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Lesson 1: Overview of the Portfolio Process

What is a Professional Portfolio?

Teaching/learning/service portfolios are both a product and a process. As a product, teaching or service portfolios are a collection of materials that document one’s teaching or service philosophy, methods and practices. It is a written compilation of an instructor or service provider’s significant accomplishments. Portfolios are often used as a means of presenting information for job searches and professional enhancement (e.g., promotion and tenure decisions or applying for teaching awards.)

But portfolios are also a process or means of professional development. The process of developing a teaching/learning/service portfolio is an effective means for professionals to reflect upon, describe, and document their teaching/learning/service goals and achievements. It’s an approach to improving teaching, learning, and service by reflecting on what’s working, what isn’t, and what might be changed.

What is typically included in a portfolio?

Generally, portfolios consist of two major sections. The first section is a six to eight page narrative written by the teacher or service provider. In the narrative, the person describes their...

  • teaching/learning/service responsibilities.
  • teaching or service philosophy.
  • methods used in teaching or providing service.
  • plans for improvement.

The second major section is the appendix. This part contains evidence that supports and demonstrates what is said in the narrative (e.g., syllabi, handouts, assignments, student feedback, etc.)

Are there any general guidelines?

Yes, there are some things to keep in mind as you go through the process. First, be clear and concise in your reflective comments. Most portfolios use present tense, exclude jargon, and use statements which reflect the writer’s beliefs (i.e., “I think students learn best….”, or “I believe working collaboratively….”). Try not to make claims about your teaching or service that you can't document or demonstrate. Be selective in gathering evidence and documentation. Including all of your teaching and service material will make your portfolio too cumbersome. Finally, view your portfolio as a work in progress, by emphasizing development and improvement. Periodically reassess its contents to be sure it is current and clearly represents your teaching/learning/service philosophy.


Lessons: Index, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

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