How to Create a Teaching Portfolio

Happy African American elementary teacher aiming at school kid to answer her question.
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A teaching portfolio is a comprehensive physical or digital set of beliefs, curriculum materials, and outside evaluations that exemplify an instructor’s growth and experience. In addition to conventional measures of success, such as standardized test scores, average course grade, and observation feedback, an teaching portfolio provides a holistic view of your philosophy and strengths as a teacher. It is an important tool for both current and aspiring teachers.

Pro Tip

Be sure to highlight only lessons and resources you have completely and solely created yourself, do not include adapted or shared resources.

Purpose of a Teaching Portfolio

Building and maintaining a teaching portfolio requires careful consideration; it’s much more enlightening than a resume and can showcase a greater variety of skills. A terrific teaching portfolio can help a candidate stand out from the pack--whether applying for a new position or a professional development/certification program, an applicant with a robust portfolio will likely be given more attention.

Not only is a teaching portfolio useful when conveying accomplishments to others, but it’s an important reflective exercise for instructors too. Stepping back to document progress throughout your instructional experience is essential for professional growth. The process of creating a teaching portfolio provides a thorough template for regimented personal reflection (and its respective documentation).

What to Include in a Teaching Portfolio

While it may seem an intimidating task, creating your teaching portfolio doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Set aside time each week to pull necessary artifacts, or refine existing documents. If you focus on completing one category each month, you can have an assembled, professional teaching portfolio by the end of a single semester. At minimum, include artifacts from each of the five categories below.

Teaching Philosophy

Begin your teaching portfolio with a teaching philosophy: a strong statement addressing how and why you teach. A teaching philosophy outlines your core beliefs about teaching and learning, and should be formatted as a 1-2 page essay. Consider how your personal educational beliefs compare to traditional ones, like progressivism and essentialism. Expound upon what you believe to be true of learners and the classroom itself, and don't hesitate to include specific examples, such as:

  • Is your grading scale responsive?
  • Are your classroom norms particularly inclusive?
  • Do you teach outside of Bloom’s Taxonomy?
  • Are you teaching transferable skills through your content?

All of these unique instructional pieces are relevant to your teaching philosophy, so absolutely include them in your statement. For recent graduates who have yet to lead a classroom themselves, consider the teaching philosophy a mission statement: a set of goals and directives that will be enacted upon hire.

Resume

The teaching portfolio should include a full resume, highlighting years of experience, leadership positions, and professional accolades. Definitely include any special skills gained during your tenure teaching. For example, you may have become an expert in a piece of classroom technology, or completed a development workshop on instructing students with attention differences. Or, possibly you’ve gained fluency in a second language, or completed certification for a new age range of learners. Even if you’ve maintained the same official title, add new lines to an old resume; being sure to evolve it as you grow in your professional skill set.

Degrees and Awards

It's time to boast! Start with copies or photographs of any degrees and certifications you’ve earned. Be sure to include everything from bachelor’s level on up. Also, add program completion certificates, as well as awards recognized by your school, community, district, or state. For any distinctions that are not ubiquitously recognized, provide a brief description of your accomplishments in addition to the award itself.

Planning Materials

This section is particularly relevant for potential employers; provide them evidence that you’ve mastered your content, are expert in planning lessons, and have created outstanding consumables. Be sure to include an actual full lesson plan, syllabi, course plan, objectives, worksheets, quizzes, and tests. It’s helpful to pepper this section with photographs of students working through your lessons, or snapshot their actual output as well. Having trouble deciding which outstanding lessons to highlight? Consider which lessons reached the most learners, inspired the most joy, and what you’re excited to refine and teach again.

Letters of Recommendation

Current teachers should source letters of rec from peers, team leaders, and administrators. A strong recommendation from every level of your interaction demonstrates your ability to work in a variety of different atmospheres and make appropriate code switches. Consider adding letters from trusted former students or students’ guardians as well; these could speak to your competence as a communicator and mentor. Aspiring teachers might include letters from professors, mentors, and former employers. Regardless of your employment status, a hearty recommendation from an established professional can set your portfolio apart.