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Tuesday, November 19, 2013



Md. Abdullah-Al-Mamun Patwary, M.Ed. in CIT (Dhaka), M.Ed. in IT (Jogja)

Teaching portfolios are increasingly popular tools for both evaluation and professional development. Portfolios are currently in use in a variety of setting- in university teacher education programs to foster the growth of pre-service teacher, with the national board for Professional Teaching Standards to certify and reward teaching excellence and in school districts to hire and evaluate teachers.

Why have educators turned to teaching portfolios? Proponents contend that portfolios present authentic views of learning and teaching over time, offering a more complete and valid pictures of what teachers know and can do (Wolf, 1996, Educational Leadership). Moreover, they believe that portfolios promote professional development by providing teachers with a structure and process for documenting and reflecting on their practice.

Although portfolios have many attractive features, their use can have significant liabilities as well. Portfolios can be time-consuming to construct, cumbersome to store, and difficult to score. Nonetheless, the potential of portfolios for addressing assessment needs as well as advancing professional learning suggests that administrators should consider a role for teacher portfolios in their school-based evaluation and staff development programs.


In its most basic form, a teaching portfolio is a collection of information about a teacher¡¦s practice. Portfolios can come in different shapes and sizes, but in practice they often take the form of scrapbooks filled with photographs of classroom life, along with affectionate notes from students and parents.

According to Lee Shulman (1992), ¡§A teaching portfolio is the structured documentary history of a carefully selected set of coached or mentored accomplishments, substantiated by samples of student work, and fully realized only through reflective writing, deliberation, and serious conversation.¡¨ Again Sally J. Zepeda (2006) mentioned, ¡§A portfolio is a means for teachers to chronicle and assess their teaching, and the portfolio can be used as a means to extend teacher evaluation.¡¨

The key features of a teaching portfolio are as follows:

"X The portfolio should be structured around sound professional content standards and individual and school goals;

"X The portfolio should contain carefully selected examples of both students and teacher work that illustrate key feature of the teacher¡¦s practice;

"X The contents of the portfolio should be framed by captions and written commentaries that explain and reflect on the contents;

"X The portfolio should be a mentored or coached experience, in which the portfolio is used as a basis for ongoing professional conversations with colleagues and supervisors.


There are three main purposes of a teaching portfolio:

"X To address evaluation requirements

"X To advance professional growth

"X To aid in employment searches

Although a carefully conceptualized portfolio can address all of these to some degree, each purpose suggests somewhat different design considerations. For the evaluation portfolio, fairness is a chief concern. Consistency- in portfolio requirements and in the evaluation process- best advances this goal. With the professional development portfolio, however, ownership of the learning process is a major concern. Individual customization of the portfolio best serves this goal. Moreover, for a professional development portfolio, latitude in choice concerning the focus and format of the portfolio is likely to increase learning, because each teacher will adapt the portfolio to his or her specific needs and goals. A portfolio used in employment searches is shaped by still different forces.

Although three types of portfolios are distinguished in terms of their primary purposes, a single portfolio can advance all three goals if the user responsible for conceptualizing the portfolio is clear about his or her purposes as well as thoughtful in designing it.


The contents of teaching portfolios can be as varied as the people who construct them. A portfolio might include samples of student and teacher work. In addition, a portfolio might include a variety of other information, such as letters of commendation form parents, evaluations from supervisors, and even teaching credentials and academic transcripts.

The following items are included in every portfolio, regardless of its primary purpose:

"X A statement of philosophy or teaching goals

"X Samples of teacher work, such as lesson plans and student assessments

"X Samples of student work, such as reading logs and student assignment

"X Captions that briefly explain the work samples

"X Commentaries that reflect on the teaching and learning documents in the portfolio

Captions provide contextual information about each item in the portfolio and (see figure 1.0). In addition to samples of students and teacher work, captions and commentaries on those samples are essential. Commentaries are written accounts that elaborate on and interpret the portfolio contents.

Figure 1.0: Portfolio Caption Form
Title of evidence: --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Date created: -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Educator¡¦s name: --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Description of context in which evidence was collected: ----------------------------------------
Interpretation: ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Additional comments: --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
In essence, then, a portfolio should be framed by a sound philosophy that is consistent with professional expectations and school goals, illustrated through samples of students and teacher work, and explained through captions and commentaries. Depending upon the purposes of the portfolio, however, additional information might be warranted.


The following steps might serve as a guide for teachers in building their portfolio:

"X Prepare a philosophy statement.

"X Set goals for the portfolio in consultation with a supervisor.

"X Collect a variety of student and teacher work samples.

"X Discuss the work samples with colleagues at regular intervals.

"X Organize and caption the portfolio contents.

"X Write reflective commentaries about the teaching and learning documented in the portfolio.

"X Submit the completed portfolio to a supervisor for review.

"X Receive feedback from the reviewing supervisor.

"X Set new goals in light of the supervisor¡¦s feedback.


Portfolios are exciting as assessment tools because they allow teachers to represent the complexities and individuality of their teaching in great detail. Ensuring that the evaluation process is manageable and fair requires that several elements be put into place in advance, including identification of sound content and performance standards for teachers, specification of the requirements for construction of a portfolio, and design of an efficient evaluation system.

Identification of Content and Performance Standards

The evaluation of a teacher¡¦s portfolio should be based on clear content standards and performance standards. These standards will serve to guide teachers in the construction of their portfolios as well as reviewers in their evaluations. Along with content standards, performance standards need to be established as well. Performance standards address the question, How good is good enough? What level of performance is required for an ¡§outstanding¡¨ designation? Rating can be made at the overall performance level or for each of the content standards.

Feedback to teachers should be detailed and linked to the information in the portfolios, so that teachers have a clear understanding of the specific strengths and weakness in their performance as well as the reasons for their ratings.

Designing the Portfolio

To help that the portfolio construction and review process is manageable, a portfolio should be focused on a few areas of teaching rather than the entire curriculum, and should be slender in size rather that as thick as a metropolitan phone book.

Less is more, not only in terms of breath of coverage but also in amount of information. A carefully selected collection of evidence can be used more productively by both teacher and administrator than can a file cabinet¡¦s worth of materials. Five to ten teacher work samples and a similar number of student work samples might be sufficient, assuming they are carefully selected to illustrate their connection to the content standards and portfolio goals. Add a caption for each piece of information and one or two commentaries of two to three pages in length, and the portfolio evaluator has a wide range of information on which to base decisions and feedback.

Specification and Requirements

To make the portfolio construction and evaluation process more manageable and fair is to specify the requirements for the portfolio in advance, which includes the following elements:

"X Purposes of the portfolio

"X Procedures for constructing the portfolio

"X Timeline for completion and evaluation of the portfolio

"X List of required and /or suggested portfolio contents

"X Description of the evaluation process

"X Evaluation criteria (content and performance standards)

"X Description of the feedback and appeals process

Clearly defined portfolio procedures allow teachers to spend more time reflecting on their instruction and less on trying to figure out how to ¡§play the portfolio game¡¨.

Evaluating the Contents

Administrators examining teacher portfolios follow a systematic review process that includes the following steps:

"» Read the entire portfolio to get a sense of the overall performance.

"» Review the portfolio in light of the content standards and teacher goals.

"» Take notes about significant pieces of information in the portfolio.

"» Assign a rating for the portfolio (if appropriate).

"» Provide feedback to the teacher.

It is important that the reviewer examine the portfolio for each of the content standards. This can best be achieved by reading the entire portfolio first, and then reviewing the portfolio with each standard as a separate lens.

During these cycles through the portfolio, the reviewer should note significant sources of evidence that will be used in the evaluation and as feedback to the teacher. In addition, the reviewer should keep the teacher¡¦s goals for the portfolio in mind. A portfolio, although a thick collection of information, is still only a thin slice of a teacher¡¦s entire performance.

The teacher¡¦s goal for the portfolio, which has been set in consultation with a supervisor, should provide the focus for the evaluation. It is wise for administrators to draw on multiple sources of information beyond the portfolio in evaluating a teacher. Ideally, feedback on a teacher¡¦s portfolio should be presented in both written and oral form. It is important that feedback from the administrator is not the only source of information for the teacher about his or her practice. Regular portfolio-based conversations among teachers should be and integral and ingoing feature of the portfolio process.

More than a collection of paperwork and discrete artifacts, the portfolio involves teachers in

a) developing goals;

b) selecting artifacts that offer rich portrayals of teaching;

c) receiving feedback on the artifacts as they relate to ¡¥live ¡¥ teaching;

d) reflecting on the impact of the artifacts through data collected in class-room observations; and

e) chronicling changes in practice based on accumulating artifacts over time (this is achieved by examining notes or memos on earlier artifacts). (Sally J. Zepeda, 2002)


Kenneth Wolf (2006) proposed a series of steps that administrators might follow in introducing portfolios in their school or institutions, as well as considerations for creating a productive climate for teachers:

i. Define the expectations for teacher performance.

ii. Clarify the purpose of the portfolio.

iii. Identify the products for the portfolio.

iv. Develop guidelines for portfolio construction.

v. Establish procedures for portfolio evaluation.

Introducing the Use of Portfolio

Along with those described above, the following steps should be followed during the introduction of the use of portfolios in a school:
"½ Enlist volunteers.
"½ Start small.
"½ Keep the risk low.
"½ Encourage portfolio-based conversations.
"½ Use multiple measures of evaluation.


The use of portfolios in assessing teaching has evolved in practice due to many currents, including the work with pre-service teachers and initial certification, the emergence of the portfolio in the process of applying for national board certification, and as the evolution of more authentic forms of student assessment has taken hold.

All portfolios should contain carefully selected examples of teacher and student work, farmed by commentaries and captions, and brought to life through extended conversations with colleagues and supervisors. A portfolio¡¦s purpose drives many decisions about the specific contents of the portfolio, as well as the process for constructing and evaluating it. Although the purpose for creating portfolios may vary, all portfolios contribute to the same ultimate aim- to advance student learning through the professional development of teachers.


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