A “teaching portfolio” is a compilation of information about a faculty member’s teaching, made by that faculty member, often for use in consideration for tenure or promotion. It is not, in itself, an instrument for teaching evaluation, but a vehicle for presenting information which may include results of evaluations and which may itself contribute to evaluation. It can therefore be selective, emphasizing the positive, to serve as a showcase for the faculty member’s achievements in teaching, not necessarily a comprehensive or balanced picture of everything.
Purposes for the teaching portfolio include: provision of data for personnel decisions, including tenure and promotion; supplying data for aggregate information that might be communicated to, for example, legislative bodies; support of cases for internal or external awards; and, perhaps most importantly, provision to the faculty member of special and significant opportunities for reflection about his or her teaching. There are other possibilities.
The format and uses of the portfolio will naturally vary from one part of the university or discipline to another. The outline that follows is meant to be an adaptable template, which can be modified for individual units or even individual faculty members.
Nevertheless, there should be a degree of uniformity. The original impetus for proposing the portfolio at WSU was the fact that personnel documents from different units described teaching activities in such varied ways that often it was difficult, if not impossible, to use them fairly or to obtain useful aggregate results. Some guidance seemed in order.
The problem is, and will surely continue to be, to strike a good balance between comparability and flexibility.
In departments where something like a teaching portfolio is already used, adaptation to the format proposed here should be straightforward. Faculty members near the beginnings of their teaching careers should find it especially easy to assemble portfolios. Once started, the portfolio can be routinely updated. In no case should the development of a teaching portfolio be a burden that consumes an excessive amount of a faculty member’s time; nor should reading one be a daunting task.
Typically, the teaching portfolio is expected to be not more than five pages long and should present information under headings selected appropriately from those listed below (and perhaps others) and organized in much the same way. Some faculty members may attach complementary information in the form of appendices or exhibits, but these are not always essential and should be used, if at all, in moderation.
The outline that follows can therefore be regarded as a menu from which faculty members (or departments, or colleges) can select items to include in teaching portfolios to fit their particular circumstances.
The “Outline of a Teaching Portfolio” that now follows is self-contained and can be considered and used separately from the rest of this document.
A compact but thoughtful statement about the faculty member’s intentions and aspirations in teaching, especially for the near future.
Examples: Preferred principles for good teaching; plans of action for improvement, curricular projects, publications, presentations, etc. Platitudes and vacuous generalities should be avoided.
This might be a good place to mention obstacles the faculty member has encountered, such as inadequate facilities, inadequate library resources, excessive class size, etc.
(The topics listed below reflect a broad concept of teaching. Others might be added.)
- Percentage of appointment devoted to teaching, if stipulated.
- Courses recently and currently taught, with credit hours and enrollments. When instructional duties for a course are shared, those of the faculty member should be described or at least represented by a percentage. Attachment of typical syllabi as exhibits may be appropriate.
- Work with individual students. Examples: Guidance of independent study or undergraduate or graduate research; direction of theses; supervision of postdocs.
- Advising. Examples: Advising for the Center for Advising and Career Development (CACD), advising of majors, advising students competing for prestigious scholarships or for admission to graduate or professional programs. Advising students in one’s own classes specifically about those classes does not belong here. Include approximate numbers of students advised, etc.
- Instructional innovations. Innovation and major efforts to improve teaching should receive appropriate consideration when evaluating teaching accomplishments. Examples: Novel use of instructional technology; development of collaborative arrangements outside the unit and/or university; adoption of such methods as collaborative learning, use of case studies, etc.
- Extraordinary efforts with special groups of students. Examples: Exceptionally able students; members of underrepresented groups or groups facing special challenges (women in mathematics, men in nursing, returning students, physically impaired students).
- Use of research in teaching. Examples: Modification of syllabi, laboratory experiments, reading lists, etc., in light of one’s own research; involvement of students in one’s own research; special activities for helping students to develop creative and critical thinking skills for use in their research.
- Out-of-class evaluation activities. Examples: Participation in assessment of educational outcomes, such as end-of-program assessment; participation in conducting examinations for advanced degrees; screening students for scholarships and other distinctions.
- Service on WSU or other committees concerned mainly with instruction. Examples: Service on the Faculty Senate Academic Affairs Committee, and college and department committees of the same general kind.
- Learning more about teaching. Examples: Programs of systematic reading in the literature on teaching; attending short courses and professional conferences concerned with teaching; leading or participating in faculty seminars concerned with teaching issues.
- Projects and potential projects requiring non-state funding. Teaching-centered grants received and grant proposals under consideration. When other faculty members are involved, the role of the faculty member who is reporting should be made clear.
The “Evaluation” section in a portfolio should consist chiefly of summaries of data from whatever methods for evaluating teaching are used–not only evaluation by students. The data themselves may be attached in exhibits or offered as available on request. Some faculty members may wish to include explanations or rejoinders for evaluations which they believe to be potentially misleading.
- Student evaluations. Examples: Results of student questionnaires; interviews of students; the one-minute essay and other forms of “classroom research.” Teaching evaluations should be provided whenever possible.
- Measures of student learning. Direct evidence of the extent and quality of learning by the faculty member’s students, e.g. performance on appropriate standardized tests.
- Peer evaluation. Reports from respected colleagues who have visited classes, examined instructional materials, talked with the faculty member, etc. (these are particularly helpful). Letters from colleagues may also be useful.
- Letters from students, alumni, and employers of alumni. Solicited letters, e.g. from former students, are not likely to carry the credibility of unsolicited statements.
- Teaching awards. Something should be said about the character of the awards if the names are not self-explanatory.
- Other evaluations.
- Student successes. Examples: Noteworthy achievements of students (in awards, admissions to graduate school, employment, other accomplishments), for which the faculty member claims a significant part of the credit.
- Instructional materials. Examples: Textbooks, workbooks, manuals, visual aids, software, etc.
- Contributions to the scholarship of teaching. “The scholarship of teaching” treats teaching itself (especially in one’s discipline) as a subject of scholarly discourse. Results may include oral presentations, papers in appropriate journals, etc. (In items 2 and 3, data about publications should be presented in some standard style).
- Other results, Appendix, or exhibits. These may include: detailed information (syllabi, student evaluation forms, reports of peer evaluations, grade distributions, etc.) about specific courses and other teaching activities; copies of materials listed under Results, bullet 2; preprints or offprints of items listed under Results, bullet 3; etc.