What is a Teaching Portfolio?

Whether it's called a dossier, portfolio, or profile, the teaching portfolio as an effective way for teachers to reflect upon, describe, and document their teaching philosophy, goals, and achievements. Creating a portfolio involves reflection, collection, selection, and connection.

A portfolio is:

  • A personal record drawn up and compiled by the teacher, often according to institutional, departmental, or college guidelines.
  • A structured means of reflection on one's work, a process of self-evaluation and goal setting.
  • An approach to teaching enhancement whereby a teacher can gauge successes, opportunities for improvement, and means for their fulfillment.
  • A means of presenting information for job search or career enhancement, such as promotion, tenure, job application.


The portfolio benefits teachers, students, and administrators because it:

  • Keeps a record of a teacher's accomplishments.
  • Focuses attention on teaching and recognizes its importance.
  • Stimulates discussion about teaching and pedagogy.
  • Encourages the "scholarship of teaching" as teachers begin to engage in classroom research.
  • Encourages teachers to develop and present better evidence of the quality of teaching.
  • Provides a better assessment tool for those who hire, promote and evaluate teachers.
  • Gives the teacher some control over the process as compiler and editor.

As a vehicle for structured reflection about teaching, the portfolio offers its most exciting opportunities to teachers. It gives them the chance to think about why they do certain things in class, and to consider what worked or what didn't. It encourages them to become more self-aware about their teaching, and to engage in some classroom research. It provides a means of reviewing their teaching priorities, practices, and preferences.

Portfolios can have a very positive influence on teaching. As teachers make a more conscious effort to gather a pool of information from which to draw evidence of their effectiveness, they may do a number of things:

  • Read about and try new teaching techniques.
  • Attend instructional development programs.
  • Participate in peer consultation.
  • Use formative evaluation instruments with their students.

Career advancement is the most widely known use for the portfolio. As a job search tool, the portfolio can be used by most teachers: by recent graduates seeking a first academic position, or by more experienced teachers applying to other institutions.  For instructors seeking promotion or tenure, it provides an opportunity to demonstrate growth and progress through the use of exemplary material such as students' work, courses developed, committee work, unsolicited feedback about teaching, and so on.

In the salary review process, the portfolio is a way for faculty to demonstrate excellence in teaching and thus increase the probability that good teaching will be rewarded.

What to include

Six steps are involved:

  1. Clarify your teaching responsibilities.
  2. Reflect on your teaching goals, philosophy and style. Consider using the Teaching Perspectives Inventory.
  3. Organize the material to support your purpose and the evaluators' guidelines or needs.
  4. Write the statement of philosophy.
  5. Select and append your best evidence, connecting it to your statement of philosophy. You want to provide enough evidence to convict you of the charge of excellent teaching.
  6. Show your draft to a colleague or instructional developer.
Sample teaching philosophies and dossiers posted by the Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning at the University of Calgary.


This section of the portfolio provides the context for your teaching activities and accomplishments. You should:

  • Examine your teaching roles, including undergraduate, graduate, clinical, and advising responsibilities.
  • Include all of the classes for the period to which the portfolio applies.

If your portfolio documents three years of teaching activity and accomplishment, you should include all of your teaching responsibilities for those years.

The "Reflective Statement of Teaching Philosophy" is an important element of the portfolio. Many teachers, however, find it difficult to write that statement. It is not easy for them to reflect on and articulate what they do in the classroom and why they do it.

Don't let the term "philosophy" mislead you. This very concrete section provides the foundation for your approach to teaching and the opportunity for you to introduce the evidence you have compiled. Be clear, concise, and convincing. Structure your statement to demonstrate that you reflect on what you do and learn from it. Consider using headings as visible signs of organization.

As you prepare your statement of teaching philosophy, remember that this section is the very heart of your portfolio. You could begin by asking yourself critical, guiding questions.

Tips for writing a teaching philosophy

If you find it hard to "get started" on your teaching philosophy and goals, here are a few questions that may guide and stimulate reflection:

  • Why are you compiling a teaching portfolio?
  • What excites you about your discipline?
  • How do you motivate students?
  • Has your approach to teaching been guided by a role model?
  • What kinds of activities take place in your classroom or lab?
  • Why have you chosen these activities?
  • What role(s) do students play in your class: audience, group members, active participants, peer teachers, co-discoverers . . .?
  • Which courses do you enjoy teaching? Why?
  • Do you encourage students to talk to you during/outside class? How?
  • How do you give students feedback about their work?
  • What have you learned from teaching?
  • How has your research influenced your teaching? Your teaching influenced your research?

This section contains the examples and evidence that support the claims you have made in your narrative. You may include course outlines, copies of assignments, student ratings of instruction, comments from peers, original student work (with the student's permission), or copies of articles and presentations related to teaching.

Some teachers compile the evidence of their accomplishments as an appendix. However you decide to compile the material, remember the following:

  • Select material that is representative of the work that you have done.
  • Use material from a variety of sources: yourself, colleagues, and students.
  • Make sure that the material supports the claims that you have made in your statement of philosophy.
  • Refer to the material in your statement of philosophy.

This section contains the exemplary documents and evidence that support the claims made in the portfolio. For example, if you list creating a collaborative learning environment as an important part of your teaching philosophy, those reading your portfolio will expect to see evidence of that collaborative approach in this section.

The evidence you select should include student and peer evaluations of your teaching and course syllabi.

Choosing Evidence

The items that you choose will reflect your unique philosophy of teaching and your own teaching activities. As you choose the items to append to your portfolio, consider the following: variety of sources, consistency of evidence, breadth of scope, and specificity of reference.

Now you should create a table of contents for your portfolio based on its unique contents.

Generic Sample 

  1. Curriculum Vitae

  2. Statement of teaching responsibilities
    • Courses taught
    • Honors theses supervised
    • Graduate students supervised
    • Academic advising

  3. My approach to teaching: philosophy and goals

  4. Course development
    • Accounting theory
    • Introductory financial management

  5. Service to Teaching
    • Curriculum committee
    • Faculty development presentations
    • Peer consultation

  6. Student and peer evaluations of teaching

Annotated sample

1. Teaching interests

    • Topics and courses that I am qualified and interested in teaching
    • What I find exciting about my discipline

2. Teaching philosophy and goals

    • My views on teaching and research
    • My objectives as a teacher
    • How I motivate students
    • Rules that I follow when teaching students

3. Description of courses taught

    • A list and 1-paragraph description of all courses taught
    • Differences in my teaching style and role of students in introductory and advanced courses

4. Preparation of textbooks and review articles

    • A list of book chapters and review articles
      My goal is to produce books and references written in non-technical terms that are easily understood by a wide range of readers, from naturalists to researchers used as a teaching tool/reference guide for students in colleges and universities.

5. Commitment to teaching

    • How I express my interest in teaching and concern for students
      For example, student advising, attending workshops for improving teaching skills

6. Teaching appraisal and student evaluations

7. Appendices

    • Student evaluations of my teaching for one or two different courses
    • Handouts I've developed to help students learn

Congratulations, your portfolio is nearly built! All that is left now is to add your CV and compile and submit the package in an organized, logical way. Use a ring binder to hold the portfolio.

Remember to update your teaching portfolio regularly. Creating a teaching portfolio is a reflective and on-going process. Your portfolio is never complete because you have yet to do your best work.

Evaluation criteria

Because each portfolio is unique to the teacher and his or her teaching context, each portfolio will be different. However, in the interests of fairness and of rigour, it is essential that standard criteria be used to rate portfolios. The principles of evaluation should include the following:

  • Completeness of documentation
  • Clarity of organization
  • Broad selection of evidence from a variety of sources: the teacher, students, peers
  • Connection between the teaching philosophy statement and the evidence:
    • to what extent does the evidence show that the teacher is achieving his or her stated objectives for teaching and learning?
    • to what extent does the evidence show that the teacher is contributing to the achievement of the department's and the University's goals and objectives?

The onus is on each teacher to ensure that the evaluation committee has all of the information and documentation that it requires to make a fair decision in an open and accountable way. 

Getting help

Connect with the Gwenna Moss Centre for Teaching and Learning for support with teaching portfolios.