The Teaching Portfolio: Documenting Scholarship in Teaching
The teaching portfolio is a comprehensive record of teaching activities and accomplishments drawn up by the university teacher.
In the past decade or more, the portfolio has become the most powerful way for teachers to document their achievements for career advancement or teaching enhancement. It goes far beyond the standard CV list of teaching responsibilities to include information about how the teacher has incorporated new approaches into teaching, used technology, linked her research to the classroom (or vice versa), learned from disappointments.
The work of Ernest Boyer has emphasized that teaching is not distinct from scholarship, too often and too narrowly interpreted as meaning only publication in refereed journals. Every teacher knows that his or her scholarship extends far beyond that contracted definition to encompass application, or community and public service; integration; professional practice; and, of course, teaching. Teaching itself is a scholarly activity, and a portfolio allows you to document that scholarship.
The Components of a Portfolio
A teaching portfolio is a document that provides a holistic view of an instructor's accomplishments. In other words, the information that it provides should honestly and comprehensively reflect your teaching activities, achievements, and approaches.
Typically, the portfolio contains the following three components, that can be explored further using the menu above:
Summary of Teaching Responsibilities
- Reflective Statement of Teaching Philosophy
- Evidence of Achievements
Summary of Teaching Responsibilities
This section of the portfolio provides the context for your teaching activities and accomplishments. You should
- examine your teaching roles, including undergraduate, graduate, clinical, and advising responsibilities;
- include all of the classes for the period to which the portfolio applies.
If your portfolio documents three years' of teaching activity and accomplishment, you should include all your teaching responsibilities for those years.
Statement of Teaching Philosophy
"All teaching portfolios will include a statement of teaching philosophy and explanation of its application."
University of Saskatchewan, Standards for Promotion and Tenure, June 2000, p. 6.
The "Reflective Statement of Teaching Philosophy" is an important element of the portfolio. Many teachers, however, find it difficult to write. It is not easy for them to reflect on and articulate what they do in the classroom and why they do it. Don't let the term "philosophy" mislead you. This very concrete section provides the foundation for your approach to teaching and the opportunity for you to introduce the evidence you have compiled. Be clear, concise and convincing. Structure your statement to demonstrate that you reflect on what you do and learn from it. Consider using headings as visible signs of organization.
Tips for writing a teaching philosophy
If you find it hard to "get started" on your teaching philosophy and goals, here are a few questions that may guide and stimulate reflection:
- Why are you compiling a teaching portfolio?
- What excites you about your discipline?
- How do you motivate students?
- Has your approach to teaching been guided by a role model?
- What kinds of activities take place in your classroom or lab?
- Why have you chosen these activities?
- What role(s) do students play in your class: audience, group members, active participants, peer teachers, co-discoverers . . .?
- Which courses do you enjoy teaching? Why?
- Do you encourage students to talk to you during/outside class? How?
- How do you give students feedback about their work?
- What have you learned from teaching?
- How has your research influenced your teaching? Your teaching influenced your research?
Evidence of Achievements
This section contains the examples and evidence that support the claims you have made in your narrative. You may include course outlines, copies of assignments, student ratings of instruction, comments from peers, original student work (with the student's permission), or copies of articles and presentations related to teaching.
Why should I compile a teaching portfolio?
Teachers may be motivated to compile their portfolios for two broad reasons: career advancement or teaching enhancement. How you select and organize the material will depend, of course, on the purpose of your portfolio.
Career advancement is the most widely known use for the portfolio.
As a job search tool, the portfolio can be used by most teachers: recent graduates seeking a first academic position or more experienced teachers, applying to other institutions.
For instructors seeking promotion or tenure, it provides an opportunity to demonstrate growth and progress through the use of exemplary material such as students' work, courses developed, committee work, unsolicited feedback about teaching, and so on.
In the salary review process, the portfolio is a way for faculty to demonstrate excellence in teaching and thus increase the probability that good teaching will be rewarded.
As a vehicle for structured reflection about teaching, the portfolio offers its most exciting opportunities to teachers. Compiling a portfolio gives you the chance to think about why you do certain things in class, to consider what worked and what didn't. It encourages you to be become more self-aware about teaching, to engage in some classroom research. It provides a means of reviewing your teaching priorities, practices, and preferences.
Can teaching portfolios improve teaching?
Portfolios can have a very positive influence on teaching enhancement. As teachers make a more conscious, intentional effort to gather a pool of information from which to draw evidence of their effectiveness, they may do a number of things to improve teaching and learning:
- read about and try new teaching techniques
- attend instructional development programs
- become involved in peer consultation
- use formative evaluation instruments with their students.