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Teacher Portfolio Cover Letter

 

What is a Teaching Portfolio?

"A teaching portfolio is a coherent set of materials, including work samples and reflective commentary on them, compiled by a faculty member to inquire into and represent his or her teaching practice as related to student learning and development." -- Pat Hutchings, (1993) American Association of Higher Education.

Typically, a teaching portfolio is a dossier that includes selected documentation of your teaching effectiveness and your reflection on your teaching.

What is the Purpose of a Teaching Portfolio?

There are several reasons why a teacher would need to design a portfolio. The most common are for hiring decisions, promotion and tenure, and sometimes for teaching awards. Typically one submits only a cover letter and CV when first applying for a job. Once a campus interview has been offered, it is a good idea to have a portfolio ready to offer as a presentation of your teaching effectiveness. However, there is great variability in this process. For example, some employers might request that you submit a Statement of Teaching Philosophy with your CV, or a summary of student evaluations. Thus, it is a good idea to have a comprehensive, ongoing, and changing teaching portfolio that you can excerpt from as appropriate.

What should be included?

Teaching portfolios have as much variability as individual teachers. Peter Seldin, who has written extensively on teaching portfolios, suggests that the materials should come evenly from three different areas: 1) information from self, such as a statement of teaching philosophy and reflections; 2) information from others, such as student, faculty, or peer evaluations; and 3) products, such as course materials.

Within these categories, some aspects of a teaching portfolio that may be included are:

Statement of teaching philosophy. Most teaching portfolios include this brief (1-2 page) explication on your philosophy about teaching near the beginning.

Student evaluation summaries. Some documentation of student evaluations should always be included. The way that you present this data, however, can take many forms. Some possibilities are:

  • A table summarizing numerical end of semester evaluations for all classes taught
  • Sample mid-term and end-of-semester comments from a recent class, with a reflection on how you used feedback to improve your teaching
  • Copies of official university evaluation summaries
  • Selected comments from students (from qualitative portion of evaluations), organized by course, or theme (about "leading discussions," "being available to students," etc.)

The exercise: Presenting and Reflecting on Student Evaluations offers suggestions for presenting this data and a writing exercise to begin writing a reflection on them.

A curriculum vitae or

A list of post-secondary courses taught, if CV was sent separately. This list could provide more detailed information than a CV, such as class size and make-up (e.g., mostly upperclass English majors, a freshman core course, etc.).

Sample course materials, such as:

  • Syllabus
  • Assignments and grading guide
  • A student paper with comments (with identifying information removed, and with a statement of student permission)
  • Lesson plan
  • Exam or quiz
  • Description of semester-long project
  • Course website excerpts
  • Reflections on materials. Write a brief reflection on the materials you have chosen to showcase (1 page maximum).

Writing Reflections on Teaching Materials includes some guidelines and writing questions to begin drafting reflections.

List of professional interactions about teaching.  These activities could include serving as a mentor to new TAs, assisting in department or university TA orientation, creating assignments or exams for other TAs to use, etc.

Documentation of classroom observation by a faculty member. Some departments have formal observation practices with appropriate documentation, such as a letter.

How do I get started?

Beginning a Teaching Portfolio: Questions to Consider is an exercise that asks you to jot down the answers to several questions which might help to guide the development of your teaching portfolio.

Review other teaching portfolios. Look at the teaching portfolios of friends, colleagues, or advisors. When conducting a faculty search, departments often have the dossiers of prospective applicants available for review by faculty and graduate students. This is a great opportunity to see how others at the early stage in their career have presented their professional experiences. CTE also has several sample teaching portfolios for review.

Write a statement of teaching philosophy. Articulating your values about teaching helps you choose the best pieces of evidence to support those values. For example, if your teaching philosophy highlights the importance of collaborative learning, find an assignment or project that showcases how you use this approach.

Begin to organize student evaluations. Find and read over past student evaluations. See if you notice any trends. In what areas have you improved and how? See Presenting and Reflecting on Student Evaluations  for more ideas.

Find sample materials. Review syllabi, assignments, lesson plans, and classroom materials, and choose those which represent your best work.  Begin drafting 2-3 paragraph reflective essays on each of these topics. See Writing Reflections on Teaching Materials .

Schedule a classroom observation by a faculty member.  Have the faculty member write a letter describing the observation.

How should it be formatted?

All teaching portfolios should have a table of contents. This is your central organizing document and it should be clear and concise. After that, there is great variability in how the portfolio is organized. No matter what order you choose for your documents, the American Association of Higher Education recommends that a portfolio be structured, representative and selective.

  • It should follow a logical format and be easy for readers to follow.
  • Formatting should be clear and consistent. Use continuous pagination and/or use tabs and dividers. Nothing turns a reader off more than a document that is disorganized and tedious to read.
  • It should offer the best snap-shot of your teaching practices. Include materials that best exemplify your teaching philosophy.
  • It should be honest. Try to represent yourself as accurately as possible. Refrain from padding, but highlight the positives. If you include negative evaluations, show how you have used this feedback to improve your teaching, and include subsequent positive evaluations.
  • It should be limited. Most people will start out with a much more comprehensive portfolio than is necessary, and much of the work will be pruning it down to the best examples of your work.
  • Seldin (1997) suggests that the portfolio be divided between the narrative components, placed first, and appendices with supporting materials. Other teachers might integrate the narrative components and supporting materials. Consider the pros and cons of each approach and use a format that makes sense with your materials.

Where can I find other resources?

CTE's Online and Print Resources

  • American Association for Higher Education.(1993) Campus Use of the Teaching Portfolio.
  • Edgerton, R. (1991) Teaching Portfolio: Capturing the Scholarship in Teaching.
  • Murray, J.P. (1997) Successful Faculty Development and Evaluation: The Complete Teaching Portfolio.
  • Seldin, P. (1993) Successful Use of Teaching Portfolios.
  • Seldin, P. (1997) The Teaching Portfolio: A Practical Guide to Improve Performance and Promotion/Tenure Decisions. Second Edition.

CTE also offers individual consulting on this and other topics. Call (412) 396-5177 or e-mail cte@duq.edu for more information.

8 Teaching Portfolio Essential Elements to Grab Attention

Is your teaching portfolio current and organized and compiled to show your value and set you apart from other candidates? The hiring authority deciding whether or not to interview you could have several teaching portfolios in front of them.

What steps have you taken to ensure your portfolio grabs the reader's attention and entice them to read more?

If you cannot list five ways in which your portfolio stands out from the crowd and says, 'Look at me!,' then read on.

Teachers seeking jobs in today's market need to use every tool at their disposal to secure a teaching job. A strong teaching portfolio is one of the most valuable tools that a teaching candidate can possess.

Teaching Portfolio Objectives

It is essential to understand the benefits showcasing your creative work to advance your career. Before assembling your portfolio focused on teaching experiences, write down what you want it to achieve.

A substantial teaching portfolio should:

  • Demonstrate your ability as a teacher
  • Communicate your passion for education
  • Show how you successfully engage students
  • Describe how you will help schools meet key performance metrics: an increase in math and reading scores, improved parent satisfaction, and so on.
  • Allow prospective employers to envision how effective you will be as a teacher instructing within their classroom.

Wherever possible, evidence should be provided to demonstrate your teaching effectiveness.

Teaching Portfolio Components and Organization Tips

Attention-Grabbing Visuals

In today's multimedia world, a rich set of tools provide the opportunity to design an educational portfolio that stands out. A video introduction on the first page of an electronic portfolio is an example of an effective visual engagement tool. Images, animated images, and icons can jump off a page.

Ensure each visual reflects at least one of your core objectives stated above: a short video clip of you engaging students in the classroom, a short video slideshow of performance reports profiling impressive achievements (e.g., boosting Math scores by 10%). Keep the presentation and color scheme conservative to avoid a clash of tastes. As a guide, use color schemes appropriate for a corporate report.

Teaching Resume and Cover Letter

Make the match! Your first or second sentence should paraphrase why you are the perfect job match – experience, certifications, teaching philosophy. Align your skills and experience with those asked for in the job description. Now address each of these claims with evidence and ideally link it to performance improvement – yours, the students and the schools. Quantitative evidence is the most influential.

  • Did you improve English grades in one semester?
  • Were you able to increase class attendance?
  • Successfully trial a new teaching method for children with learning challenges, which is currently being used in five schools?

Qualitative examples should be impactful. Avoid unproven platitudes. Stating that you are an empathetic and engaging teacher is not enough. Each candidate has stated this!

Concrete teaching examples will prove to be useful in gaining attention.

Do you remember the teaching program in which teachers would bring babies into the classroom to teach empathy? The educators and schools have become globally recognized for their advanced teaching methods.

Be sure to include an up-to-date teacher resume and letter of intent in your teaching portfolio and bring extra copies to interviews.

Philosophy of Teaching

This critical section could put the reader to sleep or place you on top of the candidate list. A philosophy of teaching should address your motivation, strategies, and objectives. In several paragraphs, outline the principles you consider to be important in educating students. This well-thought out paper should communicate your thoughts and beliefs as a teacher. The statement is an opportunity to provide potential employers insight into your personal approach to teaching.

To avoid the repetitive language used in these statements, ensure yours is from the heart and frame it in the context of your daily teaching experience.

Tell a story. How you apply this philosophy in practice should be demonstrated throughout your portfolio. Reinforcing your philosophy through your teaching portfolio and daily teaching practice will help you avoid writing a generic statement. Start by listing your principles, with practical examples of how you implement each one in your teaching practice. Follow these education philosophy statement writing tips to create an impactful statement.

License and Certifications

Place your most current license and certifications in your portfolio to ensure you have these important documents on hand should the interviewer want a copy. Consider submitting them with the initial application to avoid having your application sidelined in a pending file.

It also gives the prospective employer the opportunity to review the specifics of your license so they can determine whether or not you would be qualified for the open position. Preface your documentation with an eye-catching, correctly formatted cover letter, or even big bold bullet points, highlighting distinguishing details: graduating with honors, placement on Dean's lists, special qualifications and trainings and so on. Such factors distinguish you from other candidates and should jump out at the reader, not be lost in a mound of papers.

Teaching or Education Degrees and Grades

Your teaching portfolio should include all passing test scores, regardless of the quality. If you do not include certain test scores, it may appear you have something to hide. Even if your results on the test were not great, as long as you passed, you should include the documentation. It is common practice to be asked to justify a low mark in a short written statement. Avoid using a negative tone or over-explaining yourself. Many candidates write a dreary letter about the negative experiences that interrupted their studies.

A candidate with a positive, optimistic tone will leave a positive impression:

'Although being asked to serve as chair of ABC Club's busy events committee left less time to prepare for my English written and oral exams, I could never replace this invaluable opportunity. It has enhanced my leadership expertise, and polish my verbal and written English language skills! I am enthusiastically preparing to rewrite my English exams.'

Job Recommendations or References

If is advisable to solicit recommendation letters from college instructors and other educators or administrators you have worked with in the past. Quite frequently, schools will not hire you without recommendations, so save yourself time and have them prepared in advance allowing you to provide them upon request.

Teacher or Student Educational Internship Job Evaluations

Include samples of past evaluations you have received either during student teaching or in other teaching jobs. Think like a salesperson – performance, performance, performance! Hard numbers have influence. First, highlight any quantitative achievements, and then qualitative. Do not include negative evaluations; the prospective employer does not know how many times you have been evaluated.

Providing a collection of evaluations in your portfolio of teaching accomplishments will show consistency in performance. Informal job performance measurements can be the most effective. One teacher profiled a special learner's progress from a D to B student in one semester and the teaching methods used to support this outcome on one page with four engaging visuals. What are other ways can you use to demonstrate improvements in teaching, learning and/or grading?

Sample Lesson Plans

One of the most important elements in any quality teaching portfolio is an assortment of sample, quality lessons. Including student-focused, standards-based lessons in your portfolio will impress interviewers and allow them to see you as an organized and efficient teacher. Associate concrete teaching outcomes with the lessons.

Demonstrate how you are improving teaching and learning.

  • Have you used technology in innovative ways in the classroom?
  • Are your students mobile learners utilizing tablets and Smart Phones?
  • Did you develop a new textbook, workbook or courseware?
  • Extracurricular activities should also be included in your portfolio.
  • Did you start a sports activity program over the lunch hour?
  • Organize or speak at conferences/seminars?
  • Did you have work published in teaching journals?

Here are more ideas on how to organize your teaching portfolio and what to include in it.

The following examples show how following a questionnaire too closely can leave out 50% of your accomplishments. A useful exercise is creating a matrix of achievements (e.g., academic, classroom teaching, and extracurricular activities) and referring back to it as you develop job applications. Subheadings under classroom teaching may include Classroom Technology and Innovative Teaching Programs.

A quality teaching portfolio is your most valuable tool in obtaining a teaching job. Take time to assemble one now so that you have it ready when opportunity knocks. Strive for a complete portfolio to avoid being placed in the dreaded pending pile.

The most common left out details are references and copies of certificates and licenses. Interviewing will move forward without you with candidates who have all their ducks in a row.

If you require more information or have any questions - Contact Candace via email or call toll-free 1-877-738-8052. Review our services and pricing to get started to creating the perfect teaching portfolio.

 

 

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