Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Week 3: The Teaching Portfolio

With last week’s discussion of ethics and professionalism in teaching, this week we discussed the set of resources known as the teaching portfolio. We spoke about everything from what a teaching portfolio is, to why it’s important, what it contains, and how it can and should be tailored to suit the needs of specific institutions.

So: What is a teaching portfolio?

A teaching portfolio is a collection of documents related to your teaching, culled from a variety of sources (not just student ratings!). This collection, focusing on a diverse range of teaching materials, includes both the documents themselves as well as brief descriptions of the documents in order to provide broader context to what’s included.

Why is a teaching portfolio important?

There are lots of reasons! Some of the ones we discussed included:

·         Portfolios provide documented evidence of teaching that help provide job application readers with a better sense of your skills and accomplishments as a teacher – in short, they help to humanize you within the confines of a process (the job search) that often seems to do the opposite.
·         The process of selecting and organizing material for a portfolio can help one reflect on and improve one’s teaching.
·         Portfolios are a step toward a more public, professional view of teaching as a scholarly activity.
·         Portfolios can offer a look at development over time, helping one see teaching as on ongoing process of inquiry, experimentation, and reflection.
·         Teaching portfolios capture evidence of one’s entire teaching career, in contrast to what are called course portfolios that capture evidence related to a single course.

Also key to note in these processes is that teaching portfolios can serve many purposes:

·         Job applicants for faculty positions can use teaching portfolios to document their teaching effectiveness.
·         Faculty members up for promotion or tenure can also use teaching portfolios to document their teaching effectiveness.
·         Faculty members and teaching assistants can use teaching portfolios to reflect on and refine their teaching skills and philosophies.
·         Faculty members and teaching assistants can use teaching portfolios, particularly ones shared online, to “go public” with their teaching to invite comments from their peers and to share teaching successes so that their peers can build on them.

What goes into a teaching portfolio?

The specifics can vary, but generally speaking, a portfolio includes the following basic components:

·         Title page
·         Table of contents (or menu if your portfolio is electronic)
·         Introduction or summary of portfolio contents
·         Sections, with brief summaries of content for each section
·         Most important: a summary that reflects on evaluations and how you have used them to improve your teaching effectiveness

In terms of what material is included in your main sections, the possibilities are nearly endless! We reviewed the following list, taken from Vanderbilt’s teaching resources center (link to page provided below):

1.       Your Thoughts About Teaching
·         A reflective “teaching statement” describing your personal teaching philosophy, strategies, and objectives.  
·         A personal statement describing your teaching goals for the next few years
2.       Documentation of Your Teaching
·         A list of courses taught and/or TAed, with enrollments and a description of your responsibilities
·         Number of advisees, graduate and undergraduate
·         Syllabi
·         Course descriptions with details of content, objectives, methods, and procedures for evaluating student learning
·         Reading lists
·         Assignments
·         Exams and quizzes, graded and ungraded
·         Handouts, problem sets, lecture outlines
·         Descriptions and examples of visual materials used
·         Descriptions of uses of computers and other technology in teaching
·         Videotapes of your teaching
3.       Teaching Effectiveness
·         Summarized student evaluations of teaching, including response rate and relationship to departmental average
·         Written comments from students on class evaluations
·         Comments from a peer observer or a colleague teaching the same course
·         Statements from colleagues in the department or elsewhere, regarding the preparation of students for advanced work
·         Letters from students, preferably unsolicited
·         Letters from course head, division head or chairperson
·         Statements from alumni
4.       Materials Demonstrating Student Learning
·         Scores on standardized or other tests, before and after instruction
·         Students’ lab books or other workbooks
·         Students’ papers, essays, or creative works
·         Graded work from the best and poorest students, with teacher’s feedback to students
·         Instructor’s written feedback on student work
5.       Activities to Improve Instruction
·         Participation in seminars or professional meetings on teaching
·         Design of new courses
·         Design of interdisciplinary or collaborative courses or teaching projects
·         Use of new methods of teaching, assessing learning, grading
·         Preparation of a textbook, lab manual, courseware, etc.
·         Description of instructional improvement projects developed or carried out
6.       Contributions to the Teaching Profession and/or Your Institution
·         Publications in teaching journals
·         Papers delivered on teaching
·         Reviews of forthcoming textbooks
·         Service on teaching committees
·         Assistance to colleagues on teaching matters
·         Work on curriculum revision or development
7.       Honors, Awards, or Recognitions
·         Teaching awards from department, college, or university
·         Teaching awards from profession
·         Invitations based on teaching reputation to consult, give workshops, write articles, etc.
·         Requests for advice on teaching by committees or other organized groups

Regardless of where you are in the graduate school process, we all agreed that it’s never to early to start compiling your portfolio! This makes it much easier to tailor your portfolio to specific institutions when the time comes. To that end, consider compiling a “master portfolio” in a three-ring binder, file-folder system, or online, then culling materials from the “master portfolio” to create a portfolio that is tailored for a specific position to which you are applying. Keep in mind the type of position (e.g., teaching “load,” tenure expectations) and the specific teaching responsibilities that you would expect to fulfill in that position. Rather than including a random selection of syllabi for courses you are prepared to teach, for example, if you are applying for a position at a large university, you might include three syllabi: one for an introductory undergraduate course, one for an advanced undergraduate course, and one for a graduate-level course. If you are applying for a position at a small, liberal-arts college, you might include syllabi for a required, introductory lecture course or laboratory, a course for “non-majors,” and a more advanced seminar.

Thankfully, there are many, many resources designed to help people put together a compelling and effective teaching portfolio. Some of the best are included below – please consult them for more information, or contact the CEE for a free consultation!

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