Creating Your Teaching



If your curriculum vitae is the road map of where you have been and what you have done in your academic life, your teaching portfolio is the proof of your effectiveness as a teacher. Anything and everything is potential material for your teaching portfolio.

Organization: Organization is a key factor in a teaching career. You do not get your PhD by being disorganized in your research. The same dedication you show to research, together with the same style of organization, should be applied to the creation of your teaching portfolio. The teaching portfolio is where you showcase your teaching ability. Be proud of your teaching. Be proud of the way you assist other minds to develop in their search for knowledge. The effort you put into your teaching portfolio will make you conscious of your duty and role as a teacher. It will also help you improve enormously your teaching and your knowledge of the scholarship of teaching.

Outline of Teaching Portfolio: Your teaching portfolio should have an index which shows clearly what you are doing and demonstrates that your teaching portfolio is organized.

Career Summary: A brief statement of your qualifications and the steps you have followed to get you to your current position is always useful.

Philosophy of Teaching: A teaching portfolio should contain a Philosophy of Teaching. This is a statement in which you say how you teach and why. The Philosophy of Teaching can change many times over an academic career. However, it should provide a clear outline of who you are, what you do, and how you do it.

Student Evaluations: If your university requires student evaluations of you, as a teacher, these should be kept and placed in your teaching portfolio. The number of teaching evaluations should correspond to the number of students in the class. If not, reasons should be given for the discrepancies. Note that this should be a comprehensive record and not just a selection of highlights! This is particularly true of the written student comments, anonymous or signed, which are often attached to student evaluations.

Course Outlines: Course outlines are an essential component of the teaching portfolio. My initial suggestion is to keep every course outline that you write. As you develop, so your course outlines change, especially if you teach the same course over a series of years. Change, preferably for the better, is in itself a mark of the professional and committed teacher.

  1. Inherited courses : These are courses you inherit, as is, for whatever reason. Your mission is merely to teach the course as it is handed down to you. No changes please. These courses are sometimes the hardest to teach as methodology, texts, marking scheme, course structure will probably not be of your choosing and may even be alien to you and your personality. Occasionally you may have the opportunity to make minor changes to such courses. Changes that you make should be noted in your teaching portfolio.
  2. Courses you design yourself: It is important to emphasize those courses which you, yourself, propose and design. Radically changing the way in which a current course is taught or proposing and designing your own new course is one of the major steps forward in your teaching career. The course may be designed by you as an individual or by you as a member of a group or team. Either way, your role in the course design should be mentioned.
  3. Departmental curriculum design: Sometimes, even early in your teaching career, you get an opportunity to redesign the curriculum in the section or department where you work. This is a great opportunity for you, as an academic, to impress your ideas upon the institution. All such curriculum design, and your role within it, should be recorded in your teaching portfolio, preferably with supporting documents: committee reports, e-mails, minutes from meetings and so on.
  4. University curriculum design: We live in times of great change and occasionally the university involves us in curriculum change. The confidence that the institution shows in you by including you in these major structural changes in teaching should also be recorded, as objectively as possible, and with supporting evidence.

Sample Tests: These are valuable items for the teaching portfolio, especially when they are integrated into the course outline. Funnily enough, other people are often interested in the courses you teach and how you mark your assignments and do your assessment.

Sample Marking: Keep samples of your marking. This may be done by photocopying papers and exams when they are corrected. It may be done by recording your comments on the computer and then reprinting them later. Whatever method you use, keep a record of it, especially if you are proud of the time you spend on working with the students in your care.

Office Hours and Student Interviews: It is more difficult to keep an accurate record of what happens during office hours. However, letters of appreciation, e-mails with thank yous, Valentine Cards, Christmas cards, and other tokens are often given by students to teachers. Keep them. Place them in an appropriate slush file and draw on them when you need to. NB Be careful and do not take this statement too literally: apples must be stored properly as they do not always keep well in a folder in a filing cabinet.

Peer Mentors: If you have a senior academic as a peer mentor and if you work with regularly with that person, think of asking for a written recommendation. Other assessments made of you by colleagues should also be kept. If there is criticism of your teaching by students or colleagues, this is not necessarily fatal: find out your weaknesses and work to improve your teaching by attending workshops and teaching conversations. Very few of us are day one geniuses or teachers born to the trade: a track record of commitment to improvement is a very important part of the teaching portfolio.

Professional Development: The nature of professional development varies with the individual and the institution. Most Canadian Universities now have a Teaching and Learning Centre and an Instructional Development Officer [IDO] or equivalent. There are usually regular teaching workshops, seminars, and conversations during the academic year. Your institution may have a Certificate of Teaching that is available to faculty. If you are working on improving your teaching, say so in your teaching dossier. But remember, the teaching dossier is where you give samples and show proof. Don't tell: show!

The Scholarship of Teaching: This is, unfortunately, becoming almost a buzz word in the teaching world. The scholarship of teaching, very basically, is the study of how we deliver our subject matter to our students. If you engage in the scholarship of teaching, you will be lecturing on and publishing, however humbly, in how to deliver your material in the most competent fashion possible. When you move beyond your own specialized field to lecturing on how to teach in other fields and how to teach in general, you are indeed making progress in the teaching world. Your publications on the scholarship of teaching should be recorded as accurately as you would record your work in your research field.

Teaching Awards: Teaching Awards are to teachers what medals for courage and bravery in action are to the armed forces. There is only one rule here: win them and wear them! There are many sorts of teaching awards. Be aware of them and, if you are fortunate enough to be recognized by your peers, give thanks, and accept with modesty the praise which you have so richly deserved.

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