Teaching Portfolios: Who Needs One?

Updated:  July 17, 2013

Since starting my work as a Faculty Advisor for secondary pre-service teachers, I have learned something that surprises me.  Elementary teachers are often required to develop a teaching portfolio, yet secondary teachers are not required to create one.  Often the secondary student teachers go ahead and develop one, but it is their own choice; it is not an assignment in any of the courses they take, nor is it included in their practicum requirements.  Both programs require student teachers to complete a series of reflections, but these reflections are not a part of the portfolio package.

    In an attempt to understand what might be different between the two areas of teacher education, I decided to look at the typical contents of a teaching portfolio.  Some impressive examples can be found on the McGill University site:

The most common items found in a teaching portfolio are:  

  • A philosophy of teaching
  • Sample Lesson Plans
  • Sample Unit Plans
  • Classroom Management Philosophy
  • Evaluations of Teaching
  • Honors or Recognitions

Other categories of portfolio contents could be:

Roles and Responsibilties:   This category could include a list of courses taught with topics or themes that were covered during the practicum. Brief descriptions of class size and make-up could be added with anecdotes of challenges faced.

Representative Course Materials:  This section could contain a course outline with details of content and objectives.  Lists of texts and extra readings that are useful to course content could be kept here.  Methods and procedures for evaluating students would be helpful with examples of exams, quizzes or other samples of assessment strategies.

Descriptions of Teaching Experiences:  This section could be ‘rich’ with meaningful records of peak moments of the practicum.  Personal notes or letters from students, fellow teachers or administrators can speak volumes about teaching ability and this section allows  these keepsakes to be showcased.  Video clips of teaching or interviewing students could also be housed in this section.

Professional Development:  Much learning can occur during a Pro-D day, workshop or webinar.  This informal learning won’t show up on a resume, so it is advantageous to point out this learning in the portfolio.  Any participation or membership in teaching associations could be highlighted here as well.  This indicates a commitment to personal professional development which is necessary for teachers of all levels.

As I look over this list, I cannot see much difference between elementary or secondary teaching portfolio contents.  What I can see, once again, is that all teachers could benefit from developing a portfolio and the process would deliver rewards for many years to come.

Update:  There are many online guides to creating a teaching portfolio us1ng wordpress.com.

This site by Edwige Simon from Colorado  shows you how to create a teaching portfolio – step by step.  It even includes a printable handout. Thank you Edwige!

There are many great examples out there, I could add links all day.  Here is one last but lovely example by Amy Burghardt of Regina, Sask.



About kbarnstable

Educational Leader
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2 Responses to Teaching Portfolios: Who Needs One?

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Teaching Portfolios: Who Needs One? | Stable Transitions -- Topsy.com

  2. Ray Tolley says:

    Hi, Karen,

    I agree with all you say, but perhaps would add one other point, that of collaborative learning. I feel that the ePortfolio is the best place to exhibit peer-review, mentoring, feedback including polls or Likart Scales, and discussions. In fact anything that demonstrates a lively mind and an ability to learn from others.

    In terms of Secondary teachers, and I’ve been in Secondary education for all of my career, I wonder if there is a different mindset whereby the Elementary teacher is looking more at ‘the whole child’ – and this same mindset is appropriate for the ePortfolio. In contrast, the Secondary teacher may be more detached from the child and more focussed on the ‘subject’ and thus does not see the relevance of recording only a small part of the child’s whole learning experience – particularly if different teachers have different perceptions of the same child!

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