Do you have a professional teaching portfolio? Is it accessible online? While you may have created an assessment portfolio during your pre-service curriculum or have a current requirement to maintain evidence of your work as part of a performance evaluation system, it could be time for an update. Creating an online presentation of your accomplishments is easier than ever and may be worth your time if you are contemplating a future career move.
Finding a Location
Choosing a web-based platform is one of the first steps to consider when developing a new professional portfolio. You may have used a formal portfolio system (e.g., Chalk & Wire, Optimal Resume, TK20) as a student. If you already have an account, especially one with existing files, check out your options for continuing that account or exporting your documents to another site. If you don't want to pay for a portfolio (some have pricing plans) there are free options available, many of which have features and functions comparable to the fee-based systems. Here are several categories to consider:
- Blog platforms (e.g., WordPress, Blogger, EduBlogs) can be used for portfolio presentation and offer quick set-up with a wide variety of templates or themes to choose from so that your site will have a professional look.
- Website creation tools (e.g., SnapPages, GoogleSites) are becoming more intuitive and allow for some customization and different types of content.
- Digital resume tools (e.g., VisualCV, Pathbrite) are also available and require few technology skills to get started.
The options for publishing an online portfolio range from simple to complex. The goal is to find a platform that is both easy to use and easy to share. If it's difficult for you to use, you won't spend much time developing your presentation, and if it's difficult for others to access, they may not even be able to review your work. Look for platforms that allow you to share your portfolio via URL.
Selecting and Reflecting
What should you include in your portfolio? If you already have artifacts available in a study portfolio, start there and review the content if you haven't done so in a while. You will probably want to make some modifications to change the focus from learning assessment to career development. At the very least, your professional teaching portfolio should address the following:
- Teaching philosophy: Why do you teach? What are your objectives as an educator? Reflect on your approach and motivation. Vanderbilt University provides general guidelines for writing this personal statement and reflective questions to get you started.
- Work samples: Include some of the materials you've created for your courses, such as lesson plans, assignments and rubrics, syllabi, and multimedia items.
- Continuing professional development: How are you strengthening your skills and developing new areas of expertise? Share your efforts ranging from reading lists and conference participation to publications and certificate completion.
- Awards, recommendations, and evaluations: This category includes information provided by others who know you and have worked with you professionally, and can be formal or informal in nature. This could also be just a list of items or bullet points, to keep personal information offline.
Select artifacts that are relevant to your career development and potential job search and add your own reflections to pull everything together. Tell your own story with an introduction and brief descriptions of the items you include. How are they important and why have you chosen them to represent your accomplishments and capabilities?
Take a look at what others are doing. Reviewing other teachers' portfolios is a great way to get ideas and start making a list of what you like and don’t like as it pertains to overall look and layout of the portfolio, as well as the content that is collected there. You can conduct an online search of examples from teachers at all levels of education. My search resulted in this from the University of Virginia, and several teachers: Jennifer Lundstrem, Samantha Decker, and Kelly Larmour. You'll see that there is room for creativity in how you present yourself. Remember that your portfolio is about your experiences – make it unique to you and your career.
Putting it to Use
Whether you are required to maintain a professional portfolio, or choose to do so on your own, an online version can help you document and present what you've done and where you've been, as well as share this information with others. It extends your application for that next job or graduate school, and serves to develop a professional online presence connecting you with parents, colleagues, and larger learning communities.
As you move forward with your online portfolio, keep in mind that you are in control: check your settings, choose items carefully, and create a showcase for your best work. The process of building this resource can be a learning adventure in and of itself.