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Case 10
Teaching Portfolio


Roisin Donnelly






The Learning and Teaching Centre, Dublin Institute of Technology, 14 Upper Mount Street, Dublin 2, Ireland.

10.1 Context

The Teaching Portfolio is the assessment for the Postgraduate Certificate in Third Level Learning and Teaching, and is located in the Faculty of Academic Affairs in the Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT).

This certificate is aimed at new and existing academic staff in higher education (3rd level) institutions in the Republic of Ireland, including lecturers, librarians, and academic support staff. The latter two have responsibility for teaching in their areas. Initially offered in 2000, this postgraduate certificate is continuing apace today with over 90 academic staff having successfully graduated from the programme to date.

The teachers, from a number of higher education institutions throughout the Republic of Ireland, represent a wide variety of subject disciplines in Applied Arts, Science, Tourism and Food, Engineering, the Built Environment and Business. In addition, the teachers are also varied in their teaching background, ranging from apprenticeship courses to undergraduate and postgraduate degrees.

The aim of portfolio assessment is to give the programme participants an ideal source from which to view their own teaching philosophy, practice, effectiveness, goals and development.

10.2 Learning Outcomes being Assessed

There are two modules on the certificate programme. Module 1, entitled Learning and Teaching in Higher Education, aims to provide teachers in higher education with a wide range of practical learning and teaching methods including the use of relevant learning technologies that will help their students learn more effectively. The teachers will gain solid background knowledge in recognised theories and national and international best practices in learning and teaching in higher education so that they will understand the reasons for choosing certain teaching strategies.

In addition, the following specific areas are salient for new teachers:

Module 2, entitled Developing Curricula and Assessment Strategies, aims to facilitate lecturers to take a competent and proactive role in the development of high quality curricula in their own 3rd level contexts. This module will enable the participants to creatively explore and apply a range of ideas in the design of curricula and assessment strategies.

A number of key areas have been identified for learning:

10.3 Assessment Procedures/Details

A number of formative feedback opportunities are built into each module. The participants are divided into groups of no more than six to seven and are allocated a tutor to provide portfolio support. In the tutorial groups, all of the participants are offered the opportunity to avail of written formative assessment by a tutor on submitted draft work partway through each module. To ensure the consistency of feedback, a formative feedback form has been devised and distributed to all of the tutors. Alongside this, work-in-progress seminars are built into the module timetable to allow the participants the opportunity to share and discuss their portfolio entries with each other and the tutor.

It is pointed out to the participants, from the outset, that it is useful to remember that time is an important element in teaching portfolio development and that it should be a time-intensive process. Meaningful collections of work cannot be put together all at once: reflection and review should make the portfolio development an iterative process. The participants are told that they may find themselves re-visiting aspects of their portfolio throughout the entire development period and that there is no single, correct recipe for preparing a teaching portfolio. Since a portfolio is a highly personalised product, no two are exactly alike. However, a guidelines booklet on the development process, alongside web course tools (WebCT) support, and a set of clearly defined assessment criteria are available to ensure that the process is clear and the product is assessable.

At the close of each module, the portfolios are summatively assessed as Pass/Fail on a number of criteria:

An overall assessment comment is included to ensure that, through the development of the portfolio, the participant has met the learning outcomes for that module. A decision on this is taken based on an overall piece of critical reflective writing provided to make a case that the participant has successfully met all of the module’s learning outcomes. To help the participants structure that piece of writing, it is suggested that they relate their analysis to the module learning outcomes by taking each module learning outcome and exploring it from the perspective of what and how they have implemented it in their own classroom practice. When this process is completed, the participants use their responses to write an analysis of their overall learning from the module and state how the experiences have influenced how they think about their teaching and whether it has led to changes within their overall practice.

10.4 Strengths and Limitations

10.4.1 Strengths

Undergoing the portfolio development process provides the course participants with distinct benefits; it captures the complexities of the participants’ actual teaching and matches assessment to the teaching style of the module. The process of portfolio development has clear goals, which are decided at the beginning of the module and are clear to both tutors and participants. The aim of portfolio development is to promote new conversations about teaching in the institutions represented in Ireland and it has the potential to create a culture in which thoughtful discourse about teaching becomes the norm.

Portfolio development:

10.4.2 Limitations

10.5 Contributor’s Reflections on the Assessment

The teaching portfolio has been used as the assessment mechanism for the Postgraduate Certificate in 3rd Level Learning and Teaching for over five years. During that time, bi-annual formal evaluations have been conducted, the results of which have been transmitted back to the programme participants. The evaluations included collecting data about the portfolio as a form of assessment. A number of lessons have been learned by the course team:

10.6 Bibliography