While the mantra of “publish or perish” still holds true in America’s universities, more and more institutions of higher education are placing a premium on excellence in teaching, curriculum design, and classroom management. Seldin, Miller, and Seldin (2010) attribute this paradigm shift to escalating tuition costs, shifting notions of technology’s proper place in the academy, and shrinking departmental operating budgets. No matter the cause, Teaching Fellows who plan on finding full time academic employment upon graduation must be prepared for this change in the marketplace. The most effective way to demonstrate your pedagogical aptitude is by constructing a detailed and extensive teaching portfolio.
So what is a teaching portfolio? Let’s begin with what it is not. A teaching “portfolio is not a scrapbook,” or haphazardly assembled file of lesson plans and syllabi (Wyatt and Looper, 2004). Instead, it is a living assembly of artifacts that speak to your accomplishments, strengths, and learning as they relate to your teaching. An instructor uses a teaching portfolio as a centralized receptacle for evidence of her excellence and growth in teaching. Consequently, building a truly effective portfolio takes time in the since that it must contain artifacts (lesson plans, syllabi, notes from professional development seminars, letters of thanks, etc.) from various stages of your development as a teacher. If you wait to construct a portfolio until you near the end of your degree, the final product will be woefully limited in scope and inadequate for demonstrating your ability to grow as a teacher. To that end, the following is a dynamic, yet manageable plan for constructing a detailed portfolio
This month-by-month guide prompts you to make one entry in your teaching portfolio for each month in the academic year. This ensures that your portfolio will cover a wide range of time while simultaneously limiting the extra burden of an additional project. Most entries consist of an artifact and a reflection. Completing the reflection for each artifact is a crucial step in the development of the portfolio process; do not overlook them. The reflection acts as a justification, showing the reviewer what the artifact itself demonstrates. This is particularly true of the Personal Development Plan (PDP) for the SPOT teaching evaluations. These reflections are your opportunity to showcase your abilities and skill as a teacher and learner. (See the below rubric for judging the strength of your reflections)
In addition to the listed artifacts, you may also include anything that speaks to your ability as a teacher, scholar, and collegial member of the department. For example, you may consider including any “UNT Thank a Teacher” notices you receive, letters of thanks from the department or writing program for your service on a particular project, business cards of professional contacts, and the like. Also, do not think that once you have constructed a portfolio you can metaphorically rest on your laurels. On the contrary, a truly excellent teaching portfolio consists of several years’ worth of artifacts that demonstrate your trajectory as a teacher. Even if you have begun, continue strong by adding to your portfolio to keep it fresh and alive. As always, if you have any questions or want any help, simply send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and we can set up a time to meet.
|Month||Artifact/Activity||Detailed Instructions and Critical Reflection Prompt|
|September||Syllabus||Place a digital or physical copy of your syllabus in the teaching portfolio. Compose a critical reflection that details how the syllabus demonstrates your ability to meet programmatic goals while still capitalizing on your talents, experience, and research.|
|October||Professional Development Event||Attend a professional development event and write a detailed reflection covering the content of the event, as well as how you can use said content in your own career/ research. While there are plenty of professional development opportunities on campus, you can be sure that any events hosed by the Medieval and Renaissance Colloquia, the American Studies Colloquia, the First Year Writing Program, and the Toulouse Graduate School will be exceptional. Be sure to connect with any new contacts made at the event (thank you card, LinkedIn, etc.)|
|November||Unique Classroom Activity||Select an exceptional lesson you taught this semester and include a detailed lesson plan in your portfolio. Write a critical reflection that outlines the reasons for the lesson’s success and how it met programmatic goals in a unique way.|
|December||Teaching Philosophy||Create a teaching philosophy that can be used for departmental awards, job applications, and professional development opportunities. While first and second year Teaching Fellows should focus specifically on composition, older TFs may want to write a teaching philosophy tailored to their specific area of expertise. (literature or creative writing) Additionally, teaching philosophies are living documents. Even if you already have one, take this opportunity to give it a “tune-up.” Remember, specificity is the key to a good teaching philosophy. Do not just tell us you are a good teacher, show us examples of that good teaching in action.|
|January||Fall Spot Evaluation and Personal Development Plan||Retain a copy of your SPOT evaluations and create a personal development plan that addresses at least three strengths and three areas of potential growth. Feel free to use the Personal Development Plan (PDP) template provided. |
|February||Classroom Observations||Observe other writing program instructors as they teach 1310 or 1320. Use the provided form to help guide your observation. Teaching Fellows nearing the end of their course work may want to observe one of their committee members teaching an upper level undergraduate courses. This will help with the transition to teaching upper-division courses. To help you write a more effective observation report, see the following document on classroom communication patterns. This hand-out will give you the language you need to describe what you observe.|
|March||Curriculum Vitae||Take time to update your CV. Because UNT English Department scholarship applications are typically due around the middle of the month, you can double dip on this artifact. Be sure that you do not wait to work on this, so that you will not miss the deadline.|
|April||Conference Presentation||Present at Critical Voices or another conference this semester. For your reflection, keep a list of people you connected with at the conference and be sure that you connect with them via Twitter, LinkedIn or letter.|
|May||Summative Reflection for the Year||Write a reflection on your growth as an instructor this year. How did you change? Grow? What new techniques are you taking into next fall?|
Timothy M. Ponce, PhD
Teaching, Scholarship, Community