Academic journal article The Professional Educator

Swimming Upstream: Shifting the Purpose of an Existing Teaching Portfolio Requirement

Academic journal article The Professional Educator

Swimming Upstream: Shifting the Purpose of an Existing Teaching Portfolio Requirement

Article excerpt

Abstract

As teacher-education institutions implement portfolios across contexts and for multiple purposes, assessment of their effectiveness specific to shifting programmatic goals often takes place. At the institution where this research is based, an effort is underway to shift the focus of the current teaching portfolio requirement from an exit or employment focus, summative in nature, to a formative focus where the students' professional growth and development can be represented over time. This paper presents the initial findings from a multiyear study when the Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) Elementary Certification Program began making this conceptual shift from a summative to formative teaching portfolio requirement. Working within a collaborative partnership model of teacher education, elementary education faculty and seminar instructors worked together to promote such a conceptual change, while serving the needs of both the teacher candidates and the schools in which the teacher candidates complete their fieldwork. Successes and challenges toward this goal focus on communication, knowledge, and support needs of the MAT students, department goals and current practices specific to implementing teaching portfolios, and institutional structures impacting the MAT program and the teaching portfolio requirement. These successes and challenges are discussed in this paper, along with suggestions for how the department will continue to promot the shift in the portfolio's purpose in future years.

Introduction

As teacher-education institutions implement portfolios across contexts and for multiple purposes, assessment of their effectiveness specific to shifting programmatic goals often takes place. At the institution where this research is based, an effort is underway to shift the purpose of the current teaching portfolio requirement from an exit or employment focus, summative in nature, to a formative focus where the students' professional growth and development can be represented over time. Traditionally, exit or employment portfolios are designed to show "best practices" in regard to a teacher candidate's readiness to teach. However, reflective- or growth-and-development portfolios are typically designed to enhance the teacher candidates' understanding of their own development as beginning teachers as they create their portfolios over time. This paper presents the initial findings from a multiyear study when the Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) Elementary Certification Program began making this conceptual shift from a summative to formative teaching portfolio requirement. Working within a collaborative partnership model of teacher education, elementary education faculty and seminar instructors worked together to promote such a conceptual change, while serving the needs of both the teacher candidates and the schools in which the teacher candidates complete their fieldwork. Additionally, graduate students became partners in this initiative as they communicated their concerns and needs in relation to the new portfolio focus, as well as how the department could best address them during a time of programmatic change. The successes and challenges toward the shift of the portfolio's purpose focus on the knowledge and support needs of the MAT students, department goals and current practices specific to implementing teaching portfolios, effective communication, and institutional structures impacting the MAT program and the teaching portfolio requirement. The paper concludes with a discussion of how the department will continue to promote the shift in the portfolio's purpose in future years.

Portfolios in Teacher Education

Many preservice teacher-education programs have transitioned to a performance-based mode of assessment in recent years, resulting in the increased use of teaching portfolios (Diez, 1998; Percheone, Pigg, Chung, & Souvney, 2005). Broadly speaking, "teaching portfolios" are defined as a collection of documents and evidence of a teacher's knowledge, experience, and ability. …

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