The Educator’s Portfolio : Guidelines for Construction of an Educator’s Portfolio

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.

Background

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

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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.

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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.

Personal Development

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.

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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.

SCHEDULED TEACHING

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 communicate 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.

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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:

LEARNER RATINGS

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.

Postgraduate Teaching

Residents and fellows 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

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.

Grand Rounds

Some Departments have their own written evaluations for grand rounds. Check with the individual department administrative assistants.

TEACHING AWARDS

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 expertise: “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 to Teach.”

HELPING OTHER FACULTY & SERVING ON COMMITTEES

To 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.

LEARNER 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 METHODS

Although 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
  • Interviews
  • 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.

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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.

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6a. Curriculum Development & Leadership

This category of teaching includes the following components; 1) leadership and oversight of curricular programs; and 2) curriculum design and development.with a specific focus on curricular innovation.

As a leader of an educational program, you often have a big impact on how the program is structured and have to ensure it is aligned with institutional objectives, other courses, national guidelines, and requirements set forth by accrediting agencies. This high level view requires a certain mastery and education expertise. You will likely also be involved in curriculum development. Designing a course requires you to synthesize a body of knowledge or practice, organize it into a coherent course suited to a population of learners, and design an appropriate evaluation. You may also be responsible for organizing and coordinating staff and resources toward the development of the teaching program. In your portfolio you can include a narrative description of the courses and programs that you coordinate. You can describe the learners and the setting, course goals or objectives, and your specific responsibilities..Consider including course syllabi or program agendas as appendices.

Not everyone is a course leader, but virtually all of us have been involved in some aspects of curriculum design and development. You can present your specific curriculum development efforts in tabular format and, if lengthy, include this as an appendix. See an example below.

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6b. Instructional Innovation

Any instructional method that is not commonly in use in your teaching setting, whether it is new to the rest of the world or not, can be accepted as an innovation. This category includes innovations in teaching techniques, curriculum development, on-line learning materials, course planning, and evaluation. Some examples include: introduction of new teaching strategies such as team based learning or interdisciplinary learning; creative development of online interactive training modules, or design of novel simulations and other high fidelity assessment approaches.

This is the place to show what sets you apart from others who may be involved in curricular design efforts. Curricular innovation often results from a special source of expertise you gained or from simply having a high level of commitment to creating the best learning environment possible. What you write in this section may link back to some of the things you mentioned in your teaching and learning philosophy. Provide a description of your specific curricular innovation efforts, including its aims, the problems that it was intended to overcome, a description of the setting and the learner and attempts to improve the innovation.

*Following are sources of evidence that may used to document the impact of your leadership, curriculum development and curricular innovations:

GRANTS OBTAINED

A 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.

PUBLICATlONS

List any publications about the program you coordinated or course you designed, including program evaluation studies.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.

AWARDS

List any awards won for program coordination or course design or for curricular innovation. Include terms of the award (see above section on teaching awards for details to include).

STUDENT EVALUATIONS

Although you may have already included some student and other learner evaluation results under the section of teaching performance, here you can include evaluations regarding the overall usefulness of the curriculum you helped to develop.. 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 challenge learners’ conceptual abilities in a manner appropriate for their level of training.
  • The design of examinations that provide a valid, fair and reliable evaluation of the course objectives – assessments that emphasize critical and analytical thinking, that stress understanding of the subject rather than memorization, and that test only what has been taught..

CURRICULUM REVIEWS

If you are a course designer, include comments from colleagues who may have reviewed your course or accreditation agencies who have reviewed the educational program. These comments and reviews should come from those in a position to evaluate your course or program relative to other courses, an earlier version of the course, or to national guidelines.and standards. The overall evaluations for the curriculum or course can be included as appendixes.

PEER REVIEW

In addition to peer reviews you may receive from faculty at your own institution, there are several national online repositories for educational resources that provide peers reviews. One of these, MedEdPORTAL is a site sponsored by the AAMC. Faculty can submit instructional resources. These resources are reviewed by several peers at other institutions just like a journal article would be reviewed. If accepted, the resource is published and made available on MedEdPORTAL and the primary author will have access to usage reports showing who accessed the resource (institution and country) and for what purpose (e.g, curriculum development, self-study). Another site is MERLOT (www.merlot.org), a site that reviews, collects and distributes on-line learning materials designed by faculty for higher education. Some materials submitted to the repository are selected for peer review. One of the editorial boards writes the review. In addition to the written reviews each entry is assigned a star rating based on an evaluation of three dimensions— Quality of Content, Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool, and Ease of Use – with 5 stars being the highest. A review must average three stars to be posted to the MERLOT site.

STUDENT OUTCOMES

Measures of student and other learner outcomes can provide convincing evidence of your effectiveness as a leader and curriculum developer, particularly if these outcomes have improved over time. For example, students score on the Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE) may have improved following a restructuring of the clerkship. You can best show this by including a graphic. Other evidence may include letters from teachers receiving your students, relevant honors given to your students, or evidence that more students match in residencies related to your course.

ADOPTION OR ADAPTATION BY OTHERS

Imitation 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.

INVITATIONS

Mention 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.

UNSOLICITED STATEMENTS

Unsolicited 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

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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.

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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

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