If you are an educator in the job search, then you need to develop a teaching portfolio that will help you stand out as a candidate. This guide will cover the various aspects that your portfolio should cover, as well as give plenty of examples to help you decide which materials will best showcase your strengths.
Teaching Portfolio Formats: Digital or Print?
One of the first questions many teachers have about portfolios is whether they should be developed using digital methods (such as on a website) or with printed materials in the form of a physical binder that might include documents, images, and sample assignments.
The answer is both. The reason is that different potential employers may ask for a portfolio in either form, so it is important to have an up to date version of both formats.
Note that printed formats have a relatively standardized breakdown which usually include the following elements:
- Table of contents
- Teaching philosophy (or teaching statement)
- Degrees, certifications, awards
- Letters of recommendation (usually three)
- Supplemental/evidentiary documents
On the other hand, digital teaching portfolios, often hosted on online platforms such as WordPress, Weebly, or Google Suite, offer a bit more room in terms of how to best strut your stuff. This format offers a major advantage: video. However, it is very important to make sure you organize your materials in a way that will still make it easy for your potential employers to find the basic required elements detailed above.
What Is the Purpose of a Teaching Portfolio?
Whether you teach in the elementary, secondary, or collegiate context, a teaching portfolio allows you to provide evidence of your effectiveness in the classroom as well as your ability to embody a modern teaching philosophy. In addition to showcasing your qualifications to a potential employer, a teaching portfolio that is kept up to date allows you to look back over time, reflect on your teaching practices, and annotate your professional development.
In the context of a job search, your portfolio should back up the claims you have made in your cover letter and resume. That is, it should provide evidence of the very strengths you have made central to your candidacy for any given job. In addition, each sample that you provide should be consistent with your overall teaching philosophy.
For example, if student guided learning is an important pillar of your teaching style, then your teaching portfolio might include video of students delivering a lecture and guiding a discussion on a topic that they chose and researched themselves.
Before you begin to assemble your portfolio or customize it for your job search, start by getting clear on what you want to communicate as the key aspects of your candidacy, and make sure you choose elements that will best showcase them. These are the key objectives of your portfolio.
What Should Go in a Teaching Portfolio?
Think of each element of your teaching portfolio as a piece of evidence. Ask yourself, “What is this element going to communicate to other educators during the hiring process?”
Let’s take a closer look at the main areas your portfolio should cover, and the types of evidence you can use to showcase your strengths to potential employers.
One of the required elements of most teaching portfolios is a teaching statement detailing your overall teaching philosophy. Note that this statement can also include a narrative that provides context for how the other elements in your portfolio demonstrate how you embody this philosophy as you develop your curriculum, put together lesson plans, manage your classroom, or create assignments, exams, and other metrics for student learning.
A requirement for strong teaching is the ability to respond to larger (state or university level) policy on curriculum standards, while utilizing effective strategies in the classroom that capture your teaching philosophy in practice. There are a variety of ways to demonstrate your awareness of both as well as the skills to bridge these two critical priorities in education.
- Syllabi and course descriptions to show your ability to interpret standards and develop an appropriate curriculum.
- Samples of student work that include your grading and feedback.
- Lesson plans that showcase awareness of state defined learning objectives and effective use of classroom time.
- Sample assignments, student work, reading lists, lecture notes, and handouts used in the classroom.
Although it is not required in a teaching portfolio, including some examples of your mastery of integrating classroom technology in meaningful ways can provide a strong competitive edge during your job search as a teacher.
- Lesson plans that include integrating technology in a way that enhances learning.
- Descriptions of assignments that incorporate technology.
- Examples of multimedia student work along with grading and feedback.
- Sample of an online lecture using whiteboard or social media to showcase remote student participation.
Evidence of Student Learning
If you are a teacher in the public school system, you already know that student performance plays a critical role in school funding, and thus, impacts hiring decisions. Thus, one of the most important elements of your teaching portfolio is to demonstrate that your methods add up to improved student outcomes.
- Before and after instruction student scores on standardized testing.
- Exemplary student work such as essays, lab work, special projects, or presentations.
- Feedback on papers and exams demonstrating your commitment to student learning.
- Progress reports and evaluations from previous administrators on your teaching effectiveness.
- Letters of recommendation that document your successful efforts to reach your students.
- Aggregated standardized score improvements documented over your career, showing that you have continuously responded to learning outcomes to improve your teaching relative to results.
- Peer evaluations from other teachers or administrators who sat in on your classes.
Promoting an Inclusive Learning Environment
One of the administrative priorities in the current educational climate is the ability to meet a diverse set of learner needs. This diversity can take on a variety of dimensions including race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation as well as learning styles, ability levels, and socioeconomic status. Being able to show that you are able to create an inclusive classroom can be an important consideration in hiring decisions.
- Lesson plans that integrate a multicultural perspective such as readings written by people from different backgrounds or drawing attention to social justice issues.
- Interdisciplinary approach that includes perspectives from scholars from different academic disciplines.
- Written policies or student contracts that emphasize strategies for inclusive classroom discussion.
- Student evaluations that comment on the positive learning environment in your classroom.
Beyond the Classroom
Whether you teach at a university or a public school, you will be expected to take on responsibilities outside of the classroom. This institutional service can take on a variety of forms including supervising or developing extracurricular programs, administrative service such as sitting on hiring committees, or collaborating on identifying and securing grants to fund community engagement projects.
The portfolio can be a place to show evidence of your institutional service to let your future employer know that you are motivated to contribute to the overall scholastic environment.
- Student impact letters that describe how participating in an activity that you organized helped them to integrate classroom learning and community service.
- List of administrative service along with a description of the responsibilities and skills used in each role.
- Images or video from an art installation, fundraising event, or science fair that you played an important role in organizing.
- Press releases or new items describing one of the projects you and your students engaged in.
Contributions to the Profession
If you are new to teaching, then you may not be able to include this section in your portfolio. However, as you advance in your career, it is important to connect with professional organizations dedicated to teaching so that you can keep up with modern teaching practices, learning theories, and tools. Demonstrating evidence of your participation in these groups can be important for landing advanced teaching jobs.
- Lists of publications, papers and presentations, and attendance at national education conferences.
- Service on committees or administrative billets for professional organizations.
- Textbook development or review work.
- Standing on the school board or participating in state level curriculum and development committees devoted to setting standardized learning objectives.
- Examples from your teaching blog or participation in online teaching forums where you discussed recent trends in education, pedagogy, and/or share practical techniques with other educators.
Continuous Teaching Portfolio Development
Now that you have developed your first teaching portfolio, you should have a better sense for what you are able to document well, and where your portfolio could use some additional development. In addition, the materials that you have included for this job will likely be out of date when you are ready to seek a new job in 10 years.
So, the key is to make sure that you set aside some time each year as you plan your lessons, during the semester, and as you look back on what you have done in the classroom. Ideally, you should try to be continuously adding to your teaching portfolio so that it will be easy to select the best types of evidence for your next career move in education.