ERIC Identifier: ED385608
Publication Date: 1994-04-00
Author: Doolittle, Peter
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Assessment and Evaluation Washington DC.
Teacher Portfolio Assessment. ERIC/AE Digest.
If you are a teacher, are you a good teacher? Would you like to be a better
teacher? If you are an administrator, are the teachers for whom you are
responsible doing a good job? Assessing the productivity, efficiency and
effectiveness of teachers is a formidable task. While the National Teacher's
Exam may provide a minimum criterion for the certification of teachers, it is
not meant to be used as a measure of teacher effectiveness. One method for
assessing teacher performance is the teacher portfolio.
WHAT IS A TEACHER PORTFOLIO?
A teacher portfolio is 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. Thus, teacher portfolios are
constructed by teachers to highlight and demonstrate their knowledge and skills
in teaching. A portfolio also provides a means for reflection; it offers the
opportunity for critiquing one's work and evaluating the effectiveness of
lessons or interpersonal interactions with students or peers.
What is actually included or related in a teacher portfolio depends on how
the portfolio will be used. A portfolio may include some or all of the
* Teacher background.
* Class description: time, grade and content.
* Written examinations: National Teacher's Exam, State licensure tests.
* A personal statement of teaching philosophy and goals.
* Documentation of effort to improve one's teaching: seminars, programs, etc.
* Implemented lesson plans, handouts and notes.
* Graded student work such as tests, quizzes and class projects.
* Video/audio tape of classroom lessons.
* Colleague observation records.
* Written reflections on teaching.
* Photographs of bulletin boards, chalkboards or projects.
A common misconception is that a teacher portfolio is a folder laden with
teaching artifacts and evaluations. Ideally, a teacher portfolio is a document
created by the teacher that reveals, relates and describes the teacher's duties,
expertise and growth in teaching. Each assertion in the portfolio is then
documented in an appendix or a reference to outside material, such as videotapes
or lengthy interviews. The size of a portfolio varies, but it is typically two
to ten pages, plus appendices.
HOW IS A TEACHER PORTFOLIO USED?
A teacher portfolio is an
education tool, which is primarily used in two ways. First, portfolios are used
as a means of authentic assessment in evaluating the effectiveness of a teacher
for licensure and/or employment decisions. Second, teacher portfolios are used
to provide feedback to teachers so that they may improve their teaching and
level of professionalism.
As a form of authentic assessment, teacher portfolios may play a major role
in the overall evaluation of a teacher. Numerous universities, such as the
University of Colorado at Boulder, Marquette University and Murray State
University, now use portfolios to make personnel decisions. Many other States
and institutions use teacher portfolios to augment more traditional assessment
measures, such as standardized tests and observation checklists.
However, the use of teacher portfolios for high-stakes decisions, such as
certification and advancement, is not universally endorsed. The reasons for
caution often cited include the subjectivity involved in evaluating portfolios,
the variability in content and construction of portfolios, and the lack of
consensus in what a teacher should know and be able to do.
The majority of the programs that use teacher portfolios are preservice
teacher education programs. These programs use portfolios to increase reflection
and provide an ongoing record of a teacher's growth. The portfolio provides a
vehicle for assessing the relationship between teacher choices or actions and
their outcomes. In addition, teachers are encouraged to share their portfolios,
during construction, with both beginning and experienced teachers. This
continuous dialogue is designed to provide a rich context in which to experience
the multifaceted nature of teaching.
HOW IS A TEACHER PORTFOLIO EVALUATED?
Portfolios that are
used to make personnel decisions tend to come under a higher level of scrutiny
than if the intended use is professional growth. This scrutiny is due to the
importance of the consequences involved in using portfolios for personnel
decisions, and has resulted in several concerns. Most often cited areas of
concern are the flexibility and subjectivity of the portfolio.
The construction of a portfolio is such that each portfolio is unique and
tailored to the individual. As a tool for professional development, this is a
positive feature; as a tool for arriving at personnel decisions, where
comparability between teachers (often from different subject areas) is desired,
the lack of standardization is a problem.
The lack of, or need for, standardization can be rectified by requiring
certain items in the portfolio of a teacher seeking a position or to advance.
Other items may be included at the teacher's discretion. Mandated items
* Statement of teaching responsibilities.
* Statement of teaching philosophies and methodologies.
* Description of efforts to improve one's teaching.
* Representative course syllabi.
* Summary of institutional instructor evaluations by students.
The second concern of portfolio assessment, the subjectivity in the
evaluation of the portfolio, is somewhat problematic. Teacher evaluation, in any
form, is subjective. The question then becomes how to make the evaluation of
portfolios as reliable and valid as possible, given their subjective nature.
Often, the solution is to use a Likert-type evaluation form, of predetermined
qualities, based on the mandated items.
Questions are then grouped into categories, such as Instructional Design,
Course Management and Content Expertise, and weighted. Ratings may then be
combined to generate categorical and/or overall ratings.
STEPS FOR IMPLEMENTING A PORTFOLIO PROGRAM
1. Start slowly.
Instituting portfolio assessment, either for advancement or growth, takes time.
Allow one to two years for development, implementation and regulation of a
2. Gain acceptance. It is extremely important that both administrators and
teachers accept the use of portfolios. If administrators do not relate the
importance and usefulness of portfolios to their teachers, the project will
fail. Likewise, if teachers do not value the portfolio approach, then they will
not put forth the effort needed to ensure success.
3. Instill ownership. Teachers must be involved, from the beginning, in
developing the portfolio program. They must feel ownership over the program's
direction and use.
4. Communicate implementation. The teachers need to know, explicitly, how the
portfolios will be used. If they will be used for advancement, then the expected
structure and intended scoring methods need to be explained in detail.
5. Use models. Models of portfolios used by other institutions are readily
available (see Seldin and Associates, 1993). These models may easily be adapted
and provide examples for teachers developing their portfolio.
6. Be selective. Portfolios should not contain everything a teacher does. A
portfolio contains carefully selected items that reflect and substantiate a
teacher's expertise and achievements.
7. Be realistic. Portfolios are only one form of authentic assessment. As
such, they should be used as a part of the assessment process, in conjunction
with other measures.
Robinson, J. (1993). Faculty
orientations toward teaching and the use of teaching portfolios for evaluating
and improving university-level instruction. Paper presented at the annual
meeting of the American Educational Research Association.
Seldin, P., and Associates (1993). "Successful use of teaching portfolios."
Bolton, MA: Anker Publishing Company.
Vavrus, L.G., and Collins, A. (1991). Portfolio documentation and assessment
center exercises: A marriage made for teacher assessment. "Teacher Education
Quarterly," 3(2), 12-29.
Winograd, P., and Jones, D.L. (1993). The use of portfolios in performance
assessment. "Portfolio News," 4(4), 1-13.