Teaching Portfolio Basics
What is a Teaching Portfolio?
A teaching portfolio is a selective collection of items that work together to demonstrate your commitment to teaching in your academic discipline. They provide a record of your core beliefs about teaching, your previous and current teaching experiences, and your reflective process. Overall, they exhibit evidence of your teaching effectiveness. As such, they are frequently used for both the academic hiring process and for support during the tenure and promotion process.
While research statements document your disciplinary expertise, the teaching portfolio documents your expertise in teaching. The portfolio will necessarily be both forward- and backward-looking, with examples drawn from courses you have taught or assisted in and with thought towards courses that you will prepare to teach in the future.
While it is important if you are on the academic job market to present to search committees a version of your portfolio that is well-organized, clear, polished, and tailored to the specific position, consider your portfolio as a work-in-progress that you will continue to revise throughout your academic career.
Overall, a teaching portfolio is a useful tool that can help you:
• Develop and refine your teaching philosophy, methods, and approaches
• Present teaching credentials for hiring and promotion in an academic position
• Document professional development in teaching
• Reflect on your teaching and identify areas for improvement
When Should You Create a Teaching Portfolio?
Ideally, you can begin amassing documents for your teaching portfolio as soon as you begin teaching, or as soon as you begin participating in professional development activities related to pedagogy. Even before you set foot in the classroom as an instructor, you can begin to think about the goals that you’ll have for your students, which will guide your decision making as an instructor.
Reading articles and attending workshops on teaching will help you identify current issues and potential approaches, as well as provide inspiration for reflecting on your teaching and building your portfolio. As you become an experienced instructor, you will continue to refine your approach to teaching and revise your portfolio accordingly.
Assistance with Building or Revising Your Portfolio
We are happy to read and provide feedback on teaching portfolios for those associated with WashU. Faculty, postdocs, and graduate students can schedule in-person or virtual consultations.
Components of a Teaching Portfolio
The teaching portfolio is in some ways like other job market documents in that there are a few components that would be expected to appear in nearly every portfolio. However, unlike some of other job market materials, your portfolio will also likely to include some elements which are unique to you and your experiences in teaching. What follows is then both a basic outline of likely-to-be-included components and a necessarily incomplete list of potential further items to include in your portfolio.
Keep in mind as you are collecting items for your portfolio that each individual component should work together to tell a cohesive narrative about who you are as a teacher. A critical goal in any portfolio is to communicate a few key strengths and main areas of expertise. Further, when possible, reflect on an aspect or two of your teaching that is a work in progress. Frame these skills as those which you are still developing and refining. Throughout, it is critical to be authentic to who you are as a teacher as possible.
Key Components of the Teaching Portfolio
Key components that are most likely to appear in a teaching portfolio include:
- Table of contents: A simple, navigable list of what is to follow.
- Teaching philosophy statement: a concise and specific essay describing your core teaching approach. Think of this as the “thesis statement” for what follows in your portfolio.
- List of courses taught: This might include more detail that you have room for in your CV, including course title, date, number of students, demographics of students (e.g. first-year students, non-majors.), and a short description of the course and/or course goals.
- Teaching evaluations: Evaluations of teaching ideally come from a variety of sources: students, faculty, peers and colleagues, and/or The Teaching Center. Evaluations can include more than just university sanctioned evaluations (e.g. informal midterm evaluations). These should include both quantitative and qualitative measures, if possible. They need not be comprehensive, instead summarize your evaluations for your readers. 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. Relatedly, regardless of what kinds of evaluations you are using, it is critical to provide some contextualization with your evaluations—what is it that you want your reader to see in looking at your teaching evaluations? What sorts of narratives arise from patterns present in how others think about your teaching?
- Artifacts/appendices: This is the section that is most flexible in a teaching portfolio and the one that is most individualized. The provided artifacts or appendices help illustrate and reinforce the teaching record as described in the rest of the portfolio. It’s critical again to provide context for the artifacts that you provide. More artifacts are not necessarily better—choose the 3-5 items that best highlight your teaching. Frequently used artifacts include:
- Sample syllabi of courses taught or planned
- Assignments, assessments, units, or activities that you’ve developed
- Sample student work (with or without your comments)
- Course handouts
- Letters of support from students
- Links to course website/wiki/online materials that support your documents
- Other Potential Components
While in most instances not compulsory, a number of other components may appear in a teaching portfolio as well. These include:
- Statement of diversity and inclusion
- List of professional development in teaching activities and descriptions (e.g. workshops you’ve taken, professional development programs you’ve completed)
- Description of program and/or curriculum development activities
- Evidence of scholarship of teaching and learning (e.g. articles on teaching that you’ve published, presentations on teaching that you’ve given)
- Teaching video
- Description of teaching awards or recognition
- Teaching development plan that highlights your teaching goals past, present, and future
Shaping Content with an Audience in Mind
The key to creating an effective portfolio is to shape both content and format for a specific audience. It is essential that you anticipate and speak to the concerns of the academic search committee or tenure and promotion committee. Try to anticipate the questions that others would want your portfolio to answer.
If you are applying for academic jobs, consult the job advertisement and the website 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. 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. Consider compiling a “master portfolio,” then culling materials from the “master portfolio” to create a portfolio that is tailored for the specific position to which you are applying. Keep in mind the type of position and the specific teaching responsibilities that you would expect to fulfill in that position.
How Can You Improve Your Teaching Portfolio?
• Show the portfolio to faculty members and peers whose opinions you trust.
• Seek additional guidance from our team by requesting a consultation (note that this service is available to anyone who is affiliated with WashU).
• Keep an ongoing collection of teaching materials and evaluations.
• Periodically organize your materials and curate the best examples for inclusion in the version of the portfolio you share with search committees.
• Address areas that you can improve now, as well as those you want to address
Creating a Digital Teaching Portfolio
While paper-based teaching portfolios are most frequently requested as part of job market materials, many academics are now choosing to produce electronic teaching portfolios, frequently as part of a personal website. There are a number of benefits, as well as challenges associated with creating digital portfolios.
Benefits of Digital Portfolios
There are many beneficial elements of creating a digital teaching portfolio. First, it allows you to include multimedia materials (videos, interactive materials, etc.) that can showcase your teaching in a different way than using only paper documents. Similarly, an electronic portfolio would also allow you to link to a number of outside sources and to insert links directly between elements of the portfolio (e.g. a link to an assignment on a syllabus embedded in comments from a teaching evaluation). Building a professional-looking digital portfolio also signifies that you are a savvy technology user.
There are some potential drawbacks of creating a digital portfolio. Chiefly, digital portfolios can be quite time consuming to produce if one is new to building websites. Further, even after building a digital portfolio, you may have some job ads that request a paper/PDF copy anyway. Finally, while it is true that you can include more materials in a digital portfolio, it can also be hard to edit yourself and very easy to include too much.
“Documenting Teaching Effectiveness.” University Center for the Advancement of Teaching. The Ohio State University. https://ucat.osu.edu/professional-development/teaching-portfolio/feedback/
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.
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. 5th ed. Philadelphia: U Pennsylvania P, 2016.
Digital Teaching Portfolio: