Professional Portfolios for Teachers

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What is a professional teaching portfolio?

Peter Doolittle (1994) defines a teacher portfolio as a collection of work produced by a teacher. Just as an artist uses a portfolio of collected works to illustrate his or her talents, a teacher portfolio is designed to demonstrate the teacher's talents. Kenneth Wolf (2000) defines a teaching portfolio as a collection of information about a teacher's practice, but warns a portfolio can easily take on the form of a scrapbook. Peter Seldin (2000) adds that a teaching portfolio is to teaching what lists of publications, grants, and honors are to research and scholarship.

As a tool for performance assessment, portfolios have become indispensable for measuring what students can do rather than what they can memorize and choose on a test. Portfolios have been around for a long time. Artists, writers, and architects have used portfolios for decades to showcase their work. Christopher Knapper (1995) traces the origins of teaching portfolios to an initiative of the Canadian Association of University Teachers in the 1970's.

Why should I develop a professional teaching portfolio?

Linda Darling-Hammond (1998) discusses the creation of new and more rigorous standards for teachers. These standards include standards that ensure teachers will know the subjects they teach and how to teach them to children; that they will understand how children learn and what to do if they are having difficulty; and that they will be able to use effective teaching methods for those who are learning easily, as well as those who have special needs. She includes standards from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS or National Board), the Interstate New Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium (INTASC), and the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE).

What this effectively means is programs that are accredited must now demonstrate that they prepare teachers that know the content areas they teach, have an understanding of how students learn, curriculum development, assessment of teaching and learning, the uses of technology as well as other things.

The teaching portfolio can show what has been developed and accomplished by the teacher. The teaching portfolio should be viewed as a work in progress. Kenneth Wolf (1996) explains that in teacher education programs, students develop portfolios to demonstrate achievement. Later, they may present these portfolios at job interviews. Goethals and Howard (2000) explain many schools systems require portfolios for initial teacher candidate interviews based on state and national standards. Experienced teachers construct portfolios to become eligible for bonuses and advanced certificates. Some administrators have invited teachers to become architects of their own professional development by having them create portfolios based on individual growth plans.

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Provided by Allyn & Bacon, from Anita Woolfolk's Educational Psychology.

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