In today’s post, I want to highlight some considerations when planning your portfolio and share some ideas about what you should include in your portfolio. If you are part of a pre-service teacher program or if you are applying for tenure in your school, there will likely be some specific standards or artifacts that will you will need to include. The formatting and organization of your portfolio may also be more prescribed in those cases, so be sure to follow whatever directions you’ve been given.
My hope is that this list helps all teachers, regardless of your experience or position, to think more broadly about your work as an educator and that it gives you some specific ideas about how to capture and share that work with others. A well-designed teacher portfolio can be a great resource when it comes time to interviewing for a new position and it can also serve as a tool for guiding your own professional development.
- Resume – One of the most straightforward items you’ll want to include is your resume or curriculum vitae. This is a place to list some of the basics about your education and work experience, along with awards, honors, publications and presentations. Although a standard resume doesn’t typically include a many details about your teaching experiences, you may want to consider expanding yours for your portfolio to provide a more complete picture of the different classes and schools you’ve worked with.
- Teaching Philosophy – For many new teachers, writing a personal philosophy of teaching is a required part of working towards your initial licensure. In fact, for those of you who are preservice teachers, your teaching philosophy is probably still sitting somewhere in your Dropbox. A philosophy of teaching is a great way to share your personal thoughts and beliefs about education. For those of you who have been teaching a while, I encourage you to spend time reflecting on how your own mission and vision for education has changed over the years and then capture those thoughts in writing.
- Professional Learning – Most teacher evaluation systems include ongoing profession learning as a critical component, but it can be one of the most challenging to measure. As you continue developing as an educator, be sure to save records of the work that you’ve accomplished, including transcripts of classes you’ve taken after graduation, certificates of continue education (CEUs) from seminars and conferences, your annual professional development plans, and perhaps even a book log of professional readings you’ve learned from over the years.
- Lesson Plans – As teachers, we all know that lessons don’t always go as planned, but that it is absolutely essential to have a plan. Being intentional about your instruction allows you to maximize opportunities for student learning and it allows you to structure lesson activities in a way that is developmentally appropriate and culturally responsive. Including lesson plans in your portfolio will allow you to demonstrate how you incorporate standards, plan for differentiation and use assessment data to guide instruction. In addition to standalone lesson plans, you will also want to include unit plans or yearly syllabi to show how your work connects to the bigger picture.
- Student Growth Data – It’s clear that ‘data’ plays an important role in education today. Although there may be disagreements about what data should be collected and how, I think most teachers would agree that it is important to measure student learning so that we can see if our instruction is effective, and if not, how we can change. Regardless of your grade level or subject area, you can always collect baseline data and samples of student work. These data and samples, in combination with data collected after instruction, can serve as the way to measure and report student growth.
- Student Work – Numbers and grades can only do so much in communicating student learning. Student work samples can create a much more holistic view of student learning. Making copies of student work or asking students to keep some of their work as an example is a great way to build a library of exemplars that can be used not only to strengthen your portfolio, but also to support continued student learning in future years. In addition to student work, it would also be great to present some of the feedback you have given to students to support their learning. To be clear, feedback is not a number or a letter grade or a vague remark like ‘Excellent Work’. We know that effective feedback can play a significant role in student learning, so be sure to save some examples of specific, authentic feedback given to students.
- Student Engagement – In addition to data on student growth and examples of student work in class, it’s a good idea to capture feedback from students on their engagement in class. Many schools today use student surveys to gather information about how engaged students feel in your class. If your school doesn’t use student surveys or if you have questions of your own you’d like student input on, administering a quick student survey can help you celebrate what’s working well and come up with a plan for what isn’t. This can also be a great place to save and share other notes from students as well.
- Family Engagement – Communicating with parents is an important part of a teacher’s job, so it’s a good idea to dedicate some space to family engagement in your portfolio. As artifacts for this section, you may want to consider classroom newsletters, examples of family communication logs and any family surveys that you have sent out for feedback. In some districts, family surveys are a required part of the job. If you’ve never given a family survey before, I encourage you to do so. The feedback that you get from parents can help you make necessary improvements to your own family engagement plans.
- Observations – Documentation of observations, both formal and informal, can help to demonstrate your growth as an educator, especially when paired with thoughtful reflections. Observation records provide an outsider’s look at what’s going on in your classroom, along with evidence of strengths and areas that could be improved. No teacher is perfect, so don’t be afraid to share observations that show room for growth, especially when you can demonstrate through reflection and professional learning how you have continued to advance your growth towards becoming a well-rounded educator.
- References – Keep a list of references, with updated contact information and any letters of recommendation they have written for you. Much like formal observation records, these letters of reference can provide an outside look at what makes you successful and unique as a teacher.
- Grants – If you’ve explored my blog a bit, you’ll know that I’m a big fan of grants. They have helped me bring cool new ideas into my classroom and they have given me the support to continue developing as a teacher. If you’re as passionate about grant work as I am, you’ll definitely want to include some examples of grant work, including your successfully funded proposals, project descriptions and any deliverables that you’ve produced as a part of that work.
- School Involvement – Your portfolio should also include information about how you are involved in the school beyond your classroom. Do you serve on any committees? Do you coach or advise any after school programs or extracurriculars? There are countless ways that you can support the work of your school outside of your classroom, from volunteering for special events to leading teacher teams to attending student games and performances. Your involvement can help you develop stronger relationships with your students and families as well as with your colleagues and administrators.
- Community Involvement – Be sure to keep a list of the volunteer work you do in the community as well. Are you involved in any organizations outside of school? Do you participate in community events? Your community involvement can also be a great way to build relationships with your students and families.
- Technology Integration – As our schools and classrooms continue to integrate more and more technology, your portfolio can be a great place to showcase some of the work you’ve done in this area. Try to expand beyond just a boilerplate list of software programs and proficiencies. Links or screenshots of digital resources you’ve used to support learning (i.e. self-created Quizlets or Kahoots), examples of technology that transformed student demonstrations of knowledge, and copies of digital assessments can all provide strong evidence of technology integration.
- Visuals – Having some pictures of videos included in your portfolio can really help it come alive. You’ll want to keep a camera handy to capture pictures of what learning looks like in your classroom. If you’re working with a paper portfolio, considering including links to online photo albums or videos. Your pictures can include everything from candid action shots to special events like field trips to quick snapshots of your favorite bulletin boards or student assignments.
As you put your portfolio together, there are a few other considerations you may want to make. First, think of the organization of the portfolio itself. How do you want to arrange your artifacts so that it makes sense to the viewer? Adding a cover, a table of contents and section dividers can help to make your portfolio professional. The most effective portfolios are those that are constructed thoughtfully and intentionally.
To make sure that you are constructing your portfolio with intention, you may want to add an explanation or rationale for each item. Adding some reflective captions or commentary on each artifact will also make it more evident to your viewers how each artifact reflects your knowledge and skills as a teacher. Finally, don’t be afraid to collaborate. Even though creating a portfolio is a personal endeavor, our work as teachers is uniquely situated within a community of practice. Be sure to ask a colleague or mentor to look over your portfolio with you to see if it captures your strengths as an educator.
Is there anything else you think should be added to a teaching portfolio? Leave your thoughts and comments below. And don’t forget – just like an artist’s portfolio, a teaching portfolio should be a dynamic collection. As you develop as an educator, your portfolio should develop with you.