ED385608  Apr 94  Teacher Portfolio Assessment. ERIC/AE Digest.

Author: Doolittle, Peter

ERIC Clearinghouse on Assessment and Evaluation, Washington, DC.



If you are a teacher, are you a good teacher? Would you like to be a

better teacher? If you are an administrator, are the teachers for whom

you are responsible doing a good job? Assessing the productivity,

efficiency and effectiveness of teachers is a formidable task. While

the National Teacher's Exam may provide a minimum criterion for the

certification of teachers, it is not meant to be used as a measure of

teacher effectiveness. One method for assessing teacher performance is

the teacher portfolio.


A teacher portfolio is a collection of work produced by a teacher.

Just as an artist uses a portfolio of collected works to illustrate

his or her talents, a teacher portfolio is designed to demonstrate the

teacher's talents. Thus, teacher portfolios are constructed by

teachers to highlight and demonstrate their knowledge and skills in

teaching. A portfolio also provides a means for reflection; it offers

the opportunity for critiquing one's work and evaluating the

effectiveness of lessons or interpersonal interactions with students

or peers.

What is actually included or related in a teacher portfolio depends on

how the portfolio will be used. A portfolio may include some or all of

the following:

* Teacher background.

* Class description: time, grade and content.

* Written examinations: National Teacher's Exam, State licensure


* A personal statement of teaching philosophy and goals.

* Documentation of effort to improve one's teaching: seminars,

programs, etc.

* Implemented lesson plans, handouts and notes.

* Graded student work such as tests, quizzes and class projects.

* Video/audio tape of classroom lessons.

* Colleague observation records.

* Written reflections on teaching.

* Photographs of bulletin boards, chalkboards or projects.

A common misconception is that a teacher portfolio is a folder laden

with teaching artifacts and evaluations. Ideally, a teacher portfolio

is a document created by the teacher that reveals, relates and

describes the teacher's duties, expertise and growth in teaching. Each

assertion in the portfolio is then documented in an appendix or a

reference to outside material, such as videotapes or lengthy

interviews. The size of a portfolio varies, but it is typically two to

ten pages, plus appendices.


A teacher portfolio is an education tool, which is primarily used in

two ways. First, portfolios are used as a means of authentic

assessment in evaluating the effectiveness of a teacher for licensure

and/or employment decisions. Second, teacher portfolios are used to

provide feedback to teachers so that they may improve their teaching

and level of professionalism.

As a form of authentic assessment, teacher portfolios may play a major

role in the overall evaluation of a teacher. Numerous universities,

such as the University of Colorado at Boulder, Marquette University

and Murray State University, now use portfolios to make personnel

decisions. Many other States and institutions use teacher portfolios

to augment more traditional assessment measures, such as standardized

tests and observation checklists.

However, the use of teacher portfolios for high-stakes decisions, such

as certification and advancement, is not universally endorsed. The

reasons for caution often cited include the subjectivity involved in

evaluating portfolios, the variability in content and construction of

portfolios, and the lack of consensus in what a teacher should know

and be able to do.

The majority of the programs that use teacher portfolios are

preservice teacher education programs. These programs use portfolios

to increase reflection and provide an ongoing record of a teacher's

growth. The portfolio provides a vehicle for assessing the

relationship between teacher choices or actions and their outcomes. In

addition, teachers are encouraged to share their portfolios, during

construction, with both beginning and experienced teachers. This

continuous dialogue is designed to provide a rich context in which to

experience the multifaceted nature of teaching.


Portfolios that are used to make personnel decisions tend to come

under a higher level of scrutiny than if the intended use is

professional growth. This scrutiny is due to the importance of the

consequences involved in using portfolios for personnel decisions, and

has resulted in several concerns. Most often cited areas of concern

are the flexibility and subjectivity of the portfolio.

The construction of a portfolio is such that each portfolio is unique

and tailored to the individual. As a tool for professional

development, this is a positive feature; as a tool for arriving at

personnel decisions, where comparability between teachers (often from

different subject areas) is desired, the lack of standardization is a


The lack of, or need for, standardization can be rectified by

requiring certain items in the portfolio of a teacher seeking a

position or to advance. Other items may be included at the teacher's

discretion. Mandated items typically include:

* Statement of teaching responsibilities.

* Statement of teaching philosophies and methodologies.

* Description of efforts to improve one's teaching.

* Representative course syllabi.

* Summary of institutional instructor evaluations by students.

The second concern of portfolio assessment, the subjectivity in the

evaluation of the portfolio, is somewhat problematic. Teacher

evaluation, in any form, is subjective. The question then becomes how

to make the evaluation of portfolios as reliable and valid as

possible, given their subjective nature.

Often, the solution is to use a Likert-type evaluation form, of

predetermined qualities, based on the mandated items.

Questions are then grouped into categories, such as Instructional

Design, Course Management and Content Expertise, and weighted. Ratings

may then be combined to generate categorical and/or overall ratings.


1. Start slowly. Instituting portfolio assessment, either for

advancement or growth, takes time. Allow one to two years for

development, implementation and regulation of a portfolio program.

2. Gain acceptance. It is extremely important that both administrators

and teachers accept the use of portfolios. If administrators do not

relate the importance and usefulness of portfolios to their teachers,

the project will fail. Likewise, if teachers do not value the

portfolio approach, then they will not put forth the effort needed to

ensure success.

3. Instill ownership. Teachers must be involved, from the beginning,

in developing the portfolio program. They must feel ownership over the

program's direction and use.

4. Communicate implementation. The teachers need to know, explicitly,

how the portfolios will be used. If they will be used for advancement,

then the expected structure and intended scoring methods need to be

explained in detail.

5. Use models. Models of portfolios used by other institutions are

readily available (see Seldin and Associates, 1993). These models may

easily be adapted and provide examples for teachers developing their


6. Be selective. Portfolios should not contain everything a teacher

does. A portfolio contains carefully selected items that reflect and

substantiate a teacher's expertise and achievements.

7. Be realistic. Portfolios are only one form of authentic assessment.

As such, they should be used as a part of the assessment process, in

conjunction with other measures.


Robinson, J. (1993). Faculty orientations toward teaching and the use

of teaching portfolios for evaluating and improving university-level

instruction. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American

Educational Research Association.

Seldin, P., and Associates (1993). "Successful use of teaching

portfolios." Bolton, MA: Anker Publishing Company.

Vavrus, L.G., and Collins, A. (1991). Portfolio documentation and

assessment center exercises: A marriage made for teacher assessment.

"Teacher Education Quarterly," 3(2), 12-29.

Winograd, P., and Jones, D.L. (1993). The use of portfolios in

performance assessment. "Portfolio News," 4(4), 1-13.


This publication was prepared with funding from the Office of

Educational Research and Improvement, U.S. Department of Education,

under contract RR93002002. The opinions expressed in this report do

not necessarily reflect the positions or policies of OERI or the U.S.

Department of Education. Permission is granted to copy and distribute

this ERIC/AE Digest.

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