Carnegie Mellon University

Eberly Center

Teaching Excellence & Educational Innovation

Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence & Educational Innovation

A teaching portfolio is a reflective, evidence-based presentation of your strengths and accomplishments as an educator. It includes (1) framing materials, in which you articulate your teaching philosophy, responsibilities, and goals, and (2) supporting materials, which provide quantitative and qualitative evidence for how you translate your teaching philosophy into action.

  • Identify your reasons for creating a portfolio
  • Identify the audiences for your portfolio
  • Identify available guidelines and support

Planning your portfolio allows you to approach the processes of reflection and collection in a more thoughtful and efficient way. For this reason, planning is the crucial first step in creating a teaching portfolio. 

Identify your reasons for creating a portfolio

A teaching portfolio serves both reflective and practical purposes. Because it is difficult to represent teaching efforts and accomplishments solely through numerical ratings, it is useful to create a portfolio in which you reflect on your strengths and accomplishments as an educator and provide corroborating evidence in the form of select teaching-related materials. In this sense, it is similar to an artist’s portfolio because it showcases your best work and communicates your vision as an educator.

The process of compiling a portfolio is reflective because you are articulating your teaching philosophy and goals and choosing materials as evidence of how you implement them. This reflection can help you identify your particular strengths as an educator. It can also help you identify aspects of your teaching that you want to develop or explore in the future.

Of the several practical purposes that a teaching portfolio can serve, the most important is facilitating an administrator’s assessment of your teaching performance. Depending on the type of faculty appointment you hold, a teaching portfolio may be part of the materials that you are required to submit for reappointment, promotion, and/or tenure. Other practical reasons for creating a teaching portfolio include sharing your materials and ideas more easily with colleagues and demonstrating teaching excellence for awards, grants, and other honors.

Identify the audiences for your portfolio

Depending on your reasons for creating a portfolio, you may have one or many audiences. For example, if you are creating a portfolio only for reflective purposes, you may be your only audience. If you are creating a portfolio for job-related reasons, your portfolio will have many more audiences. The portfolio of a faculty member going up for tenure may be read by colleagues in the department and discipline, as well as the department head, dean, and provost. The portfolio of a graduate student on the academic job market may be read by both faculty and student representatives on a search committee, as well as the department head and higher-level administrators.

Keep in mind that these audiences will have varying levels of familiarity with your teaching and even with your discipline. This affects several aspects of your portfolio, from how much contextual information you need to provide for your supporting materials to the accessibility of the terminology you use in your statement of teaching philosophy.

Identify available guidelines and support

If you are preparing a portfolio so that administrators can assess your teaching performance for reappointment, promotion, and/or tenure, we encourage you to ask your department head for department- or college-level guidelines for a teaching portfolio. You may also have more senior faculty members—in your own or another department—who can offer guidance and support.

If you are preparing a portfolio as part of your job application materials, particularly as a graduate student or post-doc, we encourage you to ask your advisor and other faculty members about their experiences as search committee members and what they look for in job candidates’ portfolios. In addition, recent graduates of your program and junior faculty members may be able to give you insight into their own experiences on the academic job market.

Contact us to talk with an Eberly colleague in person.

  • Compile your summary of teaching responsibilities
  • Write your statement of teaching philosophy

The framing materials of a teaching portfolio are brief, but they serve two important purposes. Creating these materials helps you to identify your strengths and goals as an educator and choose appropriate supporting materials. They also help your readers understand who you are as an educator and how they should interpret your supporting materials.

The framing materials consist of three types of documents:

  1. Statement of teaching philosophy
  2. Summary of teaching responsibilities
  3. Descriptions of supporting materials

Drafting the first two documents is the second step in creating a teaching portfolio.

Compile your summary of teaching responsibilities

A summary of teaching responsibilities is usually one page long. The purpose of this summary is to communicate the breadth and depth of your teaching activities for the last three years. These activities can include official courses, supervisory activities (e.g., independent studies, thesis committees), and other activities (e.g., Andrew’s Leap, C-Mites). This information can be pulled from your annual reports and sometimes is provided by your department.

The information typically provided for courses and similar activities includes:

  • type of course (e.g., studio, lab, lecture, workshop)
  • number of students enrolled
  • types of students enrolled (e.g., major/non-major, undergraduate/graduate)
  • numerical summary of overall FCE ratings for course and instructor (if relevant)
  • your role in developing or substantially revamping the course (if relevant)

You should present this information in a tabular format. It is often useful to organize this information by category (e.g., university-level courses, thesis committees) to emphasize the different types of teaching that you do.

Compiling your summary of teaching responsibilities before you write your statement of teaching philosophy (described in the next section) can help you identify specific courses or other teaching experiences to reflect on and refer to.

Write your statement of teaching philosophy

A statement of teaching philosophy is usually one to two pages long. Also called the teaching statement, this document usually comes first in the portfolio. It communicates who you are as an educator in three main ways:

  • How you define education
  • How you conceptualize your teaching role and the learners’ role in and out of the classroom
  • How you translate your beliefs into action

The statement should be a reflection on what you have done and currently do as an educator, as well as what you hope to accomplish in the future – for example, work on a specific challenge you have encountered in the classroom or create an outreach program for high school students. As Seldin et al. (2010) note in The Teaching Portfolio, the goal of this statement is to “creat[e] a vivid portrait of a faculty member who is intentional about teaching practices, objectives, values, and strategies.” Thus, the statement of teaching philosophy balances more abstract values and objectives with concrete practices and strategies.

Prompt questions for writing a teaching statement

It can be challenging to articulate—and even revise—your teaching philosophy. Below are some questions that you can use to guide your reflection.

  • Why do you teach?
  • What are the most important objectives you want to achieve in your teaching?
  • Which teaching approach(es) do you believe are best suited to your discipline?
  • How do you adapt your teaching methods to different types of students and courses?
  • What would you want a colleague visiting your classroom to notice about your teaching? What would you want your students to notice about your teaching?
  • What aspects of your teaching do you want to develop or explore in the future?
  • Consider different dimensions of your teaching
  • Consider where you are in your career
  • Consider different types of evidence
  • Consider different types and sources of materials

Supporting materials provide evidence for the claims you make in your statement of teaching philosophy. Although they comprise the bulk of the portfolio, the supporting materials that you include should be representative, meaningful choices rather than a comprehensive archive of all of your teaching-related materials.

Planning and drafting framing materials help you to choose appropriate supporting materials, which is the third step in creating a teaching portfolio.

Consider different dimensions of your teaching

As you choose your supporting materials, think about how you can represent the following four dimensions of your teaching:

  • Your own teaching. How do you engage in ongoing reflection about your teaching?
  • Your students. How do you create an environment where learning can occur? How do you inspire and motivate your students? 
  • Your colleagues, department, and institution. How does your teaching inform—and how is it informed by – the department’s curricular goals? The institution’s pedagogical mission?
  • Your discipline or teaching in general. Is your teaching informed by broader scholarship, whether disciplinary (e.g., science education), cross-disciplinary (e.g., first-year programs), or methodological (e.g., service learning)?

Consider where you are in your career

Individuals who have had more teaching responsibilities – whether they are faculty members or graduate students – likely have more materials to choose from and can be more selective about what they include in their portfolios. But novice educators should also consider carefully what their strengths and goals are and how best to represent them.

Early in your career, your supporting materials may be more relevant to the first few dimensions described in the previous section. These materials may also demonstrate commitment rather than impact. For example, a faculty member can demonstrate commitment to his or her teaching by providing a record of attendance at the Eberly Center’s workshops on teaching and learning. A graduate student’s completion of the Eberly Center’s Future Faculty Program or other activities similarly demonstrates commitment. To demonstrate impact, an educator would need to articulate how the knowledge from those workshops translates into pedagogical practices in a course, lab, or other teaching context.

Over time, you should be able to move from commitment to impact in at least the first three dimensions. Graduate students’ teaching opportunities vary widely by program, but faculty members are typically expected to follow this trajectory from commitment to impact:

Faculty members in their first three years of teaching should be able to show commitment to reflecting on their teaching, to helping their students learn, and to upholding the educational goals of their department and institution. 

Faculty members in their fourth through sixth years of teaching should be able to demonstrate this commitment to their teaching, students, and department and institution. They should also be able to demonstrate concrete changes in a course (e.g., development of new materials, integration of new technologies) and have some preliminary measures of the impact of these changes.

More experienced faculty members should be able to document broader impact on their students as well as pedagogical commitment beyond their classrooms, perhaps at the department or institutional level or through participation in the education section of a disciplinary association. 

Some exceptional educators might be able to demonstrate impact on teaching in their discipline or in more general contexts.

Consider different types of evidence

The availability of indirect and direct evidence of commitment and impact can depend on the types of teaching experiences you have had as well as the discipline you are in. Some supporting materials may provide only indirect measures of commitment or impact. For example, you may have a statement from a colleague who observed your class and said that your students appeared to be learning. This provides indirect evidence of your students’ learning. Collecting and comparing students’ pre- and post-test scores on relevant tasks can provide more direct evidence of your students’ learning. In general, direct evidence tends to be more effective, especially for demonstrating impact.

Consider different types and sources of materials

The availability of different types of materials also can depend on your teaching experiences and discipline. For example, a faculty member is more likely than a graduate student to have a syllabus that he or she has taught. An educator in a STEM field, whether a graduate student or faculty member, is more likely to have lab-related instructional materials. Choosing different types of materials can help you represent how you approach teaching in different contexts, such as a syllabus to represent your approach to course design or instructions for an in-class activity to represent your value of peer learning.

Choosing different sources of materials can provide evidence for your commitment or impact in terms of your own teaching, your students, and beyond (see first section). Listed below are possible supporting materials organized by source: (1) yourself, (2) your students, and (3) colleagues, administrators, and organizations.

Supporting materials related to your own teaching

Materials generated by yourself

  • Evidence of reflection on your own teaching (e.g., course logs)
  • Participation in an association concerned with the improvement of teaching and learning (e.g., AAC&U, AERA, SENCER, the education section of a disciplinary association)
  • Teaching-related courses that you are taking or auditing (e.g., cognitive psychology, group dynamics, public speaking, cultural diversity)

Materials generated by your students

  • None

Materials generated by colleagues, administrators, and organizations

  • Statements from your colleagues and/or department head
  • Statements from Eberly Center staff (e.g., observation memos)
  • Records of participation in seminars and workshops to improve and develop your teaching (e.g., from the Eberly Center or other relevant organizations)

Supporting materials related to your students

There are two main categories in which you can demonstrate your commitment to and impact on your students: (1) their learning and performance and (2) their motivation and inspiration.

Learning and performance

Materials generated by yourself

  • Research on the impact of changes you made to a course (e.g., reports, published papers)
  • Instructional and assessment materials that you have developed (e.g., handouts, projects, grading rubrics, pre-/post-tests)

Materials generated by your students

  • Final versions of students’ course work (e.g., laboratory workbooks, essays, projects, pre-/post-test scores)
  • Successive drafts of students’ course work that demonstrate change in performance in light of grading criteria or rubrics
  • Students’ numerical ratings and/or qualitative comments about their own learning from FCEs
  • Unsolicited letters from students and alumni about their own learning

Materials generated by colleagues, administrators, and organizations

  • Statements from colleagues who have observed you teach
  • Statements from colleagues about your students’ preparedness for their “downstream” courses or about the quality of your students’ course work
  • Statements from Eberly Center staff who have observed you teach (e.g., observation memos)
  • Interview data collected from students (e.g., SGIDs, focus groups) by Eberly Center staff
  • Reports on students’ preparedness from their employers

Students’ motivation and inspiration

Materials generated by yourself

  • Self-report of your availability to students (e.g., “above and beyond” office hours)
  • Self-report of your informal or formal mentoring of students

Materials generated by your students

  • Students’ numerical ratings and/or qualitative comments about their satisfaction with course/instructor from FCEs
  • Unsolicited letters or qualitative comments from FCEs from current students and/or alumni about:
    • effect of your courses on a student’s choice of major/career
    • students who elect another course with you
    • effective supervision of honors, master’s, or doctoral theses, independent studies, fifth-year scholars, SURG grants, or other projects
    • availability to students (e.g., “above and beyond” office hours)
  • Students’ qualitative comments from early course evaluations

Materials generated by colleagues, administrators, and organizations

  • Statements from colleagues who have observed you teach
  • Statements from Eberly Center staff who have observed you teach (e.g., observation memos)
  • Interview data collected from students (e.g., SGIDs, focus groups) by Eberly Center staff

Supporting materials related to your colleagues/department/institution

Materials generated by yourself

  • Self-report of courses you have developed or substantially revised
  • Syllabi and other teaching materials for courses you have developed or substantially revised
  • Course portfolios you have developed for instructors who will teach a course in the future
  • Self-report of adoption of your teaching innovation in broader curriculum (e.g., template syllabus for all sections of introductory course)
  • Service on educational or curriculum development committees
  • Organizing or leading teaching development opportunities (e.g., TA training or orientation, teaching teas)
  • Organizing or supervising an internship, co-op, or other program 

Materials generated by your students

  • Unsolicited letters from students about your informal help with their teaching improvement and development
  • Unsolicited letters from student participants in teaching development opportunities that you organized or led (e.g., TA training or orientation, teaching teas)

Materials generated by colleagues, administrators, and organizations

  • Statements from colleagues about the effectiveness of help given with student TAs’ teaching improvement and development 
  • Statements from colleagues about the effectiveness of help given with their teaching improvement and development
  • Statement from the department head or dean describing adoption of your teaching innovation in broader curriculum (e.g., template syllabus for all sections of introductory course) 
  • Department- and university-level awards for teaching, advising, mentoring, educational outreach, and/or other education-related activities
  • Program documentation for an internship, co-op, or other program that you organize or supervise

Supporting materials related to teaching in your discipline or in general

Materials generated by yourself

  • Instructional and assessment materials that you have developed (e.g., e.g., textbooks, instructor’s manuals)
  • Publications on teaching in your discipline or in general (e.g., research articles, op-ed columns)
  • Editing or contributing to a professional journal on teaching in your discipline

Materials generated by your students

  • Evidence of success of internship, co-op, or other program with external students (e.g., number of applicants, student evaluations of satisfaction, future course selection if tracked)

Materials generated by colleagues, administrators, and organizations

  • Awards from external institutions and organizations
  • Invitations to give talks or teach at external institutions and organizations
  • Adoption of your textbook by faculty at other institutions
  • Other invitations based on one’s reputation as an educator (e.g., a magazine or radio interview)
  • Write descriptions of your supporting materials
  • Revise your statement of teaching philosophy
  • Organize and format your portfolio

After drafting some of your framing materials and selecting your supporting materials, it’s important to revisit and expand your framing materials as the fourth step in creating a teaching portfolio. This helps you to strengthen the connections between your framing and supporting materials and to make your portfolio a coherent whole.

Write descriptions of your supporting materials

Descriptions of your supporting materials help your readers understand the materials’ significance and context. This information is especially important to provide for your administrative readers, who may have varying levels of familiarity with your teaching and even with your discipline. For example, if you include the syllabus for a course that you have substantially revised, your description of the syllabus might explain the most significant changes that you have made, the motivation for these changes, and how students have responded to them. Stating how these changes reflect one or more of the points you make in your statement of teaching philosophy contributes to the overall coherency of your portfolio as well.

These descriptions can be incorporated into a portfolio in several ways. If a description isn’t lengthy or if only a few supporting materials are included in the portfolio, this text can appear in the table of contents or as a longer narrative that is organized thematically. Most commonly, however, these descriptions appear as individual paragraphs that are placed immediate before the relevant documents.

Revise your statement of teaching philosophy

In choosing and writing descriptions of your supporting materials, you may have identified new material that you want to incorporate into your statement of teaching philosophy. This may range from using a particular phrasing that you use in a description of a syllabus to mentioning one of your supporting materials as an example to identifying a new aspect of your approach to teaching that you want to include. Given the importance of the statement of teaching philosophy in a portfolio, these revisions are extremely valuable in communicating a coherent message about who you are and what you do as an educator.

Organize and format your portfolio

The materials in a teaching portfolio usually appear in the following order:

  1. Table of contents
  2. Statement of teaching philosophy
  3. Summary of teaching responsibilities
  4. Description of supporting materials
  5. Supporting materials

Your portfolio should be dated and include page numbers. If the documents you include as supporting materials are long, it may also be helpful to include a header or footer that indicates the document name as well as the page number.

  • Update framing and supporting materials
  • Keep previous versions

Update framing and supporting materials

Like your CV and other professional materials, your teaching portfolio should be updated regularly. Many faculty members find it helpful to update their portfolios when they compile annual reports for their department heads.

Some updates may be relatively minor. For example, you might update your summary of teaching responsibilities with the courses you taught in the past year or add an alumna’s letter to a section on your impact as a mentor.

Other updates may involve more substantial revisions. For example, incorporating a new type of activity or technology into your teaching may lead you to revise your statement of teaching philosophy or include new supporting materials.

Keep previous versions

When you make substantial revisions, be sure to save previous versions of your portfolio. This helps you track your own development as an educator. It also ensures that the teaching-related documents you considered significant in the past are easily accessible.

We encourage you to ask your department head for department- or college-level guidelines for a teaching portfolio, especially if you are preparing a portfolio so that the administration can assess your teaching performance for reappointment, promotion, and/or tenure.

You may also have mentors, in and beyond your department, who can offer support and guidance.

Our job is to help you be successful in your teaching! CONTACT US to talk with an Eberly colleague in person.

If you are interested in exploring other resources on teaching statements and portfolios, the following are especially recommended.

The Teaching Portfolio: A Practical Guide to Improved Performance and Promotion/Tenure Decisions
by Peter Seldin, J. Elizabeth Miller, and Clement A. Seldin

The Teaching Portfolio is the most comprehensive resource available on teaching portfolios. The first third of the book covers what a portfolio is, how it can be used, and how to assemble one. The last two-thirds of the book contains 21 excerpted samples of actual teaching portfolios from a range of disciplines. An expanded fourth edition was published in 2010, but earlier editions should still be useful for thinking about the general organization and contents of a portfolio.

Starting Your Career as an Artist: A Guide for Painters, Sculptors, Photographers, and Other Visual Artists
by Angie Wojak and Stacy Miller

One of the chapters in Starting Your Career as an Artist describes diverse opportunities for teaching, including university-level teaching. It doesn’t provide much detail about the process of applying for teaching positions, but it should be a useful starting point for visual artists who are considering teaching.

"Writing a Statement of Teaching Philosophy for the Academic Job Search"
by Chris O’Neal, Deborah Meizlish, and Matthew Kaplan (Download pdf)

This occasional paper from the University of Michigan’s Center for Research on Teaching and Learning will be useful not only for graduate students who are applying for academic positions, but also for anyone who is interested in additional information about and prompt questions for writing a teaching statement. 

The Academic Portfolio: A Practical Guide to Documenting Teaching, Research and Service
by Peter Seldin and J. Elizabeth Miller

This book discusses teaching portfolios but extends the usefulness of a portfolio more broadly to research/scholarship and service. It contains excerpted samples from sixteen disciplines that range from Biomedical Engineering to English to Psychology.