Evaluating Teaching:  Teaching Portfolios

Perhaps the simplest (and maybe the most useful) version of a Teaching Portfolio would consist of a statement from the faculty member with supporting documentation. This version assumes that good teaching consists of success in encouraging and helping students learn something worth learning. Thus, assessment (either for self-improvement or for personnel decisions) should look at both the "learning objectives" of courses and evidence about the instructor's successes or failures in promoting the achievement of those objectives. 

The statement would include 1) A clear, systematic, and thorough explanation of what the instructor expects students to be able to do intellectually or creatively as a result of taking the course; 2) a brief account of the methods used to help students achieve those objectives; 3) an explanation of how those methods are supposed to help students achieve the objectives; and 4) a self-assessment of how successful such methods have been, including any appropriate explanations for its failures or successes. 

Supporting documentation about course objectives might come from syllabi, examinations, assignment sheets, quizzes, reading lists, grading policies, video recordings of classes, reports from colleague who visit some classes, and so forth. 

Supporting evidence about the success or failure in encouraging and helping students to learn might come from any of a variety of sources, including the results of departmental examinations or samples of students' work that demonstrate broad and clear patterns of improvement. Course grades would not provide sufficiently independent measures of student learning, but comments from colleagues on students' achievements or reports on students' subsequent academic successes would be valuable. The instructor might also provide an interpretation of the results of student ratings that would point to evidence that the course achieved its objectives (research has found high positive correlations, for example, between external measures of college students' learning and their answers to questions about how much they learned or how intellectually stimulating the course was). Instructors might, for example, answer the following questions: Do student ratings reflect your ability to encourage and help students learn? Why or why not? 

developed by Ken Bain

For some further thinking on teaching portfolios, see our article, "New Thoughts on Teaching Portfolios," which appeared in the December 1997 edition of The Teaching Professor.

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