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Understanding Portfolios

Understanding Portfolios

How do you demonstrate your effectiveness as a teacher? A classroom full of engaged learners is one place to start. Unique projects with something for every learner. Creative lesson plans that help students make connections with previous learning as well as the world around them.

Unless you invite a prospective employer or evaluator into your classroom, how can show evidence of this great classroom experience you’ve created? A professional teaching portfolio enables you to capture highlights of your teaching approaches, methods, and style, and to share those examples of good practice with others. This page provides some basic steps to get you started or help you update your portfolio.

Think of your portfolio as a marketing presentation selling you and your work. A good cover letter and résumé will land you an interview, but a portfolio of actual classroom work is a must for interviews. Traditionally, portfolios are professional-looking three-ring binders measuring no more than two inches on the spine filled with plastic sleeves that contain and protect your teaching documents. Leather binders with zippers look especially professional. Whatever style of portfolio you select, make sure that it is neat and orderly, inside and out. A good portfolio is not a large notebook that bulges at the seams, but a concise collection of significant artifacts that represent your best work.

The Interview Portfolio
There are two types of portfolios: a general teaching portfolio and an interview portfolio. The single most important thing to know about portfolios is that your interview portfolio is NOT the same as the large portfolio you created to document your student teaching or teacher education program. Your interview portfolio is a small notebook, with only six to ten items. Your interview portfolio will draw pieces from your teaching portfolio that are specific to the job for which you are interviewing. Thus, you will want to start by building a teaching portfolio.

The second thing to know is that interviewers almost never say, “Show me your portfolio.” Your portfolio is a visual to use when asked a specific question. For example, when asked, “How have you communicated with parents in the past?” you would then open your portfolio and show a sample letter to parents that you wrote during your field experience or student teaching.
To build your portfolio:

Teacher portfolios become career portfolios when a job change is desired. The longer you have been teaching, the more samples you may want to add. If you are an experienced teacher or substitute teacher looking for another position, you may want to include some additional information in your portfolio.

Teacher portfolios become career portfolios when a job change is desired. The longer you have been teaching, the more samples you may want to add. If you are an experienced teacher or substitute teacher looking for another position, you may want to include some additional information in your portfolio.

Include a table of contents and only the best-of-the-best work samples in the portfolio:

1. Table of contents

2. Background information
3. Teacher artifacts


There are many times you will use your teaching portfolio. Use it in a job interview or at a job fair to demonstrate evidence of your practice. Share it as part of a licensure review. Access it to demonstrate growth in a promotion or tenure review. Refer to it as a teaching tool when you are acting as a teacher-leader or mentor to new teachers. Document your practices, continued learning, and roles in your district to record your personal and professional growth.

Career and Teacher Portfolios
Veteran teachers also use portfolios. They use them to track and showcase their work and display their professional development, which many states require. Often these portfolios are based on the Teacher Evaluation Framework being used by the school district (such as Danielson or Marzano) with samples to correlate to each part of the rubric. These can be used during evaluations and for the teacher (and a mentor) to reflect upon her practice and seek ways to improve.

With a teaching portfolio, you can


To build your portfolio,
Teacher portfolios become career portfolios when a job change is desired. The longer you have been teaching, the more samples you may want to add. If you are an experienced teacher or substitute teacher looking for another position, you may want to include some additional information in your portfolio.

Include a table of contents and only the best-of-the-best work samples in the portfolio:

1. Table of contents

2. Background information

3. Teacher artifacts
4. Professional information
There are many times you will use your teaching portfolio. Use it in a job interview or at a job fair to demonstrate evidence of your practice. Share it as part of a licensure review. Access it to demonstrate growth in a promotion or tenure review. Refer to it as a teaching tool when you are acting as a teacher-leader or mentor to new teachers. Document your practices, continued learning, and roles in your district to record your personal and professional growth.

Electronic Portfolios
Candidates increasingly are creating electronic portfolios on Web pages and CDs. Electronic portfolios are convenient, creative, current, and show potential employers the candidate’s technological aptitude. Hard-copy portfolios are still important however, because they provide testimony to your work and teaching strategies during interviews. The bound portfolio also serves as a backup in case the interviewer did not have time to review the electronic version or the disc is incompatible with the interviewer’s computer system. Portfolios developed as PDF (portable document format) files are read easily with Adobe Acrobat Reader and increase software compatibility.

Microsoft documents (2007 and later) can be saved as PDFs by simply doing a “Save as” and choosing the PDF format. Many copy machines will now scan documents and save them in PDF format, but the quality may not be as good as you would like.

Learn about developing a professional portfolio.

You also may transfer your files onto a USB (universal serial bus) drive that recruiters can simply plug into their computers to view your portfolio. USB drives are very affordable and convenient ways to carry your records with you.

A short introductory video of you talking about yourself, your pedagogy, and your philosophy of education is helpful. Even more helpful in getting an interview is a video that shows you in the classroom, engaging your students. Learn how to make both of these by watching the webcast by Anna Quinzio-Zafran called “Promote Yourself! Steps to Making a Video That Shows You As an Effective Teacher” that features video clips from the 2014 National Student Teacher of the Year Mandy Jayne Stanley. You can see Mandy Jayne’s whole video in the Videos section of the Resources Catalog.

Watch the excellent webinar Portfolios in the Job Search: Busy Work or Competitive Edge? by Deborah Snyder and Samantha Fecich, career counselor and educational technology expert, to learn how to make your digital portfolio stand out from the crowd, and gain technology tool suggestions to get you started.

Apps for Creating a Portfolio
1. Easy Portfolios
Platform: iOS
Price: $1.99
This app is very easy to use for both teachers and students. It allows you to create various classes and portfolios, while maintaining its easily navigated layout. This app allows for audio recordings, video, text, and pictures to be captured directly into the portfolio. Documents can also be imported from Dropbox.

Easy Portfolios allows the user to share items in the portfolio via email or upload to a Dropbox account. For younger students, an educator can maintain the digital portfolios for the entire class in one place. Older students can download the app themselves and maintain their own portfolio on their own device.

2. Evernote
Platform: Android and iOS
Price: Free
Evernote has become a very popular app to use for digital portfolios in classrooms. With this app you can capture photos, take notes, record audio, and make entries searchable. Other apps, such as Skitch and Penultimate, work flawlessly with this app.

3. VoiceThread
Platform: iOs
Price:Free
VoiceThread allows you to add work samples, images or video from right within the app. It accepts multiple file types. It is easy to flip through work and annotate it. Sharing work is as easy as sending an email. However, it must be kept in mind that a connection to the Internet is required while using this app.

4. Open School ePortfolio
Platform: iOS
Price: Free
for Teachers A teacher can get it for free, then use it with up to 100 students. It works as both an app and a website, where you can create classes and sections. Student profiles include goals and separate areas for teacher-directed and student-directed work. Tags can be added to work to make entries searchable.

5. Three Ring
Platform: Android and iOS
Price: Free
for Teachers This app is easy to use once it is set up. It allows you to add work samples and comments (private for the user or public for others to read). Photos and video can be captured from within the app and used to show work. Comments can be added that are.

6. Wikispaces for Education
Platform: Website Use
Price: Free
This option is entirely based on an Internet website, so it can be created and maintained by computer only. Using Wikispaces as a digital portfolio tool is similar to blogging. Education communities can be made private for free, so student work is protected. Files less than 20MB can be added.

7. Weebly
Platform: Website Use
Price: Free
This option is entirely based on an Internet website, so it can be created and maintained by computer. It is very easy to set up and to use. A Pro account is available for a fee, but Weebly is a fully functional free tool as well. Pictures, video, and text are added easily to sites, as well as a blog. There is no advertising and the site is able to be viewed and updated anywhere.

8. Google Sites
Platform: Website Use
Price: Free
It is free, has no ads, is customizable, and because it’s a Google product, it works seamlessly with Google Docs, YouTube, Google Calendar, Picasa web albums… you get the picture. A portfolio created in Google Sites is never married to a server, so long after you are no longer affiliated with a school, you can keep updating and accessing her portfolio. Sites is very simple to edit and maintain. If you want your own domain name, you can purchase it and have it redirect to your Google Sites page. For full instructions, see Showcase Your Skills with an Electronic Teaching Portfolio.

More Portfolio Help
Go to Creating a Portfolio for more information about exactly what to put in your portfolio, how to format things in your portfolio, examples of portfolios, and software you can use to create a portfolio.

You will also want to read this controversial blog.
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