Teaching Portfolios

Teaching portfolios are commonly used by faculty and graduate students to demonstrate their teaching effectiveness.  In a competitive academic job market, they can be as valuable as a good resume or curriculum vitae.  On this page you will find information on how to construct a teaching portfolio from start to finish.  This information is organized according to common questions about electronic teaching portfolios.

What is a Teaching Portfolio?

The Office of Instructional Development defines a Teaching Portfolio as a "personalized collection of materials that document teaching effectiveness";  essentially, it is an argument about what makes you a good teacher, backed by evidence of your achievements.   Although there is no established format or length for teaching portfolios, some commonly found components include the following: 

  • Courses taught
  • Instructional goals
  • Samples of original instructional materials (handouts, worksheets, paper assignments, webpages, exams)
  • Samples of student work
  • Summary of student evaluations and sample comments
  • Statement of personal teaching philosophy
  • Teaching observation reports by grad students and faculty
  • Curriculum vita

These, of course, are just a few of the sections that could be included.  Above all, you should look for what sets you apart from other good teachers (not just the mediocre ones), make those claims explicit, and reflect them in the content and form of the portfolio.  Your portfolio should demonstrate, as much as possible, the characteristics and style of your teaching.   

Why would I need a teaching portfolio?

1) Getting an academic job.  If you are planning on an academic career or in the midst of one, teaching will make up at least a small part -- and for many college faculty, the most rewarding part -- of your responsibilities.  Even if you are primarily interested in research (or required to be), excellence in teaching is a good thing to be able to demonstrate to a faculty hiring or tenure committee and can help put you over the top.  The mere fact that you have compiled such a document will show that you care about teaching more than the average instructor. 

2) Getting a non-academic job.  Even if you are interested in moving on to the private sector, a good teaching portfolio can help you to secure a job.  To be an effective teacher, you are not only required to keep track of grades and know the course content, but you also must be a good leader, communicator, team player, and motivator.  These are characteristics that almost every employer wants in their employees.  What better way is there to develop these skills than to be a good teacher?  Further your teaching portfolio can go a long way towards filling in the gaps in a typically brief resume.

3) Taking stock.  In the process of sorting through your student evaluations, observation reports, and course materials, not to mention writing notes on your philosophy of teaching, you are likely to learn a great deal about your own strengths and weaknesses, as well as some ways you might work to improve.  Given this, we hope that we never actually see a finished teaching portfolio.  Hopefully, it will remain a work in progress, as you try new teaching methods, evaluate their success, and continue to work to improve.

When should I start compiling a portfolio?

Many instructors don't even think about this question until they get a request for a C.V..  You can begin the day you start to prepare for your first class -- at least by keeping on file all materials created by you, by your students (with their permission), or by your colleagues writing about your teaching.  The business faculty at Washington State University Vancouver (WSUV) have identified some important functions to consider in designing and constructing a teaching portfolios.

1. Clearly State Curricular Objectives -  Clearly state the curricular goals of each class you teach.  Make certain to explain how these goals fit into the overall curricular objectives of the program/degree.

2. Explain How Class Activities Relate to Curricular Objectives -  Explain how the course assignments and assessment instruments are designed to help students realize the course's curricular goals. 

3. Current Course Content -  Explain how course material has been modified to reflect current thinking and research. 

4. Student Reactions -  Demonstrate that students have had a positive learning experience.  Documentation should include student evaluations. 

5. Adaptability -  Discuss how you adapt your teaching efforts to reach multiple audiences (e.g.., students of different abilities related to course prerequisites) and perspectives (e.g.., different learning styles). 

6.Innovative Techniques -  Discuss your efforts to improve teaching effectiveness. 

In addition to these six functions, the WSUV faculty also encourage instructors to include feedback from peer reviews.  Their guidelines for peer review are stated below.

Peer reviews are intended to be diagnostic rather than evaluative.  However, diagnostic feedback can also provide insights into how well the instructor is performing.  In order to encourage consistency in the peer review process, the following guidelines are recommended for peer reviewers. 

  • Examine the syllabus and evaluate the appropriateness and effectiveness of the content, curricular objectives, and class activities.

  • Observe the instructor in a class setting.  Before observing the class, meet with the instructor to discuss the purpose of the peer review and identify specific aspects of teaching performance the instructor wishes to address.  After observing the class, meet with the instructor to discuss their perceptions of class activities.

  • Allow students to provide input about the instructor.  This input can be verbal (e.g.., discussion with the class), or sent via e-mail.  The reviewer may or may not limit the student feedback to the teaching issues identified by the instructor.

  • Prepare a short written report that summarizes the results of the peer review.

In addition to the above, the instructor may wish to provide the peer reviewer with informal outcome assessments including: 5 minute papers that outline the "take away" (or lack of take-away) from the class, application cards where the student explains class concepts to a different audience, one sentence summaries of what the student learned in class (who/what did what to whom/what, when, how?), or background knowledge probes.

(Quoted by permission of Joseph Cote, 1999)

So, exactly how should I start building my teaching portfolio?

You can obtain a free paper copy of the following guide from the UCLA TA Training Program in 160 Powell Library, or you can download a copy in Adobe Acrobat PDF Format:  

Dawson-Munoz, Teresa.

Creating a Teaching Portfolio Handout: A Guide for Graduate Students.

Los Angeles: UCLA Office of Instructional Development, 1994.

Download the Teaching Portfolio Guide in PDF Format 
(size = 28.84KB)

Download Acrobat Reader from Adobe

This guide will help you develop a simple three part Teaching Portfolio.  It is a great device for getting started with your portfolio.

Why an electronic teaching portfolio?

Rather than build a regular paper-based teaching portfolio, many people are choosing to create electronic versions (webpage or PDF format) of their teaching-portfolios.  There are several reasons to put your portfolio online:  

  • Access and flexibility.  You may not want to give a hard copy of your portfolio to every potential employer or reviewer -- but if they call and ask for it, it's a lot easier and faster to give them the web URL than to go through Federal Express.

  • Size. A teaching portfolio online can hold as much information as you fell is needed -- without weighing down potential employer's briefcase and overwhelming them.

  • Multiple Media.  An electronic format allows you to inexpensively include color diagrams and photos, images, audio clips, video, and links to other websites.

  • Include electronic materials.  If you have made web pages, PowerPoint presentations, or other such materials for classes, an electronic portfolio allows you to include samples.

Can you show me some examples of Electronic Teaching Portfolios?

The following list includes some examples of electronic teaching portfolios.   

Kye Hedlund, Computer Science (UNC Chapel Hill)
A simple, print-based format.

Don G.Wardell, Management (University of Utah) 
Note the use of frames to keep the menu persistent.

Mark Mullen, English (UC Irvine)
This site shows careful attention to graphics and layout.  He provides navigation through both menu links and a top navigation bar, and he includes specific discussions of teaching methodologies, commitment to diversity, and awards received.

Jeff Phillips, Physics (UC Irvine)
Includes a section on concrete "Teaching Interests" in addition to "Teaching Philosophy."

Roger McKnight, Mathematics (secondary school)
Includes an impressive lineup of letters of recommendation.  This site is carefully formatted for clarity and consistency on the web.