Institute of Teaching and Learning

Professional Development for Teaching and Learning

Teaching portfolio

What is a Teaching Portfolio?

They are:

  1. selective and structured collections of information about a teacher's practice
  2. gathered for specific purposes and showing/evidencing one's accomplishments
  3. in the context of one's teaching philosophy/ethos.

Fundamentally, a teaching portfolio should demonstrate your beliefs about a vision of teaching and learning by providing evidence of your practice and your reflection on that practice stimulating, as appropriate, new or revised approaches.

Why do it?

While individuals have their own reasons for keep a teaching portfolio, among the most common reasons cited are:

  • To become a more effective teacher (and hence improve learning) as the process of compiling the portfolio provides a structure and opportunity for self-reflection and discussions with others that is based on documented episodes of teaching.
  • To understand more fully the complexities of teaching and learning by close observation over a reasonable period of time and across a range of settings.
  • For credentialing for promotion and employment.

What should you try to do?

  • Be very clear about the purpose(s) and audience(s) and ensure everything contributes meaningfully through judicious selection and argument.
  • Have a broad-based collection of material from which to draw - this requires consistent gathering of data and regular reviewing to organise the material and control its size.
  • Use that material in a purposeful and structured way.
  • Show development over time and across contexts.
  • Reveal reflection and how this has led to growth.

What should you try to avoid?

  • Providing an exhibition with the temptation for glossy presentation and showmanship.
  • Providing a detailed resume where achievements are listed and experiences are described but there is no direct evidence of the substance or the quality and no explicit links to your teaching ethos.
  • Providing a scrapbook of things that have value and appeal for you but, because it is not organised in any coherent or conceptual fashion, its message is often impossible for others to interpret and evaluate.
  • Piling up material without spending time revising, sorting, culling and, above all, thinking about it.
  • Including large amounts of unprocessed student feedback, particularly unprocessed quantitatively-based student survey forms.
  • Misrepresenting by being unfairly selective: i.e. providing isolated examples of best work that are remote from normal practice or focusing at the extremes of triumphs and disasters.
  • Trivialising it by documenting things that are too basic and obvious to warrant reflection.
  • Getting so involved that the task becomes unduly onerous to complete and is a chore rather than a stimulus.
  • Leaving it until close to the set deadline and, as well as finding it difficult to complete because of other priorities, finding that you don't have the necessary information from earlier in the year to draw on and you are unable to capture development.

What can be included?

While you will often be instructed to present the portfolio under specific headers, you should include anything that seems useful for you in the initial collection. Some commonly suggested items are:

  • Formal evaluations
  • Teaching artefacts (eg tutorial plans, extracts from course materials)
  • Learning artefacts (eg student writing samples and examples of feedback/assessment)
  • Descriptions of classroom interaction
  • Photographs and illustrations
  • Letters of recommendation (solicited and unsolicited)

Remember that these items should be contextualised by a statement of your philosophy/values and an overview of your teaching responsibilities and methods. They serve as illustration/evidence and need to be integrated into a portfolio that is organised to meet a specific purpose(s).

Suggested contents of a teaching portfolio
Readings and references on teaching portfolios

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1st December 2010