Assembling a Teaching Portfolio

The idea of a teaching portfolio is relatively new and clear conventions about format have not yet emerged. The basic elements should include:

  1. a table of contents (cover sheet);
  2. a full list of courses taught (with brief descriptions);
  3. a statement of your teaching philosophy (1-2 pages);
  4. selected syllabuses (to represent the range of your teaching and/or to ‘model’ a course you’d like to teach);
  5. sample assignments (perhaps with some examples of student responses);
  6. some evidence of teaching effectiveness: student (and peer/supervisor) evaluations, comment sheets, an impressive student paper (and its earlier draft).

Some portfolios will include plans for future courses or changes in pedagogy. Some will provide a video tape. (For the shorter version of the portfolio, you can go light on the sample syllabuses, and perhaps exclude the student evaluations, but always collect your student evaluations in case you are asked during the job search to produce them.)

As with the CV, presentation matters: a neat, well-labeled, attractive portfolio will be easier to process than a sheaf of miscellaneous forms and papers. Keep it as short as is reasonable; you don’t want to overload the readers and turn what should be informative into a burden.

You may want to think about portfolios in two sizes: a shorter version (5-6 pages) that can be sent with your initial application to those places that specifically request teaching materials. (DO NOT send it unless it has been requested!) A longer version (perhaps 20-25 pages total) for those places who (in their job announcement or later) ask for extensive sample teaching materials. (These requests usually come at later stages of the search: at, or after, the interview or campus visit.)

The best portfolios are those that have been assembled over time, as you have been actively engaged in the teaching of your classes. Don’t wait till the last minute; some of the materials you might want will be unavailable: you will have lost the assignment you used or forgotten what changes you thought about making in the course syllabus or you won’t have a copy of that student’s paper you would like to include.  (Make sure that you request permission from students to include their work!)

Statement of Teaching Philosophy

This is probably the most difficult part of the folio to produce, but it may be as important as any other part of your application since many places now explicitly ask for this in their job announcements. Instead of expanding your application letter, provide a separate sheet that sets this forth; include it in the portfolio, but also consider it as a stand-alone sheet to include in those applications where such a statement is asked for.

We all have some sort of teaching philosophy (even if it’s not yet been made explicit); we have answers to questions about what we expect of our students and how we think we should get it. But abstracting a reasonable statement of that "philosophy" from our classroom practice and experience is difficult, and it’s even more difficult to avoid doing it without producing platitudes ("collaborative learning," "clearly articulated expectations," "critical thinking," "active learning," "transparent grading criteria"…).

So, be concrete and exemplary. Focusing on a model course and/or model assignments will allow you to define the context of your teaching and the nature of your classroom activities. Use a few concrete examples to illustrate your ‘philosophy’ and give it substance and practical immediacy. This will show that you have not only taught, but have thought about teaching, and about becoming a better teacher.