Yale Center for Teaching and Learning

The Job Market and the Teaching Portfolio

The Whys and Wherefores

A teaching portfolio describes your teaching to a hiring committee or anyone else who wants to assess your skills in the classroom. Like the portfolio of an artist or photographer, the teaching portfolio contains examples of your work, organized to highlight its very best aspects.

By putting together a teaching portfolio during your time in graduate school, you not only prepare yourself for the job market but also reflect on your teaching in a critical and beneficial way. Having a portfolio may help you get a better teaching job, and building it definitely will make you a better teacher.

Not all hiring committees request a portfolio, but with increasing frequency job ads are asking for “evidence of effective teaching” or direct requests for portfolios. Even when a portfolio is not requested, preparing one can greatly enhance your performance in interviews.

Be Prepared

Though the job market and interviews may seem a long way off, you should start collecting materials for your portfolio as soon as you start teaching: you may not have a large amount of teaching experience by the time you graduate, so make the most of the experience you do accumulate. Here are some things you’ll want to do during every semester you teach:

  • Save everything. Save every piece of material from the course: syllabus, exams, assignments, in-class exercises, labs, handouts, study guides, and notes, as well as special examples of student work, thank-yous and cards of appreciation.
  • Keep notes. You may want to keep a diary that includes insights and observations for each day’s class. If a diary seems too time consuming, make sure you take notes after memorable classes, particularly those during which you did something great that you want to remember. Think you’ll remember without writing it down? You won’t.
  • Keep a list of highlights. At the end of the semester, go over your notes or memories and jot down events that show you to be a great teacher. Maybe a student successfully revised a paper because of your help, or perhaps you made a particularly powerful comment that clarified a very muddy point for your students. Write down whatever you did that was outstanding or that taught you something about teaching.

Once you’re feeling good about your teaching, make sure that a professor from your department visits your class and observes you. Many professors will do this automatically, but if yours does not, then request it. You might also suggest the pre- and post-observation structure used by CTL consultants. Using that model the professor will come to understand you as a teacher, and you might even learn something about your teaching. At the very least, the letter of recommendation will contain specific references to your teaching.

Constructing a Teaching Portfolio

The organization of your portfolio is up to you: it depends on what you’ve done and what kind of material shows you in the best possible light. The important thing is that the portfolio be filled with things that you’ve created, or things that speak about you as a teacher.

There is no standard format for a teaching portfolio, but they tend to take roughly the following form:

  1. Table of contents
  2. One- to two-page teaching statement
  3. The bulk of the portfolio, arranged perhaps by:
    1. course (one section for each course you’ve taught)
    2. type of material (one section each for syllabi, tests, assignments, student feedback, examples of your feedback on student work, comments from students, faculty, and supervisors)
    3. theme (you may indicate in your teaching statement that your main goals in teaching are critical thinking and citizenship; you can then organize your portfolio around these two themes)
  4. Appendixes (these may include certificates or awards that don’t fit easily into the rest of the portfolio) or informal endorsements and appreciations of your teaching

Possible Teaching Portfolio Contents

Things You’ve Created
  • Assignments
  • Comments on student papers
  • Feedback forms
  • Handouts
  • In-class exercises
  • Labs
  • Paper topics
  • PowerPoints
  • Review sheets
  • Study sheets
  • Syllabi that you have taught or would like to teach
  • Tests or test questions
Things That Speak about You as a Teacher
  • Comments from consultants, peers, or anyone who has seen you teach
  • Comments from faculty members
  • Comments from supervisors
  • Evidence of participation in teaching enhancement activities
  • Student evaluations
  • Teaching statement

You Need Help

A teaching portfolio is not easy to construct, even if you’ve been vigilant about collecting materials. Lucky for you there are plenty of resources on campus to help you: every year, the CTL organizes workshops on teaching portfolios, and the director or associate directors of the CTL will meet with you individually to go over your teaching history, figure out the best organizational strategy for the portfolio, and refine your teaching philosophy statement.