Creating a Portfolio

How do you demonstrate your effectiveness as a teacher? One place to start is with a classroom full of engaged learners. But how can you show evidence of this classroom experience? A professional teaching portfolio enables you to capture highlights of your teaching approaches, methods, and style, and then share those examples of good practice with others.

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. A good portfolio is a concise collection of significant artifacts that represent your best work.

Two types of portfolios will help you in your teaching career: an interview portfolio and a general teaching portfolio.

Interview Portfolios
The interview portfolio will contain approximately six to ten items. It will draw pieces from your teaching portfolio that are specific to the job for which you are interviewing. Therefore, start by building a teaching portfolio, which will grow along with your level of experience.

One thing to realize is that interviewers probably won’t request that you show them your portfolio. It is a visual aid to use when asked a specific question. For example, if you are asked how you’ve communicated with parents in the past, you can open your portfolio and show them a sample letter you’ve written to parents during your student teaching or field experience.

To build your portfolio:
  • Collect material throughout the year and organize it as you go.
  • Include examples that demonstrate different aspects of your practice.
  • Focus on quality, not quantity.
  • Style it to be readable and engaging.
  • Use friendly but professional introduction and parts pages.
  • Invite a friend or colleague to review it before you share it with an evaluator or prospective employer.

The longer you’ve been teaching, the more samples you may want to add.

Contents of Your Portfolio
The items in your portfolio should be as unique as you and your experiences are. Hard-copy portfolios are professional-looking three-ring binders measuring no more than 2 inches on the spine filled with plastic sleeves that contain and protect your teaching documents. Leather binders with zippers look especially professional.

Your documents and work samples can vary significantly from those of a colleague. A sampling of the items below can comprise your interview portfolio, depending on the job you are seeking. Draw from this comprehensive list of documents to provide evidence of your qualifications and accomplishments when heading off to a job fair or interview:

  • Résumé and cover letter for this specific position.
  • References and letters of recommendation. Or, you may state that references are available upon request.
  • Copies of any teacher certifications, professional licenses, certificates, transcripts, military records, awards, and other pertinent documentation to display your skills, leadership, professionalism, and achievements.
  • Your philosophy of teaching or key beliefs about teaching.
  • One to three successful lesson plans or a sample syllabus and samples of students’ work.
  • Any case studies illustrating a challenge you’ve faced, the solution you devised, and the steps you took to resolve the issue. They can be a powerful demonstration of your problem-solving and critical-thinking abilities.
  • Sample letter to parents about the beginning of the school year or semester.
  • List of rules, consequences, and positives that you’ve used in the classroom.
  • Photos of a bulletin board or learning center you created, or photos of students engaged in activities you organized.
  • Proof of membership in a professional organization, such as Kappa Delta Pi—also, a list of conventions, conferences or seminars you’ve attended, especially if you participated in some capacity (e.g., as a speaker).
  • List of community service, volunteer opportunities, or pro bono efforts to which you’ve contributed. Photographs and other documents can provide further evidence of your dedication to hard work and service. IF hobbies relate to the job you seek (e.g., working with children), you can include items that illustrate your talents. If you’re in doubt about this, leave the material out.
  • Publicity you’ve received for your work (e.g., news articles, press releases) and unsolicited letters of commendation from employers, vendors, or other organizations.
  • Letter noting a special achievement or volunteer activity, or a thank-you letter from a student or parent.

Career and Teacher Portfolios
Veteran teachers also use portfolios to track and showcase their work and display their professional development, which many states require. 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:
  • Share your teaching philosophy
  • State your teaching goals
  • Showcase your teaching ability
  • Organize aspects of your teaching practice
  • Demonstrate your growth as a teacher
  • Demonstrate the quality of your lessons
  • Reflect on and articulate your practice
  • Share your personal teaching style
  • Show evidence of your teaching goals

Organizing Your Portfolio
This general outline can guide you in placing your items in the portfolio:
1. Table of contents

2. Background information

a. Résumé
b. State certification
c. Transcripts
d. Key beliefs

3. Teacher artifacts

a. Lesson plans
b. Unit outlines
c. Projects
d. Pictures
e. Videotapes
f. Student work samples
g. Extracurricular interests
h. Class newsletters
i. Examples of collaboration/teaming

4. Professional information

a. List of professional activities
b. Awards and achievements
c. Letters of recommendation
d. Ongoing professional development
e. Evaluations

You will use your teaching portfolio in many instances: job interview or at a job fair, as part of a licensure review, to demonstrate growth in a promotion or tenure review, as a teaching tool, and when mentoring new teachers. Document your practices, continued learning, and roles in your district to record your personal and professional growth.

Electronic Portfolios
Most teaching portfolios today are e-portfolios, which use an app or software platform. This is valuable since many colleges require videos of yourself teaching and managing your class during your student teaching or internship. Include your videos, résumé, and letters of recommendation, then continue by adding examples of a unit you designed and taught, communications with parents, and more.

Microsoft documents can be saved as PDFs, and you also may transfer your files onto a USB drive that recruiters can simply plug into their computers to view your portfolio.

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.

E-portfolios are convenient, creative, and current, and they 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.

Learn about developing a professional portfolio at http://teachingcenter.wustl.edu/creating-teaching-portfolio

Portfolio Examples
The Gallery of Teaching & Learning from the Carnegie Foundation provides digital representations of knowledge related to teaching and learning. Check out several:
Kathleen Fischer
Stéphanie Ladner
Kelly Tam
Monica Östergren
Megan Carnaghi

Tips for Polishing Your Professional Portfolio
A portfolio can be a useful way to demonstrate proficiency within your area of study or professional expertise.

Whatever style of portfolio you select, make sure that it is neat and orderly, inside and out.

Whether it’s online or in a leather case, your portfolio reflects you. Plan it carefully, organize it thoughtfully, make it look as sharp as possible and, more than likely, you’ll leave potential employers with a positive impression!