1. Glendon, Kellie MSN, RNC
  2. Ulrich, Debbie PhD, RN

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Dear Florence,


I have just been hired into a tenure-track teaching assignment in a baccalaureate program. I have been advised to start preparing my teaching portfolio, but I haven't a clue about what that is and how to begin getting it together.


Clueless in Cincinnati




You received good advice-starting early is the key to preparing an effective tenure document. While relatively new in nursing, teaching portfolios have been used for decades in fine art and creative writing departments. A teaching portfolio is a collection of information from students, colleagues, and the teacher's own files. This comprehensive document provides evidence for teaching effectiveness and supplements student evaluations with other forms of feedback. It is an extension of the curriculum vitae, exemplifying the faculty-teaching role that is necessary for successful promotion and tenure. The teaching portfolio also allows teachers to reflect on their role development, implement their philosophy of teaching, and continuously improve their teaching abilities.


Portfolio Contents

The contents of the portfolio usually fall into 3 main areas: introduction, course materials, and feedback and self-assessment.


Teaching Philosophy

The introduction to the portfolio reviews the teacher's self-reflective statement on teaching philosophy. This statement describes what teaching and learning means to you. It is a conscious reflection on your own beliefs and values related to teaching and learning. It highlights your goals and objectives for the future and provides a foundation on which to build your unique style and practice of teaching. Start now to formulate your teaching philosophy. Remember this is a work in progress, not a static document that restricts your creativity. Consult the experts in forming your philosophy and use what works for you. There are many useful resources to help you develop ideas on the best practices in teaching.1,2


Course Materials

The course materials section can include items such as a list of courses taught, a chart of grades given, syllabi, samples of teaching strategies used, examples of tests, and/or student papers. These products should reflect your philosophical values about the teaching and learning process. Begin saving examples of student papers, tests, and creative and innovative strategies that you have implemented.


Feedback and Self-assessment

The feedback and self-assessment section includes student evaluations, peer evaluations, and the teacher's self-evaluation. Remember to begin evaluating your classes using classroom assessment techniques periodically throughout the course.2 This will allow you to make needed changes before the end of the course that will positively influence your students' learning as well as your final student evaluations. Be sure to save all evaluations, as well as student e-mails or letters about your teaching. In analyzing evaluative data from students and peers, you can hone your skills or revise your teaching strategies to improve student learning while maintaining congruency with your philosophy of teaching.


Keep in mind that this whole compilation of materials should make a convincing case for your effectiveness as a teacher and will be an invaluable resource as you prepare your final tenure document. Much has been written about the art of creating a teaching portfolio. It is well worth your time to research the area as you begin to create your own teaching portfolio.3


Dear Florence,


I've been teaching for a while and always thought I was a pretty good teacher. Lately, however, I am beginning to question whether students are really learning what I am trying to teach. Last week in the middle of our third class in obstetrics one student raised her hand and said, "Could you explain what a primipara is?" It floored me that she had not processed the basic words used in obstetrics. We had covered those terms in the first week!! I wonder how many other students don't know what I'm talking about but remain silent.


Floored in Frankfurt




It is good to question how much students really understand when you are teaching. Although the student's question worries you, it has given you the perfect opportunity to find out how much your class knows about obstetrics. As teachers, we might not evaluate students' knowledge until midterm examinations. Sometimes this is too late for the teacher to bring the student up to speed and correct any misconceptions, resulting in student failure. Even in a small class where students have the opportunity to ask questions, crucial concepts can be misunderstood or overlooked by silent students. Using classroom assessment techniques can help you keep tabs on student understanding and learning. Periodic assessments provide feedback to you regarding what students know and do not know, as well as feedback to the students about what they need to study.


You might want to try a few commonly used classroom assessment techniques.2


One-minute papers can be used anytime during class. Have students take out a sheet of paper and answer a question, such as, "What was the most important thing you learned today in lecture" or "How would you explain Rh incompatibility to your roommate who missed class today" or "What was one thing we talked about today that you still don't understand."


Allow students a few minutes to write their responses. Read their responses immediately after class and respond to them during the following class period. If you determine, as example, that they have misconstrued what Rh incompatibility is, or any other difficult concept, you could present the topic again using another explanation or develop a different strategy to teach it more clearly.


Another assessment technique is called parking lot.2 In this technique, you supply students with Post-it notes. Ask them to write any questions they have during lecture on the Post-it note and stick it on a designated area such as a blackboard at the front of the room. After class, collect and review the Post-it notes, answering their questions via mass e-mail or during the next class time.


A third technique to use is the "stop, continue, start" activity.2 In this activity, students are asked at midterm to take out a piece of paper and divide it into 3 sections, writing "stop," "start," and "continue" at the top of each section. Ask the students what they would like you to "stop" doing, "start" doing, or "continue" doing in relation to the class. Instruct them to write these things in the appropriate columns. After reviewing their responses, consider their feedback and decide what you will stop, start, or continue doing and share it with the class. By being open to their feedback and sharing what you plan to do, students will feel involved and more connected to the learning and respect you for trying to meet their learning needs.


Some tips to get you started in classroom assessment: (1) start small and do not ask for more information than you can analyze and use, (2) respond quickly to student feedback, (3) do not ask if you really do not want to know because students are not always tactful, (4) make sure students understand the responses will not influence their grade, (5) try different assessment techniques and use what works best for you.




1. McKeachie W. Teaching Tips: Strategies, Research, and Theory for College and University Teachers. 11th ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin; 2002. [Context Link]


2. Angelo T, Cross P. Classroom Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Teachers. 2nd Ed. San Francisco: Josey-Bass; 1994. [Context Link]


3. Seldin P. The Teaching Portfolio: A Practical Guide to Improve Performance and Promotion/Tenure Decisions. Bolton, Mass: Anker; 1991. [Context Link]