Constructing a Teaching Portfolio

On this page

  1. What goes into a teaching portfolio:
    1. A summary of your teaching roles and responsibilities
    2. A teaching statement, which includes a brief discussion of your teaching goals, methods, and strategies
    3. Evidence of effective teaching
  2. Shaping the Final Portfolio
  3. References

A teaching portfolio is a coherent set of materials that represents your teaching practice as related to student learning.

Begin your portfolio with a brief description of your teaching roles and responsibilities and other non-classroom teaching activities. Any activity that enriches student learning, such as tutoring, advising undergraduate students, or mentoring undergraduate researchers is appropriate to include in a teaching portfolio.

The remainder of your teaching portfolio will be structured around the teaching statement, a coherent description of your goals for student learning. Essentially, the teaching statement summarizes your teaching experiences and provides detailed examples of your classroom practices.

For every "claim" about your teaching made in the teaching statement, evidence of effective teaching must be provided. Items in this section should be strategically linked to your goals for teaching and learning as described in your teaching statement.

When constructing the portfolio be concise and selective. Decide how and in what order to present the data you've gathered from students, colleagues, and yourself. Consider the perspective of your audience and what type of evidence they will find convincing. The goal is to select, organize, and present the data in a way that brings the most compelling evidence into focus for your readers. Each piece of evidence should serve a purpose and support a claim you have made about your teaching.

Teaching portfolios vary considerably depending on their specific purpose, audience, institutional and disciplinary context, and individual needs. However, the body of a portfolio is generally about 5-8 pages long and is followed by appendices, which usually make up about 8-15 more pages.


Teaching Roles and Responsibilities

Briefly describe the courses you are teaching or have taught in the recent past, including the number of credit hours, whether the course was required or elective, the number of students, and whether they were graduate or undergraduate. Teaching activities outside the classroom, such as advising undergraduate students, supervising students engaged in undergraduate research, and otherwise mentoring students also are important to include. By describing your teaching roles and responsibilities, you provide a context for the reader and set the stage for the main points you'll be making about your teaching.

If you haven't taught much and don't have a collection of course materials from which you can choose, provide a list of three to five courses you anticipate teaching with a brief paragraph of each describing the nature of the course, your objectives for student learning, and perhaps some of the readings or assignments you would use. Don't worry about being too exact or stress over whether you'd actually teach the course the way you described. You won't be held to these descriptions. The goal is to convey your overall approach to teaching and the processes you'd use to design an intro course or a seminar in your discipline.


Teaching Statement

Simply put, your teaching statement is a concise description (no more than a page) of the central ideas behind your teaching. When writing your teaching statement, make clear why, how, and what you teach. It should be one to two pages in length. It is not an article on teaching and learning but rather a statement that describes your teaching experiences and explains your teaching practices. Keep in mind potential readers and the questions they're likely to have as they read your statement. Here are four components of your teaching that you'll want to address in your teaching statement:

  1. Your goals for student learning. What do you want students to be able to do or learn? Do you want students to learn the fundamental concepts, develop life-long learning skills or problem-solving strategies? What should they be able to do after they've taken a class from you? You can speak to a specific course or talk more generally about student learning. Do you have different goals for freshmen, for majors or non-majors?
  2. The methods you use to achieve these goals. What teaching strategies do you use and why? How do you actively involve students in their own learning? You should be able to connect learning theory and curriculum design, give examples of specific strategies or learning exercises, discuss group work or collaborative learning techniques, and propose new ideas you have for teaching in your area. You might discuss how different learning environments or students' learning styles influence your teaching.
  3. The methods you use to assess student learning. How do you know students are learning what you want them to learn? How do you assess and evaluate student learning (and your teaching)? What evidence do you have? How do your assessment methods relate to student learning and your stated learning objectives? How do you use student evaluations to inform your teaching?
  4. Your plans for developing or improving your teaching. Why is teaching important to you? What do you get out of it? How do you assess your teaching?

Evidence of Effective Teaching

Most institutions will request some "evidence of effective teaching" as part of the application package. Although there are numerous ways you can document effective teaching, end-of-semester student evaluations are the most common source.

When selecting, organizing, and presenting your student evaluations, synthesize the numeric (quantitative). Again, the goal is to connect the "evidence" to the claims you've made about your teaching. A matrix format is an efficient way to represent your student evaluations for one course over several semesters (in most cases, there's no need to go beyond 5 years). Describe the scale (i.e. if the scale is 1-5, state whether 5 is "excellent" or "poor"), provide mean ratings, include the course name(s) and the number of students in the class as well as the number of students responding to the survey. Representing the data using a matrix format helps the reader chart improvement and provides a quick overview of your teaching strengths.

If the student evaluation form allows students to write additional comments, include selected comments to support the numeric data. You can summarize student comments by category or you may choose to select 4-6 items from the evaluation form that can be linked to your goals for student learning (as described in your teaching statement) and include representative student comments that support these items. Stay away from "personality" indicators (she's cool, he's nice). Instead, choose items that relate directly to your goals for teaching and student learning (i.e., grades hard, is fair, uses lots of explanations to help us understand, is accessible, organized, etc.)

It's important to let your reader know that these are "representative" comments; as a caveat you might note that all evaluations are available "upon request." Keep copies of your teaching evaluations. Once student evaluations are available to you, make a copy of the raw data and the summary sheets and file them away by semester.

If your student evaluations are not available to you at the end of the semester, make sure you ask your department secretary for a copy.

Other evidence of effective teaching might include:

  • Mid-term feedback (for example, TABS)
  • Sample course syllabi, homework assignments, and/or exams
  • Samples of completed student work (with their permission)
  • Methods used to evaluate/improve teaching

Shaping the Final Portfolio

Even if the portfolio is for your own developmental purposes, formally organizing it can help make it easier to use for later reflections. If your portfolio is to be evaluated by others, the following organizational material can make the portfolio easier for your readers to follow:

  • Title page and table of contents
  • Headings and subheadings that clearly identify and separate the portfolio's components
  • In the body of the portfolio, references to material in the appendix, where appropriate
  • Brief explanatory statements accompanying each item in the appendix, where appropriate (What is the item's context, purpose, or relationship to what you have said in the body of your portfolio?)

The portfolio is a living collection of documents and materials, which change over time depending on your teaching experiences. As you progress through your academic career, new items will be added, while other items will be discarded. Once each year, when you update the research and service sections of your curriculum vita, do the same for the teaching portfolio. It's useful to collect key materials and store them in electronic format (scan items if you need to) and store them in "folders" marked Teaching, Research, and Service.


References and Key Readings

Teaching Portfolios Introduction and Overview, Australian Catholic University

Developing a Teaching Portfolio, The Ohio State University

Edgerton, R., Hutchings, P., & Quinlan, K. (1991). The teaching portfolio: Capturing the scholarship of teaching. Washington, DC: American Association for Higher Education.

Kaplan, M. (1998). The teaching portfolio. CRLT Occasional Paper No. 11, 1-8.
Lang, J. & Bain, K. (1997). Recasting the teaching portfolio. The Teaching Professor, 11(10), 1.

Seldin, P. (1997). The Teaching Portfolio (2nd ed.). Bolton, MA: Anker Publishing, Inc. Wiedmer, T. (1998). Portfolios: A means for documenting professional development. Journal of Staff, Program, & Organization Development, 16(1), 21-37.

Seldin, Peter. The Teaching Portfolio: A Practical Guide to Improved Performance and Promotion/Tenure Decisions, 2nd ed. Bolton, MA: Anker (1997)

Chism, Nancy Van Note. "Developing a Philosophy of Teaching Statement." Essays on Teaching Excellence: Toward the Best in the Academy 9.3 (1997-98).