A professional portfolio could mean a teaching portfolio, a research portfolio, or some combination of the two used in tenure and promotion decisions (consult with your department for specifics). We recommend the Peter Seldin model for teaching portfolios, which contains the following sections:
- A table of contents
- A curriculum vitae
- A statement of teaching philosophy
- A narrative of teaching methodology
Statement of Teaching Philosophy
Writing a teaching philosophy not only lets others know of your beliefs and values about teaching, but also offers an opportunity for you to reflect upon your own teaching theories and practices. A basic outline for a teaching statement would have a three-paragraph structure and be limited to one-page in length.
The first paragraph provides readers with your beliefs about teaching and forecasts what your classroom would be like if they visited. Would they see students engaged in group work? Peer-sharing? Presenting their work in front of the class? Mini-lectures followed by group discussions? You can also use this paragraph to outline your teaching responsibilities.
In the next paragraph you can offer further evidence of your teaching and provide examples of your beliefs in action. For example, you could describe an assignment in the following way:
“First-year composition students often have trouble looking beyond traditional interpretations of rhetoric and argument. By having them read current popular research on flirting, however, I engage them in an interesting topic, allow them opportunities to comment from personal experience, and elicit in-depth discussions about body language as a form of rhetoric. These lessons guide students to develop a deeper concept of language beyond print literacy and a more full awareness of rhetorical practices in the everyday moment. By using popular literature, combined with more theoretical texts, I am able to elicit student interest without sacrificing important course goals.” Descriptions such as these allow readers to “see” your teaching in action as opposed to reading only general statements about your teaching philosophy.
In the final paragraph, you should sum up your thoughts on education and the role that you have to play in developing students to be successful in their discipline, career, and life.
Narrative of Teaching Methodology
In addition to your vita and statement of philosophy, it is important to include a brief narrative where you address specifics of your teaching, such as your goals, construction of your syllabus, assessment feedback that you have received, instructional methodologies, interactions with students, ethics, classroom atmosphere, and others. Supporting your narrative through inclusion of materials in appendices provides evidence to readers that “show” your teaching. In essence, this narrative provides an in-depth look at your teaching in action. Put another way, the narrative explains the materials in the appendices (your “proof”) using the language and ideas of your teaching philosophy statement, and thus bridges both sections. Your narrative explains your appendices, and discusses specific items from the appendices by referring to them parenthetically.
There is no single required format for the narrative. Some people choose to veer from topic to topic (such as “Classroom Management” or “Course Design”) and label each paragraph. This can be a more limiting approach, however, and it might result in a jumbled mess if adequate transitions between sections is not provided. Others prefer to write a more essay-like narrative, allowing for a more flexible and ultimately more rewarding alternative. There is no content considered “required” if you write an essayistic narrative. However, we recommend a simplified two-part structure consisting of 2-4 pages on the course structure and content, and then several paragraphs dedicated to a critical reflection and commitment to improvement, as follows:
Description of course structure and content: Explain the structure you’ve given your courses, the types of assignments and activities you’ve created (and why), provide a discussion of your syllabus and its evolution, and so on. Consider these questions:
- How do you start class?
- What activities do you use?
- How do you solicit student participation?
- How do you generate class discussion?
- How do you keep student engagement high?
- How do you integrate technology in the classroom?
- What informs the structure of your lectures?
- Do you use writing in your course? How and why?
- What are your beliefs about being available for students? Do you use email? One on one learning?
Critical reflection and commitment to improvement: you will want to demonstrate that you are committed to improving your teaching on an ongoing basis, and are constantly looking to try new things, such as switching from a lecture to a discussion-based format or using additional technology. Has your philosophy of teaching evolved or changed over time? Consider these topics:
- Participation in workshops for professional development
- Attending Teaching & Learning conferences
- Taking courses on pedagogy
- Membership in teaching associations
- Participating in teaching practica
- Course development, or departmental website development
- Publications related to teaching
Your appendices provide support for claims that you have made in your statement of philosophy and your narrative. For example, if you claim in your philosophy that you provide a collaborative classroom atmosphere that elicits in-depth discussions from students, you may choose to include the following items as appendices: statements from fellow instructors that have observed your teaching and can comment on collaboration, or statements from students on evaluations that remark upon the “open” atmosphere of your classroom. Some other items you may choose to include are examples of syllabi, assessment materials such as tests and quizzes, examples of instructional methods such as detailed lesson plans, sample assignment guides, and other relevant materials. These items should support any claims you have made in previous sections of your portfolio about your teaching.
An effective appendix can be organized logically rather than just stacking documents together. One widely-used method calls for divisions of a Teaching Portfolio Appendix into three sections: Materials from Self, Materials from Others, and Evidence of Student Learning. Locate where you want to situate each of the documents you have into the following structure, taken from Peter Seldin’s book The Teaching Portfolio:
Materials from Oneself: Materials that show that you have worked to improve your teaching and how you have done so.
- Statement of teaching responsibilities (course titles and numbers, enrollments, required or elective, graduate or undergraduate)
- A reflective statement describing personal teaching philosophy, strategies and objectives
- Representative course syllabi detailing content and objectives, methods, readings and requirements
- Description of curricular and instructional innovations such as new course projects, materials, and class assignments and assessment of their effectiveness
- Steps taken to evaluate and improve one’s teaching including changes resulting from self evaluation, time spend reading, and teaching goals for the next few years
Materials from Others: Materials from outside sources commenting on your development as a teacher.
- Statements from colleagues who have either observed the teacher in action or who have reviewed his or her teaching materials (e.g., course syllabi, assignments, testing and grading practices etc.)
- Student course or teaching evaluation data
- Distinguished teaching awards or other recognition of teaching abilities.
- Invitations to present at a conference on teaching (either in one’s discipline or on teaching in general)
Evidence of Student Learning: Materials that demonstrate the learning outcomes in your classroom and reflect on your effectiveness as a teacher. [Note: you must get the student’s permission before using any of these materials.]
- Samples of graded essays together with comments explaining why they were so graded
- Student publications or conference presentations on course related work
- Statements from alumni on the quality of instruction
- Samples of student papers, creative work, and reports (perhaps together with successive drafts and the professors comments on how each draft could be improved
Other Items: Additional materials you might include.
- A video of the instructor teaching a typical class
- Participation in off-campus activities relating to teaching
- A statement by the dept. chair assessing the teacher’s teaching contribution to the department
- Description of how instructional technology has been used to promote learning