For most people, it makes sense to gather academic transcripts, an updated resume, and perhaps, a writing sample to take to a job interview. With a pad of paper and a pen, a prospective employee may feel well prepared. However, those in academia ought to bring something else with them. That item is a portfolio.
What is an Academic Portfolio?
Much like an artist’s portfolio, which could include photographs or charcoal drawings, an academic’s portfolio showcases his or her most important, popular, and professional work, showing the diversity and caliber of his or her true capabilities work-wise. The portfolio highlights the professional’s dedication to the campus, the community, and to service initiatives. It shows courses taught, accolades awarded, and feedback collected.
All of this material may be presented on a website or made available electronically (over the Internet), but more often than not, is housed in a three-ring binder with divider tabs and folders. This allows for easy addition and removal of material, as the portfolio is continuously updated, expanded, and developed over the course of a professor’s career.
What Should an Academic Portfolio Include?
A professor’s portfolio should include an updated curriculum vitae, which is similar to a resume, but includes grants received, specializations, classes taught, publication histories, etc. Additionally, the portfolio should include samples of publications, particularly copies from the professor’s most important articles or from the most highly regarded publications the individual has been involved with, whether as a writing contributor or as part of the editorial board.
A professional academic portfolio also houses students’ evaluations of the instructor. These are typically collected at the end of the semester by the dean or by the college or university. The statistical reports and reflective responses are mailed to each instructor after grades are submitted. A sampling of these showcase what students feel about this instructor and the course he or she designed and/or implemented.
Additional evaluations from other professors or deans may also be used to make the case that an educator is well-equipped for future teaching or research positions, or even for department chair. Course syllabi in teaching portfolios show the instructor’s abilities to organize materials for students, and may also indicate the instructor’s priorities when it comes to keeping current on the discipline’s literature.
Lastly, other materials one could include in an academic portfolio include professional presentations and certificates from additional training workshops. Lastly, a well-crafted teaching philosophy statement would make a great addition. This could be placed right after a table of contents, which highlights all of the materials comprising the portfolio.
Megan Sheakoski’s article, “Elementary Teaching Portfolio: How Primary School Teachers Can Create an Interview Portfolio,” highlights elements all teachers regardless of age group, grade level, etc. could utilize in their teaching portfolios.
How are Academic Portfolios Useful?
With all of the work a professor does each year, it is easy to forget or overlook the work’s importance during an interview. Anything and everything that validates one’s commitment to a discipline and one’s dedication to higher education is essential to have in an interview setting to make one’s case for a job, for addition of classes, for appointment to a chair position, or for tenure. The academic portfolio aids in the production and updating process of a curriculum vitae and also keeps one organized.
In closing, just as someone going for tenure review would want to have an academic portfolio showcasing their achievements with them, so too should the academic on the job hunt. Examples of published work, teaching evaluations, and records of service all bode well to have on hand. An academic portfolio allows one to refer to evidence during an interview as well as have something for interviews to peruse during the interviewing process.
This point is further discussed in Jennifer Wagaman’s article “Interview Questions for Teachers: Interviewing Skills for Getting a Teaching Job.” Her point is very true that many interviews require teaching a lesson, so it is of great importance to have some lesson plans on hand if asked to teach a mini session during the interview.
The lessons here serve as just an introduction to what an academic portfolio is and what it can do for a future academic; the rest is up to the individual to design and implement. There are numerous books available on designing academic porfolios, including Peter Seldin and J. Elizabeth Miller’s The Academic Portfolio: A Practical Guide to Documenting Teaching, Research, and Service [Jossey-Bass].
This book showcases examples from professors at different institutions of higher education, at different stages of their academic careers, and within different academic disciplines.