The Academic Portfolio

An academic portfolio is a thoughtful, organized, and selective collection of documents that illustrate what you've accomplished in terms of research, teaching, and service. An easy way to keep things organized is to maintain a digital folder with sub-folders of supporting documentation. The three major areas of academic work you’ll want to address in your academic portfolio include:
  • Teaching and/or educational development
  • Scholarship and research
  • Service activities (your contributions to the university and to your discipline)

Portfolios are highly-individualized; your portfolio will look very different from your colleagues. It’s also likely that you’ll emphasize some areas over others, depending on the purpose for creating the portfolio (job search, promotion and tenure) and your career stage. An effective portfolio includes both documentation and reflection.

Documenting Your Research, Scholarship or Creative Activities

Much of the content of an academic portfolio will come from your everyday work as a graduate student (for example, teaching or mentoring undergraduate students or conference presentations). The most efficient way to develop a portfolio is collect examples of your work at the end of every semester. In other words, start collecting evidence now.

Teaching

  • Teaching activities.  Keep examples of lesson plans or the materials that you use in your teaching, such as handouts, overhead transparencies, and other learning resources that you devise or adapt. The key is to be selective.
  • Student feedback.  Include examples of mid-semester and end-of- semester feedback/evaluation questionnaires completed by students, along with your own analysis of the overall findings from the feedback.  Include reflective comments about changes that you’ve made, or will make, as a result of feedback from students. Use a matrix to represent your student evaluations. Include a legend identifying the appropriate scale. Make it easy for the reader to analyze and interpret.
  • Feedback to students. Photocopies of graded papers or exams, showing how you give students feedback on their written work, provide important evidence of your teaching and demonstrate how your provide students written feedback on their progress and performance.
  • Assessments of student learning. Include examples of tests and exercises that you prepared for students. Link the content of each assessment and/or exercises to your intended learning outcomes as expressed in your syllabus.
  • Peer feedback. Peer evaluation by your TA supervisor, graduate chair or other TAs is particularly valuable evidence of teaching. Make good use of any observation opportunities provided.  You may include examples of videotapings of actual teaching sessions but remember:  the goal is to be highly selective!  A good portfolio includes many kinds of evidence, but only a few examples of each kind.
  • Mentoring, supervision, or tutoring of undergraduate researchers. If you’ve supervised or mentored undergraduates with their research projects, document the processes and results of your work together. If you and your student(s) have presented the research in a poster session or conference presentation, include a photocopy of the conference program. Think broadly about your definition of teaching and include any documentation of these activities in your portfolio.

Research

  • Scholarly publications or contributions. Include a representative selection of your research writing. 
  • Grants and awards. Keep an updated list and description of the most significant grants awarded.  Be sure to include accurate dates and amount of award.  You may include external letters documenting the award.
  • Contributions to interdisciplinary research. Include any reflective comments about how these activities have contributed to the your career and research goals.
  • Collaborations. Include evidence relating to collaborative work with other graduate students or faculty, demonstrating how well you can work with colleagues.

Service

  • Leadership experiences.  Such evidence might include participation and/or active leadership in department, campus, disciplinary and/or professional committees. For example, if you made a participated on a campus committee that drafted a report, your contributions should be documented (either by a letter from the committee chair or a copy of the draft report). Special awards and other types of recognition should be included. Presentations or workshops to groups outside the university—related to your research or teaching activities—along with appropriate evaluations would also document your service. 

 Final Notes for Documenting Your Work

  • Keep electronic copies.
  • File your evidence systematically. Sort your documentation according to the particular sections of your academic portfolio into which the evidence will go.
  • Be selective.