Whether you’re just starting out on the academic job market or preparing your tenure file, your teaching portfolio is one of the most important documents in your arsenal. It can serve many purposes: as an administrative tool for reviews and applications, yes, but also as a manifesto, and a history of your experience in academia. Seen this way, a teaching portfolio is less of an organizational headache and more of a time capsule that both shows how far you’ve come and provides a map to where you might go. 

The best teaching portfolios should: 

  • Help you reflect on your goals as an educator 
  • Document your progress as a teacher, researcher, and writer
  • Capture the breadth of your students’ experiences and feedback 
  • Support your professional goals and provide evidence of your experience 
  • Help you identify your teaching style and show why that style is effective 
  • Serve as concrete evidence for job searches, promotion and tenure, and grant applications
First time creating a portfolio?

Ask colleagues to share examples, or contact your department administrator or your institution’s office for teaching and learning for assistance. Many universities also have examples available online as a public resource.

What are the main parts of a teaching portfolio? 

Not every teaching portfolio will look the same, nor will they all include every aspect of the below list. A teacher just starting out will have a portfolio that looks very different from someone who is on their third or fourth academic appointment, and someone assessing a grant application will want to see different materials than someone considering your tenure case. Still, it’s good to have all of the below on hand and in a dedicated folder so you can easily assemble and update when needed. 

  • Teaching Philosophy. This is the foundation of your portfolio, and the biggest lift in terms of preparation. A statement of teaching philosophy should be 1-2 pages, written in first person, and aims to answer the question: Who are you as an educator?  This can be a nebulous question to answer, so it can help to think about it in the concrete: How do you help your students learn? What skills do you want them to walk away from your classes with? How does your approach differ from that of your colleagues? Try to avoid highly technical language or platitudes, and instead clearly state your goals and provide concrete examples of your techniques and successes. 
  • Grants or awards you’ve received, along with any professional development you’ve engaged in, like conferences and courses.  
  • Syllabi. Include copies of all your syllabi, and draw special attention to any new courses that you created. 
  • Student evaluations. Collate your student evaluations, and include both overall “teaching grades” (especially as they relate to the average grades in your department) and specific comments. Consider organizing them in a table or graph, if appropriate. And feel free to pull these evaluations from multiple sources, especially if you’re a newer teacher. You could include notes you’ve received from students (as long as they are anonymous), especially those that include specifics about your teaching or your service, or how you might have helped individual students further their academic careers. 
  • General feedback. Yet more reason to hang on to those kind student emails. As one professor said on reddit.com/r/Professors, “Throughout your portfolio, especially in your teaching philosophy, include the positive anecdotal comments that support your teaching beliefs and practices…these quotes are great evidence to support what you're doing in your teaching and why you're doing it. In an appendix you should include the informal feedback (upon permission) - so things like thank you cards, emails, etc.” 
  • Example assignments, along with student samples of those assignments. If you are a writing intensive teacher, include examples of a marked essay with feedback and revisions.
  • Detailed explanation of your personal grading rubrics, along with examples of how you would grade specific assignments.
  • Lesson plans for an entire course, along with proposed assignments. Include assignments that demonstrate your creativity, not simply quizzes or midterm exams. 
  • A record of any service work you’ve done as an educator: think committees you’ve served on or student groups or projects you’ve supervised. 
  • Innovation. Use your portfolio to showcase ways in which you are teaching outside the box, and that demonstrate a willingness to engage with new modalities. If you’re experimenting with new online syllabi, for example, include links to these and provide context around why you’re exploring new technology and what sort of results these experiments have shown. 
  • Consider your format. Depending on your audience and method of delivery, your portfolio may be a physical document, a PDF, or even an interactive website. If appropriate, consider your choice of format as another means of communicating creativity. Use multimedia elements like photos and videos. Make sure to include a table of contents, and to organize your portfolio in a way that tells a strong story.

One final word of advice: a teaching portfolio should be a living document, growing as you grow as an educator, and updated frequently to include new courses, evaluations, and achievements. Don’t wait until the day before you need to submit to work on it; create a recurring appointment to check in and update, a sort of “academic spring cleaning.” You’ll thank yourself later.

And while it may seem overwhelming, putting together your teaching portfolio is actually an incredible opportunity for reflection. It gives you a rare moment to take a step back from the daily grind, to look back on what you’ve accomplished, and to plan for the future.

Photo by Nick Morrison on Unsplash