Teaching Portfolios; learning from tutoring and demonstrating

At the end of last year a colleague asked me to write a guest post for her blog Edinburgh Award Work Experience 2013-14 (to find out more about the Edinburgh Award go here).  This was for PhD students working as tutors and demonstrators and focused on teaching portfolios.  I thought it may be of use to some readers of this blog so I’ve copied it below.

At the end of last year I led a workshop on job search and application strategies for an academic career.  One of the aspects of academic job applications we talked about was a teaching portfolio.  This is something more commonly asked for in application for academic jobs in North America.  However,  it got me thinking about how knowledge of what’s asked for in a teaching portfolio could be useful to help students reflect on any teaching / tutoring experience they may be gaining and to think about gaps they may want to try to fill in the future.

A teaching portfolio is a record of your expertise in teaching.  It provides information and evidence – in a big folder – on:

  • The ideas that inform your teaching
  • Methods you use in teaching
  • The courses you can teach (ones you’ve actually taught on and others you could contribute to)
  • How you evaluate your teaching (ie. feedback from students and teaching mentors)
  • Steps you’ve taken to improve your teaching

Even if you are not going to be applying for academic jobs in North America (or even academic jobs at all!) it can be a really useful document to create and update.  Areas for you to consider and reflect on include:

  • How do you approach your tutoring / demonstrating (or lecturing for those of you who’ve had that opportunity)?  Do you think about different student learning styles?  How do you use a range of techniques and introduce activities to make sure you engage all students in your tutor groups?
  • What are all the courses you’ve ever contributed to?  Do you have a list (or will you struggle to remember in a few years when you may want to put it on your CV)?  Thinking about the range of topics you studied during your undergraduate degree, your Masters (if you did one) and of course your specialist studies during your PhD, what others course could you contribute to in the future?
  • What have you learnt from feedback you’ve received on your teaching (both formal and informal)?  Has this helped you to improve your teaching or encouraged you to make any changes to the way you teach?  It’s easy to forget this as it’s an iterative process so make a record as you go along.

So consider creating a teaching portfolio.  It’ll make you more aware of how and why you are doing what you are doing in teaching and you can use that awareness to learn and develop for the future.

You’ll find some useful information on teaching portfolios on many North American university websites.  A few I’ve found particularly useful include:

Washington University in St Louis

University of British Columbia

University of Texas at Austin

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