Guidelines for Construction of an Educator’s Portfolio
The purpose of this guide is to help faculty at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine assess and document their educational activities for the purpose of appointment, promotion, and tenure.
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The idea of the teaching portfolio began with the publication of A Mini-Guide to Preparing A Teaching Portfolio, published in the spring of 1978 in Ontario (Shore et. al, 1978). Since then, the concept of a teaching or educator portfolio, alternately called a teaching dossier, has become an international movement fired by the growing need to measure educational activities so that they can be rewarded. Traditionally, it has taken faculty on the clinician educator or educator tracks longer to get promoted compared to their peers on the research track, as they did not have effective ways to document their educational efforts and promotion’s committees were unfamiliar with criteria for educational scholarship.
This is changing. Universities increasingly acknowledge the importance of teaching in their promotion policies. Faculty with a significant teaching responsibility are encouraged to submit an Educator Portfolio as part of their promotion’s packet to document the quantity, quality and impact of their educational efforts.
What is an Educator Portfolio?
An educator portfolio is a compilation of academic work, accomplishments and other evidence that can be used to evaluate your effectiveness as a teacher and educator. It is a framework for collecting, organizing and analyzing information about your work as an educator. In it, you provide a scholarly argument about the quality of your teaching and other educational efforts. A portfolio should show your best work (this is the place to brag). Although primarily completed as part of the promotion’s process, an educator portfolio can also assist someone applying for an academic position, teaching award, or membership in a teaching academy. Moreover, it can be an effective tool for personal reflection on one’s growth as an educator.
Strive for documentation of educational scholarship in your portfolio. Teaching by itself does not equal scholarship. Good teaching uses a scholarly approach that draws from the relevant literature, employs current teaching methodologies shown to enhance learning, observes and analyzes outcomes, and uses available data to make improvements. We should all strive to use a scholarly approach in our teaching, but this alone is not a sufficient criterion for promotion. Promotion’s committees want to see evidence of scholarship and proof that your work is having an impact. So, when does good teaching become educational scholarship? Lee Shulman, past president of the Carnegie Foundation, proposed the 3 P’s of educational scholarship – The work must be made PUBLIC, undergo PEER REVIEW, and become a PLATFORM on which others can build. Have you disseminated your work for peer review?
Treat your portfolio as a scholarly project. Take time to gather information for the different components of the portfolio and then give careful thought to which pieces you will include. There is no specific format or length requirement, but we recommend a 6-8 page narrative with supporting documentation in appendices. Below we present 8 categories that you can consider including in your portfolio, but depending on your specific roles and responsibilities, some of these categories may not apply. In this case, you can eliminate these from your portfolio. For each category we will describe effective ways to document the quantity, quality, and impact of your work.
1. Teaching and Learning Philosophy
2. Mastery of Subject & Personal Development
3. Current Teaching Responsibilities
4. Teaching Performance
5. Mentoring and Advising
6a. Curriculum Development & Leadership
6b. Instructional Innovation
7. Educational Administration
8. Educational Research & Scholarship
1. Teaching and Learning Philosophy
Expert teachers—those who are in the process of continually improving their teaching — reach beyond short-term teaching strategies. They are aware of their broad aims as teachers and have a personal philosophy of education. Delineating your philosophy at the beginning of the Portfolio provides the reader with a context within which the portfolio can be evaluated. Consider addressing the following components.
In the philosophy narrative, describe what you value – why you teach, what you teach, how you teach, and how you assess your teaching. What are your goals as a teacher? What are the characteristics of a good teacher and how do you embody these? How do you establish a positive learning environment? How do you address diversity in the classroom? What teaching and assessment approaches best promote learning? How do you stay “current” as an educator?
Some general tips: Write the narrative in first person – Use “I” statements. Avoid technical language. You can incorporate quotes, stories or analogies. Provide specific examples as evidence for general statements. For example, the statement “I would like to instill critical thinking in my learners” is more impactful if you can explain how you do this, and if you add an evaluation comment from one of your learners lending support to this statement. Let other people read your teaching and learning philosophy narrative. They should be able to tell you the key messages after reading it just once.
Evidence that you have developed a teaching philosophy need not be more than a coherent paragraph or two addressing some of the components mentioned above – it is relevant documentation of your expertise as a teacher and should be included in your portfolio.
2. Mastery of the Subject and Personal Development
Although mastery of the subject is essential to most kinds of teaching, the mastery of medical teachers is often taken for granted. It is assumed that incompetent clinicians would not survive the rigorous discipline imposed by their medical practice. Still, physicians are often asked to teach in areas that are not directly related to their practices and are often called upon to explain phenomena in terms that are more basic than their usual practice requires. There are many circumstances in which medical teachers, who are fully competent in their specific sphere of practice, might lack the breadth or type of mastery of the subject required for teaching and assessing learners. Evidence of efforts to enhance one’s mastery of the subject is therefore an important aspect of documentation of teaching excellence and your commitment to lifelong learning.
Likewise, efforts to enhance one’s teaching and other educator skills should be included in the documentation. This includes participation in seminars, workshops, courses and professional meetings aimed at the improvement of teaching or education in general. These can be listed in tabular format.
Other types of evidence of personal development you can consider including are:
HOURS OF STUDY – Estimate the number of hours that you have spent reading and preparing the subject matter for your teaching.
CURRICULUM REVIEW – Engage a subject expert to critically review your curriculum, handouts, lecture plans, or any written materials. Reviewers should be asked to identify any ideas that do not reflect the current status of the field and to state the strengths of the particular selection and organization as well. Their report can be submitted as evidence of your being in touch with the field and appended to your teaching portfolio.
PEER OBSERVATION – Ask a subject matter expert to observe your teaching and comment briefly, in writing, about the validity and currency of your information.
STUDENT QUESTIONNAIRES – It is generally accepted that although students are valid judges of the effectiveness of the teaching in helping them learn, they are not valid judges of the teacher’s mastery of the subject. Still, evaluation questionnaires often include items that ask for students’ opinion of their teacher’s knowledge of the subject matter. Such information supplies evidence of students’ confidence in a teacher’s ability. In this section of your portfolio you can include data from these items.
3. Current Teaching Responsibilities (Including Contact Time, Availability & Accessibility)
The roles of a teacher have expanded far beyond that of the traditional information provider. Most teachers in schools of medicine engage in supervision of students, residents and fellows in the clinical setting or research lab in addition to the more conventional classroom teaching. Teachers may also be involved in learner assessment (e.g., Objective Structured Clinical Assessments, Mini-Clinical Evaluation Exercises). Teaching may end when a lecturer leaves the classroom but supervision and clinical teaching can take as much time as the teacher allows it to take. In addition, you may have scheduled office hours. The decision to take time for teaching in the busy setting of a typical medical school is a valid measure of your commitment to teaching. Being invited to teach can also reflect subject or teaching expertise, especially if you are asked to teach outside your institution.
Describe your main teaching roles in narrative format. You can log your other current and former teaching activities in tabular format. Consider including the following: Course or session title, a brief description of the content and format, when and where it was taught (departmental, institutional, regional, national, international), time allocation, and number and type of learners. Below is an example.
OUT OF CLASS ACCESSIBILITY
Do not forget to list out of class or clinic teaching, for example: office hours, special sessions for students, allocated time for teaching during clinical rounds, available times for informal consultation, and regular meetings with student feedback groups.
STUDENT PERCEPTIONS OF TEACHER AVAILABILITY
The perception of a teacher’s availability does not always match her or his actual availability..It is one thing to be physically present for students. It is quite another to coomunicate your availability to learners—to be seen as willing to listen. How are you perceived by your learners? Report the data from questionnaire items asking students about their perception of your availability.
4.Teaching Performance And Skills
Teaching performance is the teaching component that is most familiar to everyone. It refers to activities carried out in direct, live contact with students whether it be lecturing, seminar leading, group facilitating or clinical supervision. There are several ways of assessing your teaching performance, listed below:
Student ratings are by far the most common form of teacher evaluation in use today. Below is a summary of the student ratings used routinely by the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine with an explanation of how to obtain your results.
Pre-Clerkship: Year One & Two Courses
The Office of Program Evaluation (Director Dr. Chi Zhang) administers a questionnaire to all first and second year students on a bi-weekly basis asking them to rate each faculty/lecture. The evaluation consists of a single, global question, rating the teaching on a scale from “excellent” to “poor.” Students are encouraged to add comments if they wish. Students also complete a course evaluation after completing each course or organ systems module. Some course directors ask students to fill out evaluations after small group sessions. You can obtain your individual evaluations by contacting the course director. If you are not sure who your course director is contact the curriculum office at 305 243-6180. Alternatively contact, the Office of Program Evaluation..
Clerkship and Sub-Internship: Year Three & Four
The Office of Program Evaluation administers a standard, centrally controlled questionnaire to students at the end of each clerkship and at the end of the year for Sub-Is. Although these forms typically do not include ratings of individual teachers, students are asked to provide open-ended comments that may nclude specific feedback regarding individual faculty. You can contact the clerkship director and ask for a summary of these evaluative comments. If you made a significant contribution to a specific block and would like to include the evaluation of this block in your portfolio, contact the clerkship director. If you are the clerkship director, you will also be provided with an annual summary graph comparing the core clerkships on key education components. Consider adding this summary to your portfolio.
Residents and fellows are asked to evaluate their supervising attendings. If you provide clinical supervision to residents and/or fellows, you can obtain these evaluations through the program directors. If you would like feedback from other postgraduates that you supervise such as graduate students or post-doctoral fellows, or even seminar teaching and rounds contact the Educational Development Office for help in designing an evaluation instrument tailored to these learners.
CME teaching is routinely evaluated. If you gave a presentation or conducted a session at a national, regional, or local CME event, you can contact the event organizers for your evaluations. Evaluations of events that are registered with the UMMSM Office of Continuing Medical Education are collected by that office and sent to the course director for the event (course, conference, seminar or lecture). Sometimes these evaluations are not focused on individuals but rather on the entire course. However, if you had an important role in the event and wish to use the evaluations in your portfolio you should contact the course director.
Some Departments have their own written evaluations for grand rounds. Check with the individual department administrative assistants.
Teaching awards can be based on teaching performance at your local institution or from extramural teaching efforts. If you are fortunate enough to win a teaching award, at the very least it is evidence of customer satisfaction with your teaching.Information about your award can be entered in two places in your promotional documentation. First, it should appear as a brief line in your CV under the heading “Teaching Awards.” It should also appear, in a more lengthy form, in your teaching portfolio. It is useful to convey enough information to aid the promotions committee in interpreting its significance. Describe the selection criteria for the award. Who voted? Was this an award voted on by students or by your peers? How many people received this award? Describe how many of the awards are given and how often, Is the award based on the Hospital, Department, Faculty, or on some larger unit? Consider using the following template.
INVITATIONS REGARDING TEACHING
An invitation to teach by itself is not evidence of the value of your teaching. You might have been invited because of your expertise in the subject or because your host could not find anyone else to take over the class while vacationing. On the other hand, an invitation such as the following speaks to your teaching: “We would very much like you to join our annual seminar series again this year. We have always received good feedback about your sessions.” Invitations to lecture can be valid evidence in support of teaching excellence, providing there is evidence that you have been chosen over others for your particular expertise or abilities, All the material about invitations could be entered in your teaching portfolio, under a sub-heading entitled “Invitations re Teaching.”
HELPING OTHER FACULTY & SERVING ON COMMITTEESTo be asked to help an inexperienced or unsuccessful colleague or to serve on a teaching-related committee often implies that you have been identified as a skilled teacher by the informal network of your institution. Are you being distinguished by this invitation or simply burdened with an unwanted job? It depends on the situation. There are teachers who are regularly invited to help their colleagues and to sit on committees because of their reputation. Such invitations can be taken as evidence of your reputation for teaching, which is usually earned because of previous teaching performance.
Evidence of excellent teaching performance may be reflected in an increase in learner performance on exams or other standardized tests. A graph showing the upward trend in scores can effectively convey this.
OTHER ASSESSMENT METHODSAlthough student ratings and written comments are the primary methods currently used by the UMMSM to assess teaching performance, there are other useful methods. Some of the more popular ones are
- Open-Ended Questionnaires
- Classroom Observation
- Focus Groups
If you choose to use one of these methods to document your teaching performance, you must initiate the process and be sure to collect the information so it is at arm’s length. That is, someone other than yourself has to conduct the evaluation procedure, collect and summarize the results.For example, if you believe that a focus group would be useful in the documentation of your teaching, in addition to student ratings or written comments, contact the Education Development Office for help in organizing this.
5. Mentoring and Advising
Mentoring and advising are not synonymous. Mentoring implies a sustained committed relationship from which both parties obtain reciprocal benefit, whereas advising is usually more time limited and one directional. Mentoring can indicate that you have a special mastery in your field. It certainly reflects a commitment to learners. In your portfolio, you can provide a narrative description of your main mentoring and advising roles and a list of mentees/advisees. Be selective – Do not list everyone you have ever given advice to, but keep track of your overall time commitment. You can include letters from your mentees as appendices. Note if these were solicited or unsolicited. These letters do not count towards the letters the University will obtain from external reviewers.
6a. Curriculum Development & Leadership
This category of teaching includes two sub-categories: 1) course supervising and coordinating, and 2) course design. As well, this category includes leadership within the educational program. Course supervising or coordinating includes organizing and coordinating staff and resources toward the development of a teaching program. Course design includes competence in selecting and synthesizing a body of knowledge or practice, organizing it into a coherent course that constitutes an original synthesis of material suited to a population of students, and designing an appropriate evaluation. Course design also includes the alignment of all of these components. Twelve potential measures of these activities are listed below:
DESCRIPTIONA description of the courses and programs that you coordinate, including their objectives, and a description of the setting including both students and staff, is a good beginning in the documentation of a course. If you are a course designer, include a description of the course that you designed, including its objectives, a description of the setting and the students and the staff.
BACKGROUND EDUCATIONList the skills or knowledge you had to acquire related to your role of course coordinator, supervisor, or designer, including workshops attended, literature studied, educators consulted.
GRANTS OBTAINEDList the grants obtained for the purpose of developing the program or course.
PUBLICATlONSList any publications about the program you coordinated or course you designed, including program evaluation studies.
AWARDSList any awards won for program coordination or course design. Include terms of the award and specification of the judges (students, peers, etc.).
STUDENT EVALUATIONInclude any student evaluation such as student opinion regarding the usefulness of your program in facilitating student learning or your accessibility as a coordinator to handle complaints. If you are a course designer, include student opinion regarding the following: ·The helpfulness of the course to their learning. ·The ability of the course to stimulate critical and analytical thinking. ·The ability of the course to stimulate students to intellectual effort. ·The ability of the course to challenge students’ conceptual abilities without being too difficult for students to master. ·The degree to which the material matches the context of other material in the students’ program or the level of academic maturity of the students. ·The design of examinations that provide a valid, fair and reliable evaluation system for the course, that are matched to subject matter and course objectives, that encourage core learning of material and basic principles, that emphasize critical and analytical thinking, that stress understanding of the subject rather than memorization, and that test only what has been taught.
ALUMNI COMMENTSIf you are a course designer, include comments from Alumni, especially those who are in a position to compare your course with previous ones and to attest to the relevance of the course to future applications.
STUDENT OUTCOMESMeasures of Student Outcomes or Achievements may include a range of evidence, written evaluations, achievement, letters from teachers receiving your students, and honors given to your students.
6b. Instructional Innovation
Any instructional method that is not in use in your teaching setting, whether it is new to the rest of the world or not, should be accepted as an innovation.This category includes innovations in teaching techniques, curriculum development, on-line learning materials, course planning, and evaluation. Some examples are the following: introduction of new teaching strategies; creative development of media such as slides, tapes, film, TV, on-line learning and displays; live demonstrations, simulations, models; innovations in handouts, textbooks, syllabi, computer program, self-learning packages, problems for problem-based learning; innovations in course development or evaluation methods such as teacher or self-evaluation. Following are thirteen kinds of evidence that may used to document your innovations:
DESCRIPTIONA description of the specific innovation that has been developed including its aims, the problems that it was intended to overcome, a description of the setting and the students, an evaluation, and attempts to improve the innovation.
GRANTS OBTAINEDA list of grants obtained for the purpose of developing an innovation. List the granting agency, a brief description of its terms of reference, and the amount received. Most granting agencies have peer review processes that provide an external validation of the merit of your project.
List publications about the innovation and comments from the readers of those publications or users of your innovation. The publications themselves will be listed in two places: in your CV under the appropriate heading and in your teaching portfolio. The teaching portfolio is the place to include additional material such as letters about your innovation from others. For example, you might include letters from other schools asking for copies of your teaching manual or film.
AWARDSList any awards you may have won for your innovation. Include terms of the award and a description of the judges (students, peers, etc.). STUDENT EVALUATION Enter any student evaluation results that you may have, particularly student opinion regarding the usefulness of the innovation in helping their learning. You can include data under this heading that has already been entered under the heading of performance evaluation, but select those responses that pertain to your innovation. For example, a questionnaire item or two might deal with a new simulated patient component of a course you planned or a new syllabus. Enter this data in this section as evidence of the worth of the innovation. Some of this data should be available from the Office of Program Evaluation and your course and clerkship coordinators.
UNSOLICITED STATEMENTSUnsolicited statements attesting to the quality of your innovation can be useful evidence. Peers can attest to the usefulness and relevance of your innovation. Scholars in your academic field can attest to the uniqueness, creativity, and originality of your innovation. Administrators or instructional coordinators can attest to the role of your innovation in the instructional program, the appropriateness of the method in the context for which is was intended, and benefit to the curriculum.
PEER REVIEW MERLOT at www.merlot.org is a site that reviews, collects and distributes on-line learning materials designed by faculty for higher education. The peer reviews are performed by peer users of instructional technology, and not necessarily peer authors of instructional technology following the model of peer review of scholarship. 14 editorial boards write reviews. In addition to the written findings (review) each entry is assigned a rating based on an evaluation of three dimensions— Quality of Content, Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool, and Ease of Use. There are 5 categories, called stars, 5 being the highest. A review must average three stars (or textual equivalent) to be posted to the MERLOT site.
LETTERS OF APPRAISALLetters of appraisal from internal and external referees may include statements that attest to the quality of your innovation. It is the responsibility of the Chair to solicit letters of appraisal. Letters solicited by the candidate or other persons are not suitable for the purpose of promotion.
ALUMNI STATEMENTSInclude statements from Alumni particularly those who can compare your innovation with previous experience in their education.
INVITATIONSMention invitations to present your innovation or any other public activities related to your innovation. For example, you might be invited to present your workshop on “teaching residents how to teach” at a National Conference.
REQUESTS FROM TEACHERSImitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Include evidence of requests from other teachers indicating interest in the innovation you have developed or seeking advice about how they can adopt your ideas. Incidentally, a comment of one of the early readers of this manual is worth repeating. She said that most of the requests she receives are by phone, leaving no trace for her portfolio. Our recommendation is to ask the requester to follow the oral request with a letter “for your files.” Most people will understand why a teacher or program director might need such letters about their innovations or programs.
STUDENT OUTCOMESStudent outcome measures may include a range of evidence such as written evaluations, achievement, letters from teachers receiving your students, and honors given to your students. Unfortunately student outcome measures seldom accurately reflect teaching efforts because a number of uncontrolled variables confound the measure, including entry characteristics of students, motivation, pressures from other courses and so on.
RELEVANT EDUCATIONEducation necessary to the development of the innovation including workshops attended, literature studied, educators consulted. List the educational experiences, the connection with your innovation, and the number of hours spent.
7. Educational Administration
In the event you have administrative roles related to education, you can describe your main roles (e.g., fellowship director, CME event coordinator, clerkship director) in narrative format. All others can be tabulated. Although these roles will likely also be listed on your CV, you can see from the table below that the portfolio format provides a much richer description of your roles and time commitment to these efforts. Include roles at your local institution but also extramural roles.
8. Educational Research and Scholarship
Earlier we discussed the distinction between scholarly teaching and educational scholarship. When you make your work public for peer review so that it become a platform on which others can built, you are engaged in true scholarship. Although you should strive to document scholarship throughout your portfolio, this section allows you to highlight evidence of scholarship.
Describe educational grants you have received and key educational research projects you have initiated or contributed to. Show the major outcomes and impact of your work.
- key educational publications and presentations (don’t repeat your CV)
- Citations of your work by others
- News articles about your work
- Data demonstrating adoption/adaptation of your work by others