Graduate School Strategies: Updated Teacher Portfolio

Alison Birmingham
Alison Birmingham
Graduate program coordinator; M.A. in Educational Administration
A teacher portfolio lays on a desk next to a pen and paperclips.

It’s no secret that the benefits of graduate school for educators are numerous: attending graduate school can be the gateway to a new career, for a promotion, for increased job satisfaction, and more. That being said, applying for graduate school can sometimes be a complicated process. Many universities require an extensive list of documents be sent to accompany an application: everything from official transcripts to letters of recommendation, writing samples, resumes, etc.

Another common requirement is a teacher portfolio; thankfully, this is also something educators often need to compile for job interviews as well, so it can serve a dual purpose. Read on to find out more about what a teacher portfolio is and how to create one that will stand out, as well as how you can use it to advance your career through graduate education.

What Is a Teacher Portfolio?

A teacher portfolio is a collection of information about a teacher’s practice. Teacher portfolios are typically used for two purposes: to reflect and improve upon one’s teaching career, and as an evaluative product for objectives like evaluations, promotions, graduate school acceptance, and more.

Teaching portfolios can include various items from lesson plans to evaluations, letters of recommendation, samples of student work, course syllabi, etc. There are many different ways to organize a teaching portfolio, some of which we will touch on later on in this article. Overall, the portfolio typically consists of a table of contents, the body of the portfolio, and then several appendixes.

Things to Include in Your Teacher Portfolio

There is not a curated list of items one must include in a teaching portfolio; it will differ from educator to educator and be based on their experiences, teaching philosophy, and their reasoning behind creating a portfolio.

In general, though, most portfolios include items from the following list:

  • Personal information such as a resume and educational philosophy
  • Teaching artifacts like lesson plans and samples of student work
  • Professional documents like evaluations and letters of recommendation

As I stated before, the portfolio needs to be organized and, at minimum, include a table of contents to make it easy to access and understand. It should be a carefully curated list of documents that serve a specific purpose. The teaching portfolio is not a scrapbook of memories from one’s teaching career and should not be designed as such.

A Note About Electronic Teaching Portfolios

More and more teachers are gravitating towards electronic teaching portfolios as opposed to hard copy collections. Electronic portfolios are more accessible to a wider audience, such as potential employers or graduate admissions faculties. They can include multimedia documents such as teaching videos and online programs you implement in your classroom. You can also include voiceover text to explain the various parts of your portfolio.

Education changed drastically with the introduction of the internet, and even more so in the post-COVID-19 pandemic era. Students are completing their lessons online more frequently, and teachers must be able to incorporate online learning to stay abreast of current trends. Compiling an electronic portfolio is just one more way to demonstrate teaching excellence in an ever-changing field.

Why Is a Polished Teacher Portfolio Important for Graduate School?

A well-thought-out teaching portfolio can be an excellent asset to accompany a graduate school application. It can be used for a variety of purposes, including to showcase what classes/ content an educator would like to teach if they are accepted into a graduate program.

The act of creating the portfolio will help graduate students guide their development and success. It forces them to analyze their teaching experience thus far and prepare for future roles, as well as define their teaching style and approach. These are all important aspects for someone to understand for their continuing education and career as they help define potential career goals.

Including evaluations in one’s teaching portfolio is also a great way to demonstrate to a college or university how you react to feedback and constructive criticism, two things that are ever prevalent in graduate studies. Be sure to take time to talk about how you use the feedback as an opportunity for self-reflection, and how you incorporate it by adapting your teaching methods.

Finally, the development of a teaching portfolio can help students determine which institutions of higher learning will be the best fit for them. Once they’ve determined their teaching style and preferred methods of learning, they can use this newfound knowledge to seek out a school that will best meet their educational needs.

Graduate students who take the time to create a carefully curated portfolio will not only be more likely to be accepted into a graduate education program, but they will be more prepared for interviews as well, whether they be for graduate admissions or teaching positions. They’ve taken the time to really think about who they are as an educator and put in the work to make sure this is reflected in their portfolio, and this self-reflection will be evident when they speak about their career aspirations during an interview. Thus, it’s a no-brainer; start working on your portfolio today and help yourself achieve your future career goals.

Teachers never stop learning; check out our available graduate degree programs  to hone your skills and promote lifelong learning and academic excellence.

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