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New Mexico State University

Planning Your Teaching Portfolio: A Brief Guide

Table of Contents

This document was published on the University of New Hampshire website in 1996. Although it is still relevant to teachers, it is no longer available online. It is included here for your use and/or reference. Prepared for participants in the UNH Future Faculty Program - August 1996.

Introduction

The purpose of this handbook is to serve as a general guide... However, its organization and content are such that it should be of use to any faculty member who wishes to begin organizing a teaching portfolio.

The guide begins by providing a short description of the portfolio, including its potential purposes and functions. From there, we'll move to discuss some materials that one might choose to include. Some of these will me marked with special emphasis; th ese are components that we strongly encourage including.

Because one could write a book on this subject (and some have), a list of supplementary readings has been included at the end. Some of these were referenced directly in preparing this handbook; they include some sources that are available via the Interne t and World Wide Web. Many provide sample portfolios done by experienced faculty. Others are simply further resources that you might find useful.

All in all, I hope that this furnishes you with a good general framework for building a successful portfolio. As you will see in the following pages, a portfolio will, or can be, as individual as the person assembling it. Please keep in mind, however, that this handbook is not a "rule-book." It is a set of general guidelines and suggestions to help you get started. Rigorous stylistic constraints are not demanded. How you use these guidelines will be governed by your individual needs and talents, and the guidance and direction of your Teaching Committee.

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What exactly is a "Teaching Portfolio"?

The teaching portfolio has been described in a number of ways. Typically, it is a relatively short (6-8 pages) document of materials that summarize and highlight your character as a teacher. For faculty, it is a more concrete method for demonstrating te aching excellence before promotion and tenure committees. For those soon entering the job-market, it's an opportunity to set themselves apart from the typical candidate. While one can certainly provide evidence of teaching experience and skill through m ore ordinary means (i.e., a list of "Classes Taught" included in ones resume or vitae), the teaching portfolio presents this information in a more useful, clear, and compelling manner. This is one of the portfolios primary strengths, that is allows for t he integration of information from several areas, rather than relying on a single measure. It can also be that "something extra" that sets you apart from a person of similar background.

The use of the term "portfolio" in this context is not an accidental choice. Think of it as you would the portfolio of an artist or photographer, as a collection of your best work. It is an opportunity to be selective in what you choose to show, emphas izing the positive, the best examples of you best teaching practices. Your portfolio should be a showcase of examples of your achievements, as a way of highlighting your strengths as an educator. Overall, the teaching portfolio can be viewed as an "exte nded teaching resume."

More specifically, as it pertains to the program here at UNH, and to yourself as a future member of the professorate, the teaching portfolio you put together will show your growth and development as an instructor. It will demonstrate that you have had ex perience in the classroom; experiences that were guided by experienced and accomplished educators. This process of peer review, for the Teaching Fellow or tenured professor, is as much a part of the portfolio as it is a part of scholarly work.

Like many other things, a teaching portfolio will never be a wholly finished work. As long as you teach, it will remain a work in progress. Remember this, and use the portfolio to reflect upon and reevaluate your teaching strategies. In doing so, your portfolio will not only give you an initial basis from which to begin your role as an educator, but also a continuing framework upon which you can build.

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What should be included in a Teaching Portfolio?

As stated in the introduction, there are no hard and fast rules governing what you may or may not include in a teaching portfolio. However, when submitting a portfolio as one of the requirements of the UNH Future Faculty Program, for either the Cognate o r MST, we do ask that you include the following :

  • a Statement of Instructional Philosophy and Goals*
  • a Course Syllabus
  • Methods Used to Assess Student Learning*
  • Analysis of Examples of Student Work related to the objectives of the course*
  • Examples of Innovative Approaches
  • Analysis of Student Evaluations*
  • Statement of Lessons Learned*

In short, what you are trying to do is gather hard evidence of successful classroom practice.

All portfolios should begin with the Statement of Instructional Philosophy and Goals. This should be a concise and cogent expression of your beliefs, attitudes, and feelings regarding teaching. In it, you will also want to comment on your teaching goals , both long- and short-term. Much of the actual content of the portfolio should be the logical extension of the principles, beliefs, and goals you discuss. As you develop this, remember that it is the base that you are building the portfolio on. Also r emember to maintain the "readability" of this statement, as well as the portfolio as a whole.

This statement can also be used to highlight particular sections within the portfolio (e.g., "The basis of my teaching is firmly grounded in...", "For example, one can see from my syllabus the emphasis I place on..." or "On this exam, I chose to follow 'X ' approach..."). It is a place to clarify one's own reasoning and motivation behind one's teaching, while reviewing it reflectively.

Creating your portfolio will be a reflexive process as well as reflective. You will probably rewrite your statement a number of times as you fill in other sections of your portfolio. Just as the statement will define (to an extent) what you include, you will find that some of your selections will cause you to rethink your approach to teaching. I like to think of statement of philosophy as something like the abstract to a scholarly article. I prefer to write the abstract first, as a way of focusing the main points of the the paper, even though I know that in the process of writing the paper, I will be going back to reevaluate and rewrite the abstract.

The materials you include from your teaching experience will tend to vary from person-to- person and discipline-to-discipline. Much of what you select here should be done under the advisement of your committee. The headings listed above are quite genera l. Some examples of what others have used are:

  • Seminars, conferences, etc. that you have attended regarding college teaching
  • Student and peer evaluations of your teaching, both quantitative and qualitative
  • Materials from your classes, e.g. Readings, assignments, in-class exercises
  • Descriptions of efforts to improve teaching
  • Lecture notes and class/course outlines
  • Graded papers (an "A" paper and an "F" paper, annotated to show why one represents superior and the other poor work.)
  • New course designs or innovative teaching methods
  • Evidence of work with individual students; e.g. advising, research guidance, etc.
  • Items you believe may be of interest can be attached as appendices

Again, I emphasize that these are only samples from the work of others. Some have also chosen to include such things as letters from former students (unsolicited letters are preferable to solicited) or from peers, regarding their teaching, or a listing o f former students who went on to graduate programs. You might also consider incorporating evidence of student growth and development, such as lab books that demonstrate the improvement of students throughout the course. With the increasing availability and use of multi-media styles and technologies, other possibilities are on the horizon. One might think about including video footage from actual classes, labs, or discussion groups.

Your portfolio should end with a brief section on "Lessons Learned." As with the introductory statement of philosophy and goals, this should be a reflective statement regarding you experiences in the classroom. This might be a place to talk about proble ms and barriers you encountered, and how you dealt with them. On a more positive note, it is also a place to discuss how the goals, strategies and ideas behind your teaching have evolved and changed since entering the classroom.

In summary, remember that the teaching portfolio should be constructed in such a way as to be relevant to both you as an instructor and to the purposes toward which it is directed. Use it to describe your teaching strengths, to record your accomplishment s, and generally emphasize you best work. The strength of a portfolio lies in its ability to integrate many different scales of success, instead of one single measure of your accomplishments.

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References

Edgerton, Russell, Patricia Hutchings, and Kathleen Quinlan. 1992. The Teaching Portfolio: Capturing the Scholarship in Teaching. Washington, D.C.: American Association for Higher Education

George, Thomas F. 1996. The Teaching Portfolio at Washington State University. Online document. URL: http://www.wsu.edu/provost/teaching.htm

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

These resources are also extremely helpful:

Braskamp, Larry, and John Ory. 1994. Assessing Faculty Work: Enhancing Individual and Institutional Performance. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass

Cashin, William E. 1989. "Defining and Evaluating College Teaching." IDEA Paper no. 21. Manhattan, KS: Center for Faculty Evaluation and Development, Kansas State University

Centra, John A. 1993. Reflective Faculty Evaluation: Enhancing Teaching and Determining Faculty Effectiveness. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass

Millis, Barbara J. 1991. "Putting the Teaching Portfolio in Context." To Improve the Academy. No. 10. pgs. 215-229

O'neil, Carol and Alan Wright. 1992. Recording Teaching Accomplishment. Dalhousie, NS: Office of Instructional Development and Technology, Dalhousie University

Seldin, Peter. 1993. Successful Use of Teaching Portfolios. Bolton, MA: Anker Publishing

Bruce M. Shore. 1986. The Teaching Dossier: A Guide to Its Preparation and Use. Montreal, QB: Canadian Association of University Teachers

Watkins, Beverly T. 1990 "New Technique Tested to Evaluate College Teaching: Effort Uses Portfolios to Document Professor's In-Class Performance." The Chronicle of Higher Education. May 16, A15.

Zubizarreta, John. 1994. "Teaching Portfolios and the Beginning Teacher." Phi Beta Kappan. Vol. 76. No. 4 (December). pgs. 323-326

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