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Penn State University Libraries

Creating Teaching Portfolios: A How-To Guide

 

Introduction

Most of the literature on teaching portfolios relates to teaching faculty in higher education, or to teachers in the elementary or secondary schools. Little has been written within the professional literature that relates specifically to library instruction and/or librarians.  This section briefly discusses the necessity of instruction librarians to prepare teaching portfolios and the benefits accrued performing this activity.

At Penn State, the teaching portfolio may be developed for a variety of reasons. One of them may be to demonstrate a librarian’s teaching effectiveness for a Promotion and Tenure review. If this is the case, the portfolio may be prepared as supplementary material to the dossier and submitted for review committees to gain a more comprehensive understanding of your teaching efforts.

 

What is a teaching portfolio?

Judith Arnold, Extension Services Librarian from Marshall University, and presenter at the July 17, 2001 Penn State Teaching Portfolio Workshop, defines a teaching portfolio as “a selective compilation of materials that represent your teaching performance.” According to Arnold, a portfolio also shows accountability for bibliographic instruction (BI) and connects the instruction sessions that one delivers to a philosophy of reference and instruction. The portfolio documents your “strengths, accomplishment and your teaching improvement.”

 

How is it different from an Annual Evaluation?

What distinguishes a teaching portfolio from an annual evaluation? According to Michelle Millet, librarian at the University of Montana, there are four major differences between these activities:

  • Portfolios are continuously updated and reflect changes that the teacher undergoes in their teaching experiences
  • The purpose of a portfolio determines what is included in the portfolio
  • The portfolio is not limited to items wanted by administrators, but includes materials that are related to teaching
  • The preparation of a teaching portfolio provides for constant self-evaluation and is a tool for improving ones teaching methods and philosophies
 

Why prepare one?

Three major reasons for constructing teaching portfolios include:

The Improvement teaching

According to Arnold, a teaching portfolio shows “teaching effectiveness, encourages improvement and is used to earn tenure and/or promotion.” This collection of documents shows the work that one puts into providing library instruction, tracks improvement and can be used as an assessment tool. Teaching portfolios may serve a formative or summative function. The assessment tools measure the implementation of a teaching method. The methods, in turn, are a reflection of the teaching philosophy in action.

Documentation of activity

For many reference and instruction librarians, the provision of course-related instruction comprises a major responsibility within the area of librarianship. For evaluation purposes, especially but not limited to librarians on the tenure track, the documentation of library instruction is a necessary activity. The teaching portfolio allows the librarian to compile more than a list of course sections taught over time. Considering the importance of library instruction to student achievement and the significant amounts of time and effort that is committed to this activity by librarians, it is appropriate that the work is recognized and evaluated. The teaching portfolio provides an opportunity to document this activity and the development of one’s teaching over time.

Empowerment of the teacher

Rather than reflecting just the activity that is documented, the process itself of compiling the portfolio becomes an opportunity for growth and for inspiring self-confidence. By fostering self-reflection and an awareness of growth and achievement, constructing a teaching portfolio can cause an individual to be empowered by the process.

 

Components of the Teaching Portfolio

Library instruction connects the coursework with the library resources and assists in directing students away from fruitless searching on the open Web. The teaching portfolio of an academic librarian should aim to address this interaction. While a teaching portfolio can vary depending on the unique activities of the instructor, it essentially contains the following components:

Statement of personal teaching philosophy

The narrative statement of one’s teaching philosophy describes the instructor’s goals, beliefs, and assumptions about teaching and learning that influence activities within the classroom. The narrative statement provides the opportunity for self-reflection and to articulate one’s own approach to the activity of teaching and instruction. Based on this statement, a connection may be drawn between instructional methodologies/strategies and the teaching philosophy.

One significant resource to consult when developing your philosophy statement is ACRL’s Objectives for Information Literacy Instruction (http://www.ala.org/acrl/standards/objectivesinformation). These objectives help you to develop an outcome based curriculum giving your philosophy statement more weight and credibility.

Some questions to consider when writing the narrative statement:

  • What and how do you teach?
  • What do you think are the most important characteristics of a teacher, and how do you develop them in yourself?
  • What are your teaching goals, both intermediate and ultimate?
  • What methods of assessment are you using, and how do the results improve your teaching?

Sources for developing a teaching philosophy:

Current teaching responsibilities

The current teaching responsibilities section tells the reader what courses/classes the teacher is currently teaching, how many students they have taught, even the number of hours at the reference desk if one-on-one teaching is also conducted there. This section would also include information concerning any staff or faculty workshops given, any professional library committee work or college committee work directly affecting ones teaching, production of library guides (web or otherwise), creation of exhibitions or displays, training sessions for other members of the pedagogical community.

Teaching Methods and Strategies

This section provides an opportunity to share the methodologies used in your classes, how you prepare and how much time you spend preparing for each course, a description of how long your classes are and what type of skills you teach. Your personal teaching philosophy should be evident by the way you design, prepare and describe your courses in this section.

ACRL’s Objectives for Information Literacy Instruction (http://www.ala.org/acrl/standards/objectivesinformation) is the perfect place to consult when writing your course methods, strategies and objectives.

This section also allows the librarian to describe the different methods used in various teaching settings and to state why they are effective. It provides the opportunity to share the development of your teaching over a period of years and how it has changed in response to your learning, student and faculty feedback, peer reviews, etc. How are your current teaching methods an improvement over earlier ones, especially as you have enbraced the new technologies, if at all?

As information is gathered in support of your teaching philosophy statement, consider these questions:

  • How are your beliefs about teaching and learning reflected in your actions as a teacher?
  • What types of instructional methods, and techniques do you use to support your teaching goals?
  • Do you take different approaches with different classes?
 

Sample Teaching Portfolios

Although the vast majority of teaching portfolios are created by teaching faculty of a college or university and not instructional librarians, it is helpful to review their portfolios and use them as templates.

  • Sample Teaching Portfolios. Center for Effective Teaching and Learning at the University of Texas at El Paso. 
  • Preparing a Teaching Portfolio. From the selected works of Mary Deane Socinelli. University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Contains samples of teaching portfolios in the appendix
  • Teaching Portfolios. The Harriet W. Sheridan Center for Teaching and Learning. Brown University. Contains sample templates for teaching portfolios, p.14. 
 

Valuable Websites about Teaching Portfolios