Preservice Teacher Portfolios as Autobiographies

Article excerpt

As competition for teaching positions continues to increase, educators have learned a valuable lesson from corporate America -- professional portfolios can be the deciding factor in obtaining employment, especially for the beginning teacher. As a result, teacher education programs have increasingly required the development of a professional portfolio by student teachers in recent years (Giuliano, 1997; Machado & Meyer-Botnarescue, 1997). Sherbet (1997) views the primary reason for portfolio implementation as enlightening preservice teachers that part of being a professional is self-monitoring and taking responsibility for assessing one's own accomplishments and skills.

Portfolio is the generally inclusive term used to represent documentation ranging from a thick collection of personalized products to an accumulation of select, standardized materials, all of which differ in contents, construction, and means of evaluation (Wolf & Dietz, 1998). Despite these immense variations, all portfolios are developed according to the individual portfolio's purpose (Giuliano, 1997). Understanding the rationale behind developing a portfolio is essential for success.

Employment portfolios are defined by Wolf & Dietz (1998) as "customized and attractive collections of information given by teachers to prospective employers that are intended to establish a teacher's suitability for a specific professional position ... to busy administrators or hiring committees in an accessible way" (p. 16). According to Giuliano (1997), the visual nature of portfolios emphasizes originality and can make a lasting impression on prospective employers when viewed amongst the surplus of traditional resumes and cover letters.

When generating a portfolio for job-seeking purposes, Hurst, Wilson and Cramer (1998) offer the following premises: portfolios are reflective compendiums of self-selected artifacts; they are representations of teaching credentials and competencies; they offer holistic views of teachers, and they provide documentation for strengthening interviews. Items generally found in an employment portfolio include a resume, letters of recommendation, a few exceptional samples of teacher and student work, as well as reflective comments about the teacher's philosophy or practices (Wolf & Dietz, 1998). Other suggested items include official documents, photographs, video and/or audio tapes, self-goals, lesson plans, thematic units, reflections and inspirational items (Hurst, Wilson & Cramer, 1998).

In a recent study, Oswald (1999) surveyed administrators, teachers, and parents serving on site-based decision making councils as to their portfolio preferences. Although there was some variation among rural, suburban and inner-city school councils, overall results revealed five items as those most important for inclusion in an employment portfolio - resume, lesson plan, transcript, discipline plan and reflections/ self-evaluation.

Regardless of the items selected for inclusion, functional portfolios must be able to stand alone without requiring extensive explanation by their creators (Guiliano, 1998), thus, emphasizing the need for clearly distinguished sections and a table of contents, as well as brief narrative descriptions to accompany each artifact In addition, Oswald (1999) suggests assembling a summary portfolio, such as a pocket folder, containing a few key items which may be left with prospective employers as a reference once the interview is complete.

Given the growing use of portfolios in the hiring and placement of teachers, preservice teachers must be exposed to the concept of building a professional teaching portfolio for job-seeking purposes. This article provides the necessary information for creating just such a portfolio.

Essential Components

The essential elements of a compelling employment portfolio for preservice teachers can be divided into the following three categories: Emerging Professionalism, Teaching Skills and Classroom Management Abilities, and Community Involvement. …