Teaching Portfolios: Making them Work

Even though they are not required by the Teaching Council, many schools use Teaching portfolios to show evidence that a teacher is meeting the criteria and standards for registration, and therefore can be signed off when their registration comes up for renewal.

The format of appraisal and the keeping of portfolios has been a bug-bear of teachers for a while now, with the increase of workload in collecting evidence and putting it in a portfolio for something that is not actually required.

However, I argue that portfolios are a good way of keeping records of your teaching career and can help make you a more reflective teacher in the process. I think that they would be worth maintaining even if they are not required.  While I acknowledge there is a bit of work required to keep it, there are several ways in which you can streamline the process so that keeping a portfolio is no longer a burden or a time-sapping exercise.

The following are several keys to success that I’ve found along the way so that keeping and maintaining your teacher portfolio.

Rule 1: Make it work for you; instead of you working for it…

The number one thing you need to do when making your portfolio is to make it work for you.

What does this mean?

Put simply, choose a system, a method of keeping evidence, resources, materials, artefacts that is natural to you. If you’re a hands on person who prefers hard copies of things, then use a clearfile or lever-arch folder, or even a cascading folder.
If you keep a lot of your teaching work in Google Docs, or use Google Drive a lot, then create a folder for evidence and put all the files in there.
If you put a lot of your teaching work online, then you could set up a blog or website.

Choose a system that works for you

  • Clearfile
  • Lever-arch File
  • Cascading Folder
  • Cardboard Box
  • Google Drive Folder
  • One Note Notebook
  • Google Site
  • Website
  • Blog

You can find out more about each of the main ways to organise your portfolio at the following articles:

Date Based Portfolio

Standard Based Portfolio

Organise it how your brain works

Following on from the previous point on making it work for you: Setting up your portfolio in the way that your brain operates means that organising and maintaining your portfolio will be second nature to you rather than battling with yourself internally each time you come to update it.

There are two main ways in which you can organise your teaching standards portfolio:

  • Date Based
    This consists of folders or sections labeled by date (ie. 2018, 2019, 2020). In each folder you put evidence of your teaching practise as it happens.
  • By Standard
    This consists of creating a set of six folders or sections, one for each of the six teaching standards. As you create each piece of evidence, simply put it in the folder that it best suits.

Obviously there are other ways as well. I’ve found the best to be a combination of these two ways. It doesn’t matter really how you choose to organise it, as long as whichever way you choose is how your brain best processes a portfolio of this kind.

Robust yet Flexible

It wouldn’t be a blog about teaching without a bit of an oxymoron in it. When you set up your portfolio, make sure whatever system you choose to organise it in is robust. Stick to it, and keep it consistent. At the same time however, be flexible enough to adapt it to fit your needs as you go. Don’t be afraid to try new things, reorganise it or adjust it as you need to. Remember, the first rule is key: this HAS to work for you. As soon as it doesn’t, you’re working for it and it become cumbersome.

Tags Are Your Friend

One thing I have found the more and more portfolios I have made over my years as a teacher is that you need a way to tag or categorise each piece of evidence. Regardless of whether you go with a date based or standards based approach, having a system of tags will save you a lot of time. Using tags avoids the problem mentioned next.

Avoid doubling up

There is nothing more demoralising to a teacher (or anyone for that fact) than having to do something twice.

Therefore, ensure that you only have to enter evidence into your portfolio once. The use of computer based portfolios certainly helps with this, especially with evidence that fits under multiple standards.

Avoid doubling up

There is nothing more demoralising to a teacher (or anyone for that fact) than having to do something twice.

A very good portfolio will find a way in which you can keep your work organised when you create it AND enter it into your portfolio at the same time. This is somewhat of a pipedream, though definitely possible. Essentially this is where flexibility of your system is key, as this wouldn’t be possible for every piece of evidence, but definitely a possibility for some.

Keep an eye out for more…

We will be adding more Teacher Portfolio ideas, tips, tricks, and how-to guides in the near future. Check back here for more!