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Teaching Portfolios: A Tool For Telling Your Teaching Story

Instructor shares ideas on a whiteboard with post-its
Participants worked in teams to generate new knowledge and plans to address the environmental challenges facing the American West, Allison Corona photo.

Each one of us is unique as an instructor; we bring different strengths, interests, and approaches to our teaching. And while a teaching portfolio can be a useful tool for evaluative purposes (e.g., annual review, tenure and promotion decisions), it is also a way to showcase what makes you unique – and effective – as a teacher. Your portfolio should include both evidence of your effectiveness as a teacher as well as a narrative which describes that evidence. It will also likely include a teaching philosophy statement which provides an overview of your approach to teaching.  

Why create a portfolio?

According to the Vanderbilt University Teaching Portfolios guide, creating a teaching portfolio is a useful part of our reflective practice around teaching. While constructing the portfolio, we can identify our strengths as teachers as well as areas for improvement. If we regularly update our portfolios, we can both monitor and record our growth as a teacher. Additionally, an outward-facing teaching portfolio creates a more public view of teaching as a scholarly activity. 

Effective teaching

Our portfolio should document the ways in which we are effective teachers, but what constitutes effective teaching? There are multiple frameworks one might use to define effective teaching including FATE: A Framework for Assessing Teaching Effectiveness. In this framework, effective teaching includes four practices: 

  • Course Design: Designs course materials in alignment with course learning outcomes 
  • Scholarly Teaching: Implements evidence-based practices 
  • Learner-Centered Teaching: Uses a learner-centered approach 
  • Reflective Teaching: Practices reflective teaching to drive continuous improvement of teaching

Although the specific framework is flexible, it is helpful to have some framework or definition for effective teaching in mind when creating your portfolio so that you can build a portfolio that demonstrates the breadth and depth of your teaching work. 

Evidence of effective teaching

A compelling teaching portfolio includes evidence in support of our teaching practices. The evidence should include multiple measures from multiple perspectives. These perspectives include those of a peer, your students, and your own; this essay on evidence of teaching effectiveness summarizes the types of instruments and procedures that apply to the various perspectives. In terms of the evidence itself, you might incorporate the following: course materials (e.g., syllabus, summative assessments, course design table, lesson plans), teaching-related scholarship, learning products developed (e.g., courseware, videos, case studies), student/instructor communication, peer observation, student outcomes, course evaluations, student focus groups, reflections on any aspects of teaching, teaching log, teaching practice inventories, and more. 

When you create your portfolio with a specific definition of effective teaching in mind, it is easier to choose what evidence to include in the portfolio because the teaching behaviors you want to highlight are well-defined.  

Your teaching narrative

As is the case with student portfolios, the contents of the portfolio don’t stand on their own but need an accompanying narrative to ensure their impact. The narrative is your chance to describe your teaching practice as supported by the evidence.  If you’re building your portfolio with a specific framework for effective teaching in mind, then the narrative is where you’ll explain how your practice is aligned with those described in the framework. Your narrative might be where you highlight how your teaching has grown or changed as well as the reasoning behind your approaches. The narrative need not be extensive but it is essential to helping your reader see who you are as a teacher. 

Building a portfolio

Creating a portfolio in a digital world makes it easier to embed your evidence (or at least hyperlinks to your evidence) directly within the narrative, making for an easier reading experience. Although not as visually appealing as some other approaches, it can be straightforward to create a teaching portfolio in Google docs where the evidence is linked with the narrative. To improve the aesthetics of the portfolio a bit, platforms such as Google sites (or other build-your-own web platforms) can be useful. 

In summary, a teaching portfolio is a useful tool for telling your own teaching story and showcasing your teaching skills, practices, and beliefs. Your teaching portfolio is built around evidence of your teaching effectiveness and is supported by a narrative which helps the reader see who you are as a teacher. A portfolio that is updated regularly can be a useful part of your reflective teaching practice, as well as a practical tool for telling your teaching story to others 


Written by:

Dr. Megan Frary

Senior Educational Development Consultant, Boise State Center for Teaching and Learning

Clinical Associate Professor, Micron School of Materials Science and Engineering