Teaching Portfolio 101: Implementing the Teaching Portfolio in Introductory Courses

Article excerpt

Teaching portfolios have become the norm in teacher education programs over the last decade. In this article, the authors emphasize the need for the initial creation of teaching portfolios during introductory and foundation level education coursework, based on the constructivist perspective of learning. Early initiation to the portfolio process instills a reflective practitioner orientation and learning goal in teacher candidates. Recommendations are made regarding the content of these early portfolios and the use of a reflection process that connects each submission with an intended goal. The authors discuss the necessity of field experiences in relation to portfolio development and offer suggestions for reviewing and evaluating introductory portfolios.

For a little over a decade teacher preparation programs have been wrestling with implementing the portfolio process for preservice teacher evaluation (Bartell, Kaye & Morin, 1998; Copenhaver, et. al., 1997; Dollase, 1993;Wolf, 1991). Portfolios are now established products of the student teaching semester and are frequently used in the semesters immediately preceding student teaching. Recently, portfolio advocates have called for implementing the process earlier in the program to ease the time constraints associated with creating the portfolio in an otherwise busy internship or methods semester (Wenzlaff & Cummings, 1996), and to develop in future teachers the reflective practitioner dispositions associated with the portfolio process (Anderson & DeMeulle, 1998; Wenzlaff, 1998).

Many institutions are now experimenting with the use of portfolios in introductory courses. As preservice teachers begin their professional education study, they have very little experience or educational background to draw upon in creating these initial portfolios (Krause, 1996). They, in essence, lack educational theory and practice, appearing to have little to demonstrate in a portfolio. Students in these foundation level courses are typically concerned and frustrated when they are requested to prepare a portfolio because this type of project is not familiar to them. This article is intended to provide faculty teaching such courses with the rationale for portfolio use at this early stage, and provide insight into the necessary elements for producing effective introductory portfolios.

Why Porfolios

When teacher education programs begin the voyage toward portfolio evaluation with preservice teachers they often proclaim its value within a constructivist framework. Constructivism generally focuses on the importance of prior knowledge and experience in the development of new knowledge and skills. Students enter a teacher education program with many pre-existing theories about teaching based upon years of being a student (Brookhart & Freeman, 1992). Teacher educators working in a constructivist paradigm allow students to examine, reflect upon, and alter these initial beliefs as they learn about their chosen careers through coursework and field experiences. Developmental portfolio evaluation systems are compatible with this perspective because they allow the learner to demonstrate and document personal growth over time.

Proponents of the process claim that portfolios focus preservice teachers on the kinds of experiences and responsibilities they will face as practicing professionals (Barton and Collins, 1993) and instill an attitude of life-long learning that emphasizes reflective practice and continual development within the profession (Anderson & DeMeulle, 1998).

Portfolio Functions

Portfolios in teacher education take on three primary functions: learning, assessment, and employment (Simmons, 1996; Wolf& Dietz, 1998). The learning portfolio contains a more personalized collection of artifacts selected by the student. This type of portfolio is open-ended and is meant to demonstrate professional development over time according to the personal goals of the student. …