Portfolios For Educators

August 09, 2007 3 min read

The application process for prospective teachers has changed in recent years. School districts today are not only looking for well-written resumes and cover letters—they want to see extensive portfolios.

According to Dawn Scheffner Jones, president of the American Association for Employment in Education’s board of directors, most education colleges are now requiring that graduates leave with a portfolio detailing their accomplishments and strengths.

Not only do portfolios have to be impressive, they also have to be readable and well organized. Common portfolio errors include misspellings, poor grammar, and bad sentence structure. “Have as many people read your portfolio as you can to ensure it is error-free,” Jones said. “Teachers are representations of what a smart person should be and job seekers need to fit that description.”

To help answer prospective teachers’ questions about portfolios, Jones developed the following outline.

What is a Portfolio?

  • A collection of materials that documents your experiences, training and preparation, skills, and accomplishments, and details plans for continued professional growth and development.
  • A way for you to assess yourself as a professional and to determine how your skills and abilities meet the needs of potential employers.

Why Use a Portfolio?

  • Portfolios provide a broader perspective on a candidate’s abilities.
  • Some administrators/interviewers are very visual learners. They will enjoy the presentation of your qualifications in portfolio format.
  • Portfolios substantiate what you’ve said in your resume. You can illustrate units, lessons, and other achievements.
  • Creating a portfolio is a REFLECTIVE exercise. Its development helps you to think about what you’ve accomplished, how and why you’ve accomplished it, and where your accomplishments will lead you.

What is the Process of Portfolio Development?

  • Reflection—think critically about the what, where, why, and how of your teaching performance.
  • Evaluation—assess your accomplishments, skills, and experiences, and weigh the ways in which they will match with employer needs.
  • Connection—demonstrate that you can relate teaching to learning, assessment to improvement, theory to practice, and coursework to career planning.

What Should a Portfolio Include?

  • Lesson/treatment/diagnostic plans
  • Samples of student work (good and bad)
  • Certificates
  • Conference programs
  • Photographs of students involved in learning activities
  • Evaluations of your work
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Letters of support and/or appreciation from parents and former students
  • Philosophy statements (leadership, learning and teaching, curriculum and instruction, business and community partnerships, program development, or diversity and teamwork)
  • Professional development/advancement plans (short and long-term)

How Should the Portfolio be Organized?
Determine the way that works best for you.

  • By Learning Standards/Administrative Proficiencies
  • By time (chronological)
  • By function (different aspects of your abilities/skills)
  • By theme (you decide on theme areas and support the themes with materials)
  • By state standards (sequentially show how you met each one)

You will probably want to use a three-ring binder, with sheet protectors for your contents and tabbed dividers to separate the sections. Many students have one large binder to use for all the information that they want to retain, then smaller portfolios with representative materials that can be left with administrators at a final interview.

How Should the Portfolio be Used?

  • Put a statement on the bottom of your resume: Portfolio Available Upon Request
  • Ask administrators with whom you are interviewing if they would like to see your portfolio. Remember, always ASK first before showing it.