The format and content of the teaching portfolio: Suggestions

The teaching portfolio can be delivered in a number of formats. Examples may include the following:

  • A printable document (typically a Microsoft Word or PDF Document).
  • A written, hard copy document.
  • A private (password protected) or openly-accessible online blog.
  • Part of your employee profile on our institution’s HR or learning management system (in the case of Stellenbosch University, the SunLearn LMS’s e-portfolio function would be an option).
  • On public, online platforms, specifically created for professional portfolios.

All these formats pose a number of benefits and challenges, depending on your professional needs and personal preferences.

In terms of the content of the portfolio, there are no strict rules, but a number of guidelines could help you to structure the process.

Examples of Online Platforms for Portfolio Development include:

 

Portfoliogen

Wix

Google Sites

– SUNLearn: Mahara (integrated with SUNLearn): When you log into SUNLearn, go to your Dashboard (or any module you are enrolled in) > in the panel on the left, scroll down to ‘Network Servers’ > Click on ‘Home – Eportfolio’. For more help on creating a portfolio here, please contact your faculty blended learning coordinator at the Centre for Learning Technologies.

Weebly

 

Guidelines on the type of Content in a Teaching Portfolio

 

  • Your own Teaching Philosophy
  • Context (your students’ needs and contexts, the context of teaching and learning in your particular academic discipline, programme and field – internationally and nationally, the social context of your students, our institution, and the national contexts, including the Higher Education landscape)
  • Scholarly Approach (evidence of engagement with the scholarship of teaching and learning)
  • Personal/Professional Objectives, Possible Areas for Improvement
  • Evidence of Innovative Teaching Approaches and innovative teaching and learning activities
  • Testimonials or Feedback from Students
  • Peer feedback from colleagues, advisors and managers.

Practical Suggestions on Structure and Content

 

  • Consider your audience: You may need to adapt the portfolio slightly if you are submitting it for a teaching award, for departmental review or to share with peers. In these cases, you may want to adapt your material to specific templates or criteria. Your faculty Teaching & Learning Advisor will be able to advise you, accordingly.

 

  • Usability and Navigation: A portfolio should be well-structured and easy to navigate. This will not only benefit the reader, but will also enable you to easily update the document over the longer term.

 

  • Use of Visual Media: Screenshots, imagery, videos, online links, and well-designed layout could (where relevant) help you to better communicate your teaching approach. If you need assistance, please contact your faculty’s Blended Learning Coordinator.

 

  • The underlying Purpose of a Portfolio: Developing and maintaining the portfolio should become part of your reflective practice, to celebrate and enhance your journey of personal and professional growth. It is not merely a tool for showcasing your achievements, but rather a platform for finding your authentic voice as a teaching practitioner.

What do Teaching Excellence Awards winners say?

 

  • Dr Taryn Bernard

A Winner of SU Teaching Excellence Award for Distinguished Teacher 2019

Extended Degree Programme, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

Stellenbosch University.

Got to this website to listen to   Dr Taryn Bernard’s introduction to critical reflection and portfolio-writing.

 

 

  • Prof Geo Quinot

 

Winner of Heltasa National Excellence Teaching Awards 2012

Department of Public Law

Faculty of Law
Stellenbosch University

 

“In my view good teaching is premised on a solid theoretical paradigm for the teaching practice at issue. I have thus developed such a theoretical paradigm, which I call ‘Transformative Legal Education’, to not only guide my own teaching practices, but that, in my view, should inform the teaching of law at South African universities today.”

 

 

 

  • Marianne MacKay

 

Winner of Heltasa National Excellence Teaching Awards 2015

Department of Viticulture and Oenology

Stellenbosch University

Faculty of AgriSciences

 

 

“Vines that struggle a little produce the best wine. Grapevines are unlike other crops where sun, water and fertiliser are maximised to give the highest possible yield of nondescript product. The goal of wine producers is to grow fruit that best expresses its terroir, and to do that, the vine needs to work hard to overcome the harshness of the environment, and make the best use of limited nutrients and water. During this process, flavour is developed and concentrated, which translates to wonderful wine. So it is with learners (if I may be forgiven for the analogy). A student who is pushed out of their comfort zone to engage fully with a concept, who has to adapt and restructure their thinking and behaviour, will distil the essence of their learning in a different way, and will be shaped by the experience.
“A carefully devised curriculum that challenges students should produce a ‘good blend’ of attributes in wellrounded individuals who have unique knowledge structures, excellent abilities to confront and solve problems, and empathy for the struggles and challenges others around them face.”

 

  • Dr Elize Archer

 

Head of the Simulation and Clinical Skills Unit at the Centre for Health Professions Education (CHPE)

Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS)

Winner of Stellenbosch University’s Teaching Excellence Award in the category “Developing Teacher”, December 2018

 

“I am very grateful for the recognition, as there are many other good teachers at Stellenbosch University,” Archer said in reaction to her award.

“Putting together my portfolio as part of my award application took a lot of effort. In order to show that you’re a good teacher, you need to provide evidence – so, I am extra happy that the hard work paid off! Receiving such recognition really motivates one to do more and better. I hope it will encourage other lecturers to apply in the future.

“What I really like about teaching is to see how students grow and develop during their study years. You really get to know the person behind the student.

“I am very fortunate to work for an institution that rewards and acknowledges good teaching,” says Archer.

 

 

  • Dr Eric Decloedt

 

Coordinator of Clinical Pharmacology Teaching in the Division of Clinical Pharmacology

Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS)

Winner of Stellenbosch University’s Teaching Excellence Award in the category “Developing Teacher”, December 2018

 

 

 “It is a great honour to be recognised for my passion for teaching,” Decloedt said in reaction to his award.

“This award acknowledges teaching as an important part of being an academic scholar and encourages teaching excellence. It also recognises the importance and value of clinical pharmacology in the MB,ChB curriculum.”

It is not the first time that Decloedt has been recognised for his outstanding teaching skills. In 2016, he was named “Educator of the Year” by the South African Society for Basic and Clinical Pharmacology (SASBCP) in recognition of his contributions to excellence, expertise and demonstrable achievement in pharmacology education.

Decloedt, who has been teaching clinical pharmacology to undergraduates and registrars training in clinical pharmacology since 2012, says one of his biggest challenges was to make pharmacology (which was traditionally taught as a fact-heavy subject) clinically relevant to students working in the South African context, and to maintain engagement with students despite increasingly large classes.

“My primary teaching goal is to foster the essential skill among medical graduates to rationally prescribe medicine. I feel strongly that SU medical graduates should be equipped to work in any healthcare facility in South Africa.”

Decloedt loves the interaction with students, including their sharp-witted responses in more light-hearted moments. “Students bring such a tapestry of experience and knowledge into the classroom, and I constantly learn from them.”

He encourages other lecturers to make use of the excellent resources provided by SU’s Centre for Teaching and Learning: “Many of my initiatives were inspired by learning from others. Be prepared to learn by trial and error based on the critique from students and peers. Students care about how much you care, not about how much you know. Don’t forget, you once were an undergraduate student too – in fact, we all are students on our life journey.”​