a neat and polished format. The point is not to dazzle the committee with an expensive and dramatic cover, but to take care to present the material in a professional way, with the goal of making it easy for the committee to read and refer to your teaching materials throughout the hiring process. Here are some presentational tips:

  • Revise and edit all documents to correct mechanical errors and improve clarity.
  • If you are preparing a "hard copy," 
    • print all documents on high-quality paper,
    • create a cover, and
    • bind at copy shop.
  • Consider adding a copyright symbol.
  • Make additional copies if invited for an on-campus interview.
  • Include a line on your curriculum vitae indicating that the portfolio is ”available upon request"

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imageWhen Should You Begin to Create a Teaching Portfolio?

Begin creating a teaching portfolio as soon as your graduate training begins. Even before you set foot in the classroom as a Teaching Assistant or instructor, you should begin thinking about the ideas and objectives that will guide you when you do so. Reading articles and attending workshops on teaching will help you identify current issues and potential approaches. As you build your teaching experience, you should also be developing your portfolio, which you can then update, refine, and improve when you are entering the academic job market.

Be aware that some search committees may never ask for a teaching portfolio, while others will request “teaching materials” or “evidence of teaching effectiveness” at some point in the hiring process. Sending a teaching portfolio is often an excellent way to respond to the latter request. Different disciplines follow different protocols in regard to when it is acceptable to send unsolicited materials to a search committee. In general, however, it is usually not a good idea to send a portfolio unless requested. When in doubt about whether you should send a portfolio, contact the chairperson of the search committee.

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imageHow Can You Improve Your Teaching Portfolio?

Show the portfolio to faculty members and peers whose opinions you trust. Seek additional guidance from Beth Fisher, assistant director of The Teaching Center. Address areas that you can improve now, as well as those you want to address in the future. The latter can provide interesting topics of conversation when you talk to search committees about your teaching, whether in formal interviews or informal discussions.

imageLinks and References

Kaplan, Matthew. “The Teaching Portfolio.” The Center for Research on Learning and Teaching. University of Michigan. http://www.crlt.umich.edu/publinks/CRLT_no11.pdf.

“Assemble your Teaching Portfolio.” The Center for Teaching and Learning. The University of Texas at Austin. http://www.utexas.edu/academic/cte/teachfolio.html.

Rodriguez-Farrar, Hannelore B. Creating a Teaching Portfolio: A Handbook for Faculty, Teaching Assistants and Teaching Fellows. The Sheridan Center for Teaching and Learning. Brown University. 2008. http://www.brown.edu/Administration/Sheridan_Center/teaching/documents/T....

Seldin, Peter. The Teaching Portfolio: A Practical Guide to Improved Performance and Promotion/Tenure Decisions. Bolton, MA: Anker Publishing Company, Inc. 1991.

"Teaching Portfolios." Center for Teaching. Vanderbilt University. http://www.vanderbilt.edu/cft/resources/teaching_resources/reflecting/portfolio.htm.

Vick, Julia Miller and Jennifer S. Furlong. The Academic Job Search Handbook. 4th ed. Philadelphia: U Pennsylvania P, 2008.

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