Tips and Guidelines for Creating and Organizing a Strong Effective Teaching Portfolio
During my college and teaching career, I created three teaching portfolios: one for undergraduate student teaching (elementary education), one for my standard teaching license, and one for my graduate student teaching in special education. Although I am certainly not an expert on this subject, there's a lot that I learned along the way that helped me create strong portfolios. It can be frustrating to put so much time into a project that won't necessarily help you a lot with the day to day planning and implementation in your classroom. However, a strong portfolio can be a valuable asset at a job interview. It is not essential that you have one for an interview, but I have used mine at a handful of interviews. Once you have done the initial work to create a portfolio, it does not take a lot of work to update it periodically.
Tip: If you're lucky enough like I was to be working on two portfolios at the same time, you'll most likely be able to use some of your artifacts for both portfolios!
The Collection Process
- Start collecting artifacts. Any time you make or find something that you think could make an artifact, save it. Start a binder or a folder for potential artifacts and put everything in there. Don’t spend a lot of time thinking about the specific standard or criterion that the artifact will fit. You’ll put everything together later. If you can’t put an artifact (i.e. a science lesson set up, a teaching tool with Velcro) into a binder, take a picture of it. You can print photos as you go or start a folder on your computer with items that you plan to print later.
- Review. Periodically review the standards or criteria for your portfolio. Think about what holes you are missing. You may need to review what you’ve collected thus far to find your holes, but more than likely any huge gaps will jump out at you. Don’t stress about filling the gaps in immediately. Just keep these missing standards in mind as you continue teaching so that you can address them when possible.
- One more thing to keep in mind. Check with the person or committee who will be evaluating your portfolio to see if you can use the some artifacts for multiple standards. I was able to do this with both my standard teaching license and graduate student teaching portfolios. If you’re planning a lesson and thinking that different aspects of it will fit different standards but can’t decide where it would be best to put it, you may not have to choose.
Putting It All Together
- Final standards. A month or so before the portfolio is done, start reviewing the artifacts that you’ve collected. You’ll probably be surprised how much you already have. Sort the artifacts by standards or criteria. Most likely you will still have a couple missing pieces. There are always a couple things that are hard to cover. Reevaluate if any existing artifacts will fit. If not, you still have enough time to find artifacts that will.
- Organization for your binder. A few simple details will give your portfolio a professional look. I've outlined my organization suggestions below.
Cover and Inside Cover Page
Make sure that you follow any guidelines given for the information that you need to include on your cover.
Create a tab for each standard or criterion. I’ve shown pictures of the tabs that I used for my standard license portfolio (with Standard [Number] tabs) and my graduate portfolio (standards with names).
For each artifact I included, I created a page with the standard and a short explanation of the artifact. Your portfolio guidelines may suggest otherwise, but all of the portfolios that I’ve created have stressed SHORT explanations. I’ve never written one that’s more than 2 sentences long.
Hole punching is sufficient for most artifacts. You can put all pages into plastic sleeves, but most likely this is not necessary. Again, check your guidelines, but I’ve never had to do this. I pasted my photos on cardstock and then laminated or covered them with contact paper. I only put booklets or handouts that were not easy to punch into sleeves. I've included one example above of a Velcro lesson material that I photocopied for my portfolio.
Teacher Portfolio Preparation
How I’ve had to present my portfolios have varied quite a bit. I presented my student teaching portfolio to two of my professors. I had to dress up and spend 10-15 minutes discussing all of my artifacts. Then they had 10-15 minutes to ask me questions and give feedback. My standard teaching license portfolio presentation was very informal. My principal looked through it with me for 10 minutes and signed the appropriate paperwork. I actually didn’t have to present my graduate portfolio. My student teaching adviser looked through it on her own time and then gave me feedback. My best advice with the presentation is to find out what is expected ahead of time and make sure that you’re prepared for that situation.
Great Books With Teaching Portfolio Tips
Are you looking for a teaching job? Check out these great resources!
- Selling Yourself: Creating the Ultimate Teaching/Interview Portfolio
- How to Get a Teaching Job in Education: Tips for College and the Job Search Process
Are you looking for a teaching job or will be looking in the near future? This article is aimed at students getting their first post high school degree with little or no work experience. However, it has tips that apply to all professionals.
- Interview Questions for a Special Ed Teacher
This article is a collection of sample interview questions and answers for special education teachers. It also contains a number of tips and considerations for the interview.