Your Teaching Portfolio: 3 Recommendations to Help You Get Started
Your thesis, dissertation, and scholarly articles show you can do research. But, what do you have that shows you can teach?
That’s why you need a teaching portfolio!
The process of creating your portfolio might seem overwhelming at first. Where do you start? What do you include? How do you organize all of this information? What type of website builder should you use? What if you don’t have any formal teaching experience yet? What if you’ve been teaching for 20 years and you can’t figure out what to focus on? And who is going to read this portfolio anyway?
There are so many questions to consider as you think about the best way to present your teaching experience and show the world who you are as a teacher and scholar. The good news is that it’s never been easier to create an online presence and you can be as creative as you want to be when it comes to telling your story.
Your teaching portfolio can be the first step in creating an overall professional “brand” that allows you to showcase your accomplishments and prepare for the next step in your career.
To help you get started, here are three recommendations to make the process a little more manageable:
Recommendation #1: Clarify the purpose of your teaching portfolio.
I have reviewed more than 1,000 teaching portfolios and teaching philosophies. I’ve worked with graduate students and postdocs who are preparing to apply for their first faculty position. I’ve reviewed portfolios for faculty who have been nominated for a teaching award. And I’ve coached professionals through the process of adapting their teaching portfolio into a “professional” portfolio to position themselves as an expert in their field.
Each of these portfolios served a different purpose. A teaching portfolio is not a “one size fits all” type of project. You need to know what your goal is so you can choose the portfolio that works best for you at this stage in your career.
What is the purpose of your portfolio at this stage in your career? Some examples to consider:
- To document your teaching experiences.
- To show professional growth and accomplishments.
- To encourage reflective practice and self-assessment.
- To provide evidence of scholarly approaches to teaching & learning.
- To position yourself as an authority/expert.
Your portfolio may have more than one purpose, and that’s okay. But, you need to know why you are creating this portfolio so you can design it in a way that moves you towards your next goal.
Recommendation #2: Know what type of teaching portfolio you need.Once you know the purpose of your teaching portfolio, you can start to think about what type of portfolio helps you tell your story and highlight your accomplishments. There are three main types of portfolios and each has a different purpose and format:
- A comprehensive portfolio showcases the breadth of your teaching experience. You can highlight the different types of courses you’ve taught (introductory courses, undergraduate courses, first-year courses, capstone courses, graduate courses, etc.). You can present the different types of institutions where you've worked (liberal arts, public, research-intensive, etc.). You can focus on the different formats of courses you've designed and taught (online, in-person, flipped, blended, hybrid, etc.).
- A course-based portfolio focuses on one specific course. This one works well if you’ve developed and taught your own course and you want to show the evolution of that course over a certain amount of time. Or, if you re-designed a course and integrated new strategies, formats, or approaches, then the course-based portfolio will allow you to dig deeper and focus on all of the details involved in designing or redesigning a course to improve student learning.
- A theme-based or project-based portfolio highlights an approach or strategy you use that may be threaded throughout every course you teach. For example, if you make an intentional effort to integrate writing and speaking throughout your courses, then you can create a teaching portfolio that examines how your syllabus, lesson plans, assignments, and assessments include the “theme” of helping students develop their writing and speaking skills.
A few examples of themes include: study abroad, flipped learning, teaching with technology, critical thinking, MOOCs, universal design for learning, or project-based learning. Sometimes these themes are embraced by a whole department, campus, or institution. If so, then be sure to highlight your work as a scholar who is helping support and advance these larger campus-wide initiatives.
Recommendation #3: Start collecting evidence…yesterday.
A teaching portfolio is not a collection of everything you’ve ever done related to teaching. It’s not your whole life story or a scrapbook of teaching materials. You should think about the teaching portfolio as an intentionally constructed resource that shows who you are as an educator.
It might be helpful to think of your teaching portfolio as a scholarly research project about your teaching. You are presenting an argument to show you are an effective and engaging teacher who knows how students learn.
If you are presenting an argument, then that means you need data or evidence to support your claims. Your teaching portfolio should include three types of evidence:
Materials from yourself. These are teaching artifacts that you create. Examples: syllabus, assignment, grading rubric, scholarly articles you wrote about teaching, videos of your teaching, etc.
Materials from your students. These are artifacts that are student-created or offer the perspective of students in your classes. Examples: research papers, thank you notes from students or alumni, trends in test scores, end-of-course evaluations, etc.
- Materials from others. These are artifacts provided by other colleagues or professionals within or outside of your discipline. Examples: classroom observations conducted by your department head, a colleague, or a director of a teaching center; feedback on a presentation you were invited to lead; letters of recommendation; etc.
It’s never too early to start collecting evidence. The best strategy is to create a plan so you can gather all three types of evidence. Then you can select the evidence that best supports your purpose, teaching philosophy, and future goal. Everything in your portfolio shouldn’t just be evidence you created. You need balance.
The process of creating your teaching portfolio doesn’t have to be overwhelming. When you clarify your purpose, decide which type of portfolio you need, and create a plan for collecting evidence, you are well on your way to creating your portfolio and showing the world what an awesome teacher you are!
To start creating your teaching portfolio, enroll in my new online course "Create Your Teaching Portfolio in 5 Steps."
Whether you're applying for your first job, preparing for reappointment, or considering a change in careers, this online course will help you document your teaching experiences and demonstrate your effectiveness as a teacher and scholar.