Creating a professional portfolio is worthwhile at any time in a teacher’s career, but this year may really be a good time to revisit how you organize and share your professional accomplishments. And it may be easier than you think: Carving out a few minutes each week to add a link to a great activity you created, reflect on an obstacle or success story, or upload a few pictures can quickly lead to a robust portfolio of your accomplishments.
There are two big reasons to undertake this task. First, a portfolio helps chronicle your experience. More than a collection of journal entries, a portfolio gives you a space in which to share wins and how you overcame obstacles, and to celebrate small and big victories. Second, a portfolio gives you a space in which to reflect on your experiences. Reflecting is important for our professional growth, and anyone who looks at our portfolio should see how we’ve grown from our experiences.
You might decide your primary goal for a portfolio is professional development—to keep track of your learning and use it as part of your reflections at the end of the school year. This type of collection is often a component of a job or graduate program application, even if that isn’t the reason you create it. But even if you’re not currently planning on applying for a certificate program or exploring a new role, having a portfolio already built will increase your options should an opportunity arise.
What Goes Into a Portfolio?
There are a few key components you should include.
Introduction: Have a few sentences at the beginning of your portfolio that state your goals for the year or your philosophy as an educator. You might revisit this section over the course of a school year as you refine your goals.
Summaries: Add summaries of your accomplishments or growth in a consistent format. These might be weekly or monthly reflections where you discuss a lesson, interaction, or activity that was particularly memorable to you. Consistency is more important than length, so having more, shorter updates that show growth or development over time should be a priority.
Artifacts: A summary provides a quick description, but artifacts provide the evidence that illustrates what you’ve accomplished. They may include links to interactive presentations you tried with Nearpod or a collection of Flipgrid videos with student responses. You might have images to add, like photographs or screenshots. Or there may be links to something you or your students created that you’d like to include as examples of what you accomplished this year. Before sharing student work, you’ll want to make sure you have permission.
How to Create a Portfolio
There are a few options to explore for building your portfolio. You can create a website using Adobe Spark Page, Google Sites, or Microsoft Sway; use an e-book format with Book Creator; or organize everything into a collection of text and links using Wakelet. These tools all allow you to organize content and update it.
First, set up a template or structure you can easily add to over the course of the school year. You might decide to add new information at the top or the bottom of your page to make it easy to follow any updates. Setting up a structure can save you time in the long run, but don’t forget that you can always change things up as the year progresses. For example, if you start the year adding a lot of writing to your portfolio, you can decide to switch to audio buttons to record your voice or upload more pictures as you get in the habit of taking screenshots of moments to celebrate.
Set a reminder on your calendar to help you stay committed to updating the portfolio. This might be a 15-minute appointment you add to your calendar once a week or a 45-minute block you carve out each month. If you come across something that makes you think, “I should add this to my portfolio,” add the link or a note to your calendar appointment so that you don’t forget it.
Share your experience as your portfolio grows. This is a living, evolving document. If you want to share it at the start of your commitment to setting up a portfolio, encourage a friend or colleague to create one too. You could share the link to your portfolio with an instructional coach, a mentor, or anyone who is following along with your work this year.
In addition to an introduction, summaries, and artifacts, there are other items particular to your own experience that you might include. If you’ve read a professional book on your own or as part of a book club, you can include a mention of a takeaway or big idea you gleaned. Do that also if you read a blog post or listen to a podcast that impacts your professional growth.
The pandemic has been overwhelming for so many people, and it may not seem like there are many accomplishments to celebrate. But portfolios aren’t just for the bright and shiny moments—you can incorporate ideas that may always be a work in progress, or acknowledge the things you’ve tried and decided to pivot from or abandon completely.
This type of portfolio creation might be a great fit for you right now or later in the school year, or it might be something you place in your back pocket for when you’re ready to take a deep breath and reflect.