graphic: folder Teaching Portfolios: Examples

Successful Use of Teaching Portfoliosby Peter Seldin is the best discussion of the teaching portfolio we've found. The following examples of actual faculty portfolios are used with the written permission of Anker Publishing.

bullet Nina Caris, Biology, Texas A & M University
bullet John Zubizarreta,
English, Columbia College
bullet William L. Perry,
Mathematics, Texas A & M University


Teaching Portfolio
Nina Caris, Department of Biology, Texas A&M University

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Table of Contents

  • Statement of Teaching Responsibilities

  • Teaching Strategies and Methods Syllabi and Objectives

  • Exams from Courses Taught Future Directions

  • Efforts to Improve Teaching

  • Measures of Teaching Effectiveness Teaching Awards

  • Other Teaching Initiatives Appendices


graphic: checkmark
Statement of Teaching Responsibilities

As Director of Freshman Programs, I am responsible for curriculum development and coordination of the large-enrollment introductory lecture and laboratory courses. I routinely teach Introductory Biology (BIOL 113/114) with approximately 300 students per semester. Additional teaching responsibilities include an undergraduate problems course (BIOL 485H) and a graduate level problems course (BIOL 685) that are preservice and in service training for new teaching assistants. Brief course descriptions and past enrollments are included in Appendix A.

graphic: checkmarkTeaching Strategies and Methods

    Because of the large class size and great amount of material covered in Introductory Biology, the primary teaching method is lecture. Some of the strategies I use include:

  • Advanced Organizers. I always begin each lecture with an outline and a combination of useful analogies, models, metaphors or examples. This helps students integrate the subject matter with their outside experiences. Evidence is that these advanced organizers help students fix newly acquired knowledge in long-term memory.

  • Lecture Outlines and Objectives. I have written teaching objectives for the Introductory Biology course which are statements of measurable behavioral standards expected from students. A copy of these objectives is included in Appendix B. Lecture outlines are based upon these objectives to help focus lecture material on important concepts and to avoid overemphasis on the trivial--a common criticism of introductory biology courses. Additionally, careful selection of behavioral objectives helps us strike a balance between knowledge level objectives and those requiring higher-order cognitive processes. Since comprehension and recall are strongly influenced by the structure and organization of material, I believe that a thoughtful organization of lecture material that uses behavioral objectives as a guide is an important aid to student learning.

  • Questioning Strategies. To encourage active participation in class, I design questioning strategies to be interspersed with the lecture content. This allows me to model the thinking process of students in addition to actively engaging them in class.

  • Concept Mapping. At the beginning of each semester, I teach my students how to construct a concept map. This is a hierarchical mapping of concepts and an explicit statement of their relationships. The reflective thinking required to create a map helps students learn meaningfully as they select and write key concepts, make an attribute list and spatially organize the concepts. Students examples are included in Appendix C. To encourage the students to use the strategy, I model it in class and require the students to construct at least one map on each test.

  • Variety of Presentation Styles. Because the student population in my classes is so diverse, I try to appeal to a variety of learning styles by giving an overview, providing detailed examples and then repeating the major points in a summary. For each major point, I orally present content and then follow it with a summary on an overhead transparency. Whenever appropriate, I supplement this with a diagram or photograph. Samples are included in Appendix D.

  • Balanced Assessment That Reinforces Behavioral Objectives. I use the behavioral objectives as a guide for both the content and cognitive level of exam questions. I also construct a table of specifications, so that even though the exam contains objective type questions, there will be an appropriate number of higher-order questions and an even coverage of material. I explain this to students at the beginning of the semester to motivate them beyond rote memorization as they study for exams. A sample table of specifications is included in Appendix E.

  • Learning Strategies, Tutorial Program and Study Groups. One of my primary teaching goals is to teach learning strategy with content so that students can become independent learners. At the beginning of the semester, we offer a learning strategies workshop designed to teach students how to put basic biological facts and knowledge into a conceptual framework that will enhance understanding and retention. As part of this program, students learn to go beyond passive listening and to analyze lecture content, seek organizational cues, identify key concepts, and establish the relationships among those concepts. Some of these strategies are modeled and reinforced in lecture, and students who wish to participate in small formalized study groups can practice these skills further. In conjunction with the learning strategies training program, faculty and graduate students teaching Introductory Biology offer topical tutorials. Both lecture and tutorial content are the basis for small group work. A description of the tutorial program and fliers announcing topics are included in Appendix F.

  • Cooperative Learning. I have also been involved in curriculum development for the Introductory Biology Laboratory course. In the honors sections of the course, we are currently implementing a pilot project on cooperative learning among groups of four students. The intent is to enhance student learning by requiring students to take responsibility not only for their own learning, but for their group members' learning as well; structure opportunities for student/student interaction and articulation of ideas; and address diversity in the classroom by appealing to a variety of learning styles. A project description and photographs can be found in Appendix G.

graphic: checkmarkSyllabi and Objectives

Syllabi and course objectives for lecture and laboratory courses are included in Appendix H. The syllabi are given to students during the first day of class and include a statement of course structure; required and optional materials; a description of hourly, make-up and final exams, how the course grade is computed; course outline; a description of the tutorial program; and a schedule of events including exam dates.

graphic: checkmarkExams from Courses Taught

Representative exams from both regular and honors sections of Introductory Biology are attached in Appendix I. These exams include a variety of question types including multiple-choice, concept map, short answer and essay questions. Each question is at or below the cognitive level of the behavioral objective it addresses.

The majority of questions for the large lecture course must, by necessity, be computer graded. Thus, these exams contain mostly objective questions. The way students prepare for an objective exam does not necessarily motivate them to develop the skills and strategies to achieve higher-order cognitive objectives. Consequently, I include a map or short essay on each test. Research evidence indicates that just one good essay question or map can make the difference in how students learn. Exams for the smaller honors sections include all question types, which gives greater flexibility in assessing student progress and provides students an opportunity to articulate their ideas.

graphic: checkmarkFuture Directions

A primary teaching goal is to learn more about cognitive science, especially current research on learning and critical thinking, in order to translate this newly acquired knowledge into practical applications in the large classroom and laboratory. This year I will attend a national meeting on critical thinking and will read recommended references and primary literature. By the end of the second year, I want to develop and test at least one exercise appropriate for the large enrollment lecture course that will enhance student comprehension of a complex process. A related goal is to improve the learning strategies workshops and to develop discipline related exercises for small study groups.

For the laboratory course, I want to develop new curricular materials such as simulations, lines of questioning, lab exercises with field and quantitative components, lab exercises for cooperative group work, lab exercises that are experimental and discovery-driven, and exercises that can be used as alternatives to dissection labs. This will be an ongoing project for at least the next five years proceeding at a pace of one or two exercises per year.

graphic: checkmarkEfforts to Improve Teaching

In an effort to improve teaching, I have and will continue to refine my teaching skills and strategies based upon feedback from an ongoing evaluation process, which includes the results from a student evaluation of teaching questionnaire, peer evaluation including classroom observation, consultation with instructional specialists in the university's Center for Teaching Excellence, and subjective and cognitive interaction analyses from videotapes of lectures.

In addition to assigning concept maps for improved student comprehension, I also use the students' maps to improve the way I teach a particular topic. An advantage to using maps is that they can be diagnostic of common misconceptions and a measure of general student understanding.

I attend and participate in teaching related workshops, roundtables and inquiry seminars presented by the university's CTE and at national professional meetings. In the recent past, I have attended workshops on critical thinking, methods for teaching large classes, learning styles, learning strategies, multicultural diversity, biology laboratory education, computer-assisted learning, Sloan Foundation New Liberal Arts Program, using case studies in group work, TA training, and teaching portfolios.

graphic: checkmarkMeasures of Teaching Effectiveness

Indicators of teaching effectiveness include quantitative results and student comments from teacher evaluations. Detailed summary sheets of "Student Ratings of Faculty," representative student comments and letters from former students are included in Appendix J. Sample questions and mean responses are summarized in the following table.

graphic: checkmarkStudent Ratings of Faculty
Comparison of mean scores from Caris' lecture sections (B113/114) with the average mean
scores of all lecturers' sections in Introductory Biology.
 

Mean

Fall 89

Mean

Fall 90

Mean

Spring 91

Mean

Fall 91

Sample Questions Caris

B113
All

Sect.

Caris

B113

All

Sect.

Caris

B114

All

Sect.

Caris

B113

All

Sect.

1. The instructor was consistently well
prepared and well organized for class
sessions.

4.72

4.28

4.79

4.25

4.48

4.19

4.71

4.43

2. The instructor had the ability to explain difficult material clearly.

4.28

3.36

4.52

3.39

4.52

3.65

4.48

3.61

3. The instructor encouraged students’ questions. 4.71 3.90 4.79 4.03 4.83 3.63 4.75 3.85
4. The instructor appeared to enjoy teaching this course. 4.77 3.94 4.84 3.88 4.86 3.91 4.84 3.90
5. The instructor has increased and improved my understanding of the subject.

4.24

3.67

4.44

3.79

4.45

3.83

4.43

3.85

6. For an overall rating, this is one of the best instructors I have had at TAMU.

4.22

3.03

4.36

3.05

4.05

3.03

4.26

3.19


Mean scores on a 5 point basis (SA=5, A=4, U=3, D=2, SD=1)
Comparison of individual classes (B113=Biol 113/B114=Biol 114 and
All=all Biol 113/144 sections)


graphic: checkmarkComments from Students

It is rewarding to end the semester by reading the unsolicited comments on the back of the teaching evaluations. Some excerpts follow:

  • "Dr. Caris was able to increase my understanding of the material as well as pique my interest."

  • "Dr. Caris is the most charismatic, enthusiastic and effective instructor I've ever had."

  • "Dr. Caris was very excited about the subject material and is a professor who really cares about her students."
Letters of support from graduate students and peers are also located in Appendix J.

graphic: checkmark Comments from Graduate Students

One of the most meaningful and rewarding letters of support I have ever received is a letter of recommendation signed by twenty-nine graduate students. Some quotes follow:

  • "Dr. Caris is without a doubt one of the most effective teachers on this campus. Working so closely with graduate teaching assistants, she has become somewhat of a role model."

  • "She wants to insure that the freshman biology student will have the best possible instruction, and she also wants to see that each incoming graduate student has a good base from which to build a teaching career."

graphic: checkmarkComments from Faculty


  • A faculty member who teaches Introductory Biology writes:

    "Nina is an outstanding teacher. She has successfully led the Department of Biology's Introductory Biology
    Program through a period of substantial change and growth with the goal of improving the program in terms of
    how well it serves the academic needs of the students."

  • A former associate department head and faculty member with whom I have worked closely writes:

    "Each semester many of my advisees relate her many abilities as a teacher which include: organization skills, comfortable manner of speech, genuine concern for the students and their learning, high standards, and enthusiasm that is infectious."

  • The Head of the Department of Biology, who has been immensely supportive of my teaching efforts, writes the following:

"Dr. Caris is continually rated by student evaluations as one of the best instructors in the department. She
successfully combines the ability to provide a high quality, rigorous teaching style with a genuine concern for
the student's well-being and ability to obtain knowledge."

"Dr. Caris has earned the respect and admiration of students, teaching assistants, staff and peers due to her
dedication, innovative techniques, and performance in the classroom."


Appendix K includes student outcomes that are a reflection of teaching effectiveness. I have attached examples of concept maps, student lab reports, exam responses and final problems course reports. Whenever possible I have included exemplary, satisfactory and poor work, in order to provide a frame of reference for comparison.

graphic: checkmarkTeaching Awards

I am honored to have recently received the following awards in recognition for teaching:

  • Association of Former Students Distinguished Achievement Award, College-Level Teaching, Texas A&M University, 1991.

  • AMOCO Foundation Award for Distinguished Teaching, AMOCO Chemical Company, 1991.

  • Center for Teaching Excellence Scholar Award, Texas A&M University, 1991.

graphic: checkmarkOther Teaching Initiatives

  • Instructor's Guide. I have coauthored the Instructor's Guide for Campbell's "Biology". This extensive guide includes chapter outlines, course objectives, lecture notes and suggested references. We have received much positive feedback from faculty who use the notes and are currently working on the second edition. Sample pages are included in Appendix L.

  • Teaching Assistant Training Course. I developed and implemented a discipline specific TA training course for new teaching assistants in the Department of Biology. Many of our teaching assistants are recent graduates with no prior teaching experience, so a training program has the immediate benefit of improving Introductory Biology and is a prime opportunity to train future biology faculty to be effective teachers. Major course objectives are to familiarize TAs with lesson design and varied teaching strategies including appropriate situations for their use. During the course, TAs witness effective teaching behavior with videotapes, and practice teaching in front of peers with evaluative feedback on teaching effectiveness. A description of our program has recently been published as both a book chapter and monograph abstract. I have also given several invited presentations on our program at national professional meetings. A more detailed description of the program follows in Appendix M.

  • Sea Grant. We used a Sea Grant to enhance the teaching of Introductory Biology by setting up saltwater aquaria in five teaching laboratories and by adding a marine field trip to the Teaching Assistant Training Course. This allowed us to bring a diversity of living marine organisms into the lab for our landlocked students. In preparation to teach the diversity labs, TAs took a field trip to the University of Texas Marine Science Institute in Port Aransas, Texas. The purpose was both to educate and stimulate interest among the instructors in the hopes that they would pass that enthusiasm on to their students. The project has been quite successful and popular. Supporting documentation and photographs are included in
    Appendix N.

graphic: checkmarkTeaching Initiatives

Appendix A: Course Descriptions and Enrollments
Appendix B: Lecture Outlines and Objectives
Appendix C: Student Examples of Concept Maps
Appendix D: Sample Transparencies
Appendix E: Table of Specifications
Appendix F: Tutorial Program Description and Fliers.
Appendix G: Cooperative Learning Project Description and Photographs
Appendix H: Course Syllabi
Appendix I: Exams from Introductory Biology
Appendix J: Summaries of "Student Ratings of Faculty" and Support Letters
Appendix K: Examples of Student Work
Appendix L: Instructor's Guide
Appendix M: Description of Teaching Assistant Training Course
Appendix N: Sea Grant Project Description and Photographs

 

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Teaching Portfolio
John Zubizarreta, Department of English, Columbia College

graphic: checkmarkTable of Contents

  • Teaching Responsibilities, Philosophy, Strategies
  • Collaborative Scholarship with Students
  • Student Evaluations
  • Letters from Colleagues
  • Teaching Awards
  • Syllabi, Reading Lists, Assignments, Handouts, and Exams
  • Teaching Improvement
  • Teaching Related Activities and Committee Work
  • Letters from Students
  • Future Teaching Goals
  • Appendices
graphic: checkmark Teaching Responsibilities, Philosophy, Strategies

Each semester, I teach four sections of English courses, with three preparations (an average of eighty-three students per semester), and I currently advise nine majors. I have taught specially developed seminars in two May terms, and I have volunteered twice to teach Orientation 190 and Leadership 190. In Spring 1990, 1 directed a senior honors project and served as second reader of another. In Spring 1991, 1 again directed a project. In Spring 1992, I supervised an independent study for an outstanding Bulgarian student; at Columbia College, independent studies are considered volunteer work in addition to a full teaching load.

In my relations with students, I have learned that conscientious mentoring is a necessary dimension of careful teaching. Delivering information in the classroom, administering tests, and computing information are superficial acts of teaching which the uninspired but competent teacher can perform. But the outstanding professor knows the value of working patiently with students on personal levels. In the intellectually productive relationship that develops between student and mentor, the teacher advocates the student's whole learning as the student learns not only academic information but social and personal skills that enhance learning. In a sense, the professor teaches more than content; he or she teaches habits of thinking, habits of being. Students discover in the process of engaged learning the rewards of controlled inquiry, the value of reasoned discourse, the delight of intellectual curiosity, and an earned respect for knowledge. Faculty who work vitally with students encourage learning on various levels and contribute to students' lifelong commitment to truth in knowledge.

Excellent teaching must inspire and be inspired. The authentic aim of education is not information— a mean goal—but truth. In order to discover the truth in knowledge, students must insist on the best from teachers. They must demand not only course content and common assessment but the uncommon interactive mentoring that results in genuine learning. The teacher must teach not train. Students must learn, not "perform competencies." Students must know that more should happen in their education than what happens in ordinary classrooms. The outstanding professor extends the teaching moment and inspires students to learn beyond the classroom, beyond facts, beyond "assessment instruments."

I believe that I have lived up to my own standards of teaching. In subsequent categories and appendices, I take care to demonstrate my effectiveness in the classroom and in teaching related activities and my strong commitment to continued development of teaching, to close contact with students, to innovation, to rigorous scholarship, and to the shared act of learning that inspires both teacher and student.

First, I routinely make time for conferences with students to offer them valuable personal attention. Students need such attention in order to learn important skills that carry over to their careers. In composition classes, I meet with students in small groups to teach them word processing or other tactics of writing. For example, I may allow three students to "shadow" me as I underline significant passages in a story, write comments in the margins, make connections among sets of details, and compose a short essay on the computer screen. The small group conference provides an atmosphere of trust and sharing that teaches the students crucial habits. Other times, I meet individually with students to help them revise and edit essays, showing them personally how good writers work.

Second, I use various presentations to engage students in several forms of learning. I particularly encourage discussion, asking students questions, inviting them to participate in vital discourse. I also use portfolios as springboards for dialogue, reading compelling entries aloud so that students become accustomed to analyzing, defending, and challenging ideas. Occasionally, I assign oral reports, use films or slides, and invite guest speakers in order to vary classroom activities. In an honors course in Spring 1991, for instance, I asked a colleague to share with the class a conference paper dealing with a subject we had discussed. She described the process of writing the paper, the many revisions, the discoveries she made in successive drafts, the experience finally of reading the paper at a conference. The students were fascinated with learning that even professors struggle with writing, and they were so delighted and encouraged that they pestered me all term to invite another professor. I believe the students learned something that day that far exceeded the information of the course.

Third, my use of student portfolios enhances learning. The descriptions of the portfolio in my syllabi record my methods, and enthusiastic student evaluations testify to the effectiveness of portfolios in encouraging students to develop and test critical thinking and writing skills. One example sufficiently demonstrates the value of portfolios. In my World Literature class of spring 1990, 1 began to notice in an Iranian student's folder a number of informal entries on an unfamiliar modern Persian poet. I encouraged her to present an oral report to the class, and later she wrote a research paper on Forugh Farrokhzad. In the spring, I collaborated with the student in presenting a workshop at a national conference on teaching methods, highlighting the use of portfolios in teaching intercultural students. Finally, with the help of my student's translations, I have published a paper on Farrokhzad in a prestigious journal. Clearly, portfolios effectively prompt students to practice essential skills without penalties and inhibitions, and the close intellectual relationship that develops between students and teacher is extremely rewarding to both.

Finally, I pride myself on being both teacher and scholar, and I try to teach students respect for scholarship that transfers to other courses and to their professional lives. Professors should be active scholars, and teaching should be informed by research and professional development. My syllabi change regularly to reflect my own continual learning and interests within my discipline. For example, as I developed a scholarly interest in modern Hispanic literature, I incorporated such writers into various courses. When I began teaching at a women's college, I studied more female writers and adjusted my syllabi accordingly. In fact, in summer 1989, 1 was awarded a fellowship with USC's Institute for Southern Studies, enabling me to study women in Flannery O'Connor's fiction, a topic I now teach in special May terms. I am devoted to the interaction of scholarship and effective teaching, and I try to inspire students with the value of accurate, original research. My beliefs about scholarship and teaching are discussed further in my address at the college's Faculty Convivium; the text is included in Appendix A.

graphic: checkmarkCollaborative Scholarship with Students

A rewarding aspect of teaching has been my involvement with students in producing scholarship that reflects genuine collaborative learning. No student evaluation conveys the extent of learning and influence that results when a professor and student engage in shared research and writing. Both are enriched by the experience.

Appendix A contains a copy of my address at the first Faculty Convivium, a series of talks highlighting faculty research on campus. In order to inaugurate the convivium uniquely, I focused on collaborative ventures between faculty and students, citing three examples of my own involvement with students in presenting workshops, reading papers at conferences, and writing for publication. In February 1991, an Iranian student and I presented "The Written Portfolio: A Collaborative Model for Intercultural Students," a workshop at the Enhancing the Quality of Teaching Conference in Charleston, SC. With the student's translations of Persian, I have published an article on an Iranian poet in the international journal World Literature Today. In October 1991, I helped an English major write a paper that was accepted by the Popular Culture Association of the South; I wrote a companion piece, and we read both essays at the conference in Norfolk, VA. In late October 1991, 1 collaborated with three honors students in presenting "An Honors Approach to Poetry and the Fine Arts" at the National Collegiate Honors Council in Chicago, IL.

In Spring 1991, I had the opportunity to direct a senior honors project, a collection of original short stories. After much close work with the student, I wrote a preface that introduces the talented pieces. I have encouraged this student to send her work to a national contest for eventual publication. I include a copy of my preface in Appendix A.

A more recent example of collaborative scholarship is my association with two Bulgarian students who have read papers at a special session I moderated at the Southern Humanities Council Annual Conference in February 1992. One of the major conference themes was comparative views of the South, and I encouraged both students to write abstracts to accompany my proposal for a session on "Me Literature and Sociology of the South from an East European Perspective." Our proposal was accepted, and I helped the students prepare their papers. As moderator, I also wrote a brief response to their unique observations of the South. Appendix A includes a copy of our proposal. Presently, I am helping both Bulgarian students to submit revisions of their essays to an international conference scheduled for Summer 1992, in Italy.

graphic: checkmarkStudent Evaluations

Appendix B includes student evaluations from all my classes at Columbia College as well as several from courses I taught at other institutions. My evaluations are consistently high in all categories, and I earn commendations from students about my enthusiasm, knowledge, standards, methods, helpfulness, and fairness. The college's evaluation forms rate faculty on several items, using a scale that defines performance as outstanding, superior, satisfactory, poor, or unsatisfactory. In 1991, 1 taught multiple sections of four different courses my ratings are indicated in the following chart:

COURSE Outstanding Superior Satisfactory Poor Unsatisfactory
Eng. 336 75% 22% 3% - -
Eng. 277 86% 12% 2% - -
Eng. 150 78% 20% 2% - -
Eng. 103 77% 20% 3% - -


Such figures are consistent in my evaluation since I began teaching in 1973. Students frequently score me in the upper 97th percentile or better in outstanding teaching.

Students' personal comments on evaluation forms are as generous as their ratings. Students refer to my enthusiasm: "Dr. Z makes learning a joy"; "Very energetic and exciting"; "He taught the subject with passion, joy"; "He has an uncanny and exciting way to talk to us"; "He keeps you attentive"; "Dr. Z [has] the capacity to motivate interest and creativity in his students"; "It was obvious that he loves what he does."

But effective teaching is more than showmanship, and students also praise my high standards and my emphasis on scholarship: "He knew the material extremely well"; "He ... looked at the criticism before coming to class to help us understand"; "He could answer all questions accurately and effectively"; "We ... were persuaded to do our best and be 'professional'. This caused us to work hard and be proud of our work"; "I know how to do a tough research paper now"; "Although he requires a lot of work, I learned a lot ... in his class; 'Professor was well-prepared, knowledgeable of subject material, and fair in every aspect"; "Very professional."

Many students focus on my teaching methods and my experimentations with the portfolio assignment: "He welcomed and enjoyed our questions"; "Doesn't criticize our thoughts, but encourages us to explore"; "He always listens, offers guidance, gives second chances when needed"; "I have never had a professor take so much time to give students feedback"; "He took time with us in our conferences"; "He is the fairest and best one-to-one professor I have ever had"; "The portfolio method ... is the most effective way for me and ... others to learn"; "He used so many different methods of teaching that one always got through to me."

I expend a great deal of my energy as a teacher on individual attention, and students recognize my efforts: "He always made time for me"; "He is dedicated to his students. We all love him"; "He always told us why we got a grade and how we could improve .... He always had a personal note to us about our papers"; "Dr. Z was there when I had a question or needed help-that's some- thing great to say about a professor"; "He respects our answers ... gives everybody a fair chance"; "He doesn't grade on what skills you should have but on what skills you actually have and [on your] willingness to ... do your best"; "He taught ... each student ... one-on-one. He cares about your work and about helping you learn"; "I cannot think of any one professor that has left me with a greater thirst for knowledge .... I only hope someday I may have as tremendous an impact on a young mind as you have had on mine."

graphic: checkmarkLetters from Colleagues

I enclosed in Appendix C copies of letters from colleagues commenting on my commitment to teaching, my hours with students in conferences, my professional development and scholarship, my devotion to the college, my work with student activities, and my community service. One colleague who has observed me in the classroom and in conferences and who has reviewed my comments on students' papers writes, "He challenges his students to 'be professional’... he exacts high standards from them and refuses to let them get off lightly when they produce second-rate work. Students ... sense his genuine respect for and interest in what they have to say." Another colleague who supervises student teachers and who has observed my work says, "John is the consummate professional, the man who gives his all to his career and to his friends....He asks for the best from his students because he always demands it of himself....John is, in a phrase, a 'master teacher.’" A colleague outside my department observes, "From day one of his joining our faculty, John has been energetic and enthusiastic as an active participant in student, faculty, and college functions." The chair of my department kindly remarks, "John is an exemplary teacher. His successful innovations in ... teaching ... have spurred forth his students and have inspired his colleagues to emulation. His enthusiasm in the classroom is contagious, so that even his most reticent students gain a new vision of what they may achieve."

graphic: checkmarkTeaching Awards

Appendix D contains evidence of outstanding teaching awards for which I have been nominated or which I have received. While I was a graduate teaching assistant at the University of South Carolina in 1975, 1 was a finalist for the Amoco Teaching Award, a campus-wide prize for all teaching faculty. And in 1991, 1 was selected by both faculty and students for the Columbia College Outstanding Faculty Member Award. I also received the 1991 Sears-Roebuck Foundation Teaching Excellence and Campus Leadership Award. Currently, I am the college's nominee for the Governor's Professor of the Year Award, a statewide competition among faculty from all public and private institutions in South Carolina. In addition, I am a nominee for the 1992 Outstanding Teacher Award sponsored by the South Atlantic Association of Departments of English.

graphic: checkmarkSyllabi, Reading Lists, Assignments, Handouts, and Exams

Appendix E includes copies of my syllabi for various courses I have taught over a number of years. I have added some syllabi for classes similar to ones I teach now at Columbia College. These are similar to ones I taught at other institutions to demonstrate my commitment to change and currency not only in my own scholarly development but also in my teaching. The English 201 course I taught between 1979 and 1983 in North Carolina, for example, is identical to the college's English 277. My syllabi reflect continual variety and flexibility in readings, methods, and goals, with increasing evidence of precision in detailing expectations and criteria for evaluation. The syllabi get better over- all, though cluttered and lengthy with growing demands of assessment. Yet, the syllabi record progress in my teaching as I try to keep both myself and the courses fresh.

One noteworthy addition to some of my syllabi is the inclusion of a reading list, such as the bibliographies on selected authors for research projects in one class. Such lists reinforce the connection between scholarship and teaching and provide a useful resource for students. In all classes, I suggest additional readings during discussions, and I plan to add reading lists to all my syllabi.

Appendix F includes copies of representative assignments for freshman classes in which students need extra guidance. I have selected assignments from classes I taught several years ago, and from recent classes, in order to show development in my efforts to be more specific and helpful. For example, the dated sheet labeled "EH 102 Short Fiction Essay" is skimpy in outlining both the topics and the requirements; the "Final Exam Topics," dated and composed several years later, reveals more care and planning, more direction, more instruction; the English 103 and 150 sheets, used in different semesters more recently, also reveal greater detail and more emphasis on using the assignments to teach, not just to test. I have added other assignments that illustrate the value I place on providing models for students. The "Annotated Bibliography" and "Research Paper" sheets offer samples of the style and content of annotated citations and the methods of incorporating research into a critical essay; the assignments also stress the significance of good scholarship, reinforcing a major competency of all my courses. Of course, I provide students with samples of each kind of essay I ask them to write. Finally, the handout "Sample Portfolio Entries" models for students the active learning that comes from maintaining a serious, thoughtful portfolio.

Appendix G contains handouts I use in several classes. Since the portfolio is a major assignment in my classes, I include samples of "Suggested Topics for Out-of-Class Entries," a handout encouraging students to write on a variety of topics. Often embedded in the suggestions are vital issues that enhance students' learning and produce good writing. At the end of a semester, I often reread students' entries on suggested topics and group them according to the issues a student seemed most interested in exploring; then I customize the final exam topics for each student, referring her to selected entries in her portfolio. I add a "Checklist for Oral Reports," which focuses on important features of this particular project, and "Outline of Romantic Tendencies," which helps English 336 students in highlighting key concepts and in seeing a historical overview-skills often lost in rapid survey courses.

In Appendix H, I have placed copies of objective exams I use sporadically, for I prefer essays as a superior means of assessing students' learning. Essays provide students with an opportunity to integrate knowledge; to express their critical thinking about subject matter; to organize, develop, and substantiate ideas. Essays also require students to engage the vital processes of writing, of communication, of invention, and expression of ideas in coherent form. Students must generate knowledge, not just react to it in objective responses. Evaluating essays takes more of the teacher's time than scoring quantitative tests, but I believe essays offer a more valuable index of students' learning.

graphic: checkmarkTeaching Improvement

Just as I stress the importance of ongoing professional activity in my role as scholar, I value the imperatives of experimentation and improvement in teaching. The constant revisions in my syllabi and methods attest to my desire to improve teaching. Also, I have attended workshops and conferences focusing on the enhancement of teaching techniques and goals. In December 1988, I participated in a writing-across-the-curriculum workshop conducted by Dr. Henry Steffens of the University of Vermont. In February 1989, 1 attended the conference of the Georgia-South Carolina College English Association. In November 1989, I co-presented "Write to Think," a workshop on the use of journals at the meeting of the South Carolina Association of Developmental Educators.

graphic: checkmarkTeaching Related Activities and Committee Work

As part of my service to the community, I frequently extend my teaching to audiences outside of the college. For example, Appendix I contains a copy of a page from my vita which shows that I speak on literary and other topics to several community groups and civic clubs. Also in Appendix 1, I include evidence of my membership in the college's speakers bureau and in the South Carolina Humanities Council. In addition, I participate as a teaching scholar in the South Carolina libraries' "Let's Talk About It: Reading and Discussion Program" funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

My committee responsibilities at the college involve me in work towards the improvement of teaching, too. I am a member of the Collaborative Learning Steering Committee, which has dutifully sought to enhance teaching by developing ways of incorporating interdisciplinary and collaborative methods into the curriculum. The committee also has taken on the charge of revising the general education program at the college in order to strengthen both teaching and learning. I am also a member of a special committee for reform and improvement of academic advisement.

graphic: checkmarkLetters for Students

A valuable service teachers can provide for students is to write cogent letters of recommendation for scholarships, jobs, or other goals. Appendix J contains letters I have written in recent years at different institutions, demonstrating the continued, serious effort I make to help students.

graphic: checkmarkFuture Teaching Goals

  1. I feel that because of my academic background, my record of excellent teaching, and my current and vital scholarship, I should teach more upper-level courses in my areas of specialization. I would like to teach modern American literature to majors. Perhaps I will have such a chance this year, for the chair of my department has already begun to press for sharing of courses and has offered his own upper-level courses to serve as a model to the rest of the department.

  2. My strengths in comparative literature encourage me to develop more courses in diverse literatures. My department should offer advanced world literature courses for majors. I have published several pieces on works of foreign literatures, and I would like to teach culturally diverse literature in advanced courses. The college's growing emphasis on curriculum reform may change the English major in the next two years, and I hope to be a leader.

  3. 1 would like to earn a teaching Fulbright in a Latin American country. Such an experience will enrich not only my scholarly background but also my teaching. I already have begun the application process.

  4. I hope to find more ways of incorporating word processing technology into all courses. Currently, I build into composition classes days on which I accompany small groups to the Computer Lab in order to teach them basic skills. I would like to discover new ways of devising projects that encourage students to become more proficient with computers. A valued colleague has taught me to use a community computer journal in an honors course (an assignment sheet is attached to the syllabus for that course in Appendix E). I also plan to continue learning from colleagues and conferences.
graphic: checkmark Appendices
Appendix A: Address at the Faculty Convivium
Appendix B: Student Evaluations
Appendix C: Letters from Colleagues
Appendix D: Outstanding Teaching Awards
Appendix E: Syllabi
Appendix F: Representative Assignments
Appendix G: Sample Assignments
Appendix H: Examinations
Appendix 1: Teaching Related Work
Appendix J: Letters for Students


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Teaching Portfolio
William L. Perry,
Department of Mathematics, Texas A&M University


graphic: checkmarkTable of Contents

  • On the Portfolio
  • Statement of Teaching Responsibilities and Methods
  • Syllabus
  • Summaries of Course-Instructor Evaluations by Students
  • Teaching Improvement Activities
  • Closing Statement
  • Appendices
graphic: checkmarkOn the Portfolio

This portfolio focuses on improvement of my teaching in a single course, Mathematics 131: Mathematical Concepts - Calculus. As Associate Provost and Dean of Faculties, I have retained my tenured professorship in the Department of Mathematics and teach a small (3545 students) section of the course every semester. I do this because of my love of teaching and belief in the centrality of undergraduate education to the mission of the university. With time constraints as they are, I must be efficient in my efforts to improve teaching. By concentrating my portfolio on improvement of this course I have gained renewed enthusiasm and purpose. In essence, the portfolio now serves as a dynamic planning document–channeling my efforts and forming the foundation for improving instruction.

graphic: checkmarkResponsibilities, Strategies and Objectives

My current responsibilities include teaching one section of calculus per semester and serving on two Ph.D. committees as a member. My methods of teaching are geared to foster interaction with the students. Because my classes are small (35-45), interaction is possible. I try to have student response and input average one or more per minute. To facilitate this I set aside an "interaction area" in the classroom (for example, the front row) through which the students rotate. For instance in Spring 1992, my classroom was equipped with three rows of tables with twelve chairs each, the students in the front row were the students I interacted with. Thus once every three class sessions the students in the front row received very personal instruction with at least five questions to answer or responses to give. The students called this the "rolling row" method and received it favorably.

My lectures are based on examples and attempts to, draw general conclusions from the students. In the development of the examples, I obtain from the students not only answers to "bite size" leading questions, but also let the students choose specific examples within broad contexts. I teach using these methods because they make teaching more enjoyable than any other way I have tried. Presentation of applications related to the students' majors is an important part of my teaching. Typically the majority of my students are from biomedical sciences. I present applications from population dynamics, drug infusion, and radiotherapy to maintain interest and enthusiasm. When discussing rates of change, functions, and velocity and acceleration, I construct my examples using tax tables, newspaper articles, hang-time for punts, and so on. Praise for good performance in the classroom and on exams is an important motivational technique that I use. Also by showing the students applications that relate to their major, motivation is further enhanced. I bring in examples from the current press and media to illustrate how mathematical knowledge allows one to respond more effectively as a citizen. My primary objective is for the students to learn problem-solving techniques and in particular the importance of re-casting difficult problems in terms of smaller more easily solved problems that approximate the original.

graphic: checkmarkSyllabus

The syllabus for the course is contained in Appendix A. It has changed little over the three semesters I have taught the course. The syllabus states objectives, prerequisites, information regarding grading and examinations, and daily section coverage. I try to present my openness to the students by giving my home telephone number and stating that the students are welcome to use it. I believe the syllabus sets the tone for the course; in a very real way, it forms much of the students' first impression of the Instructor. As will be remarked later, I will be making additions to the syllabus to further improve that first impression.

graphic: checkmarkSummary of Course-Instructor Evaluations by Students

Appendix B contains a sample Course-Instructor Survey Instrument and numerical data for the last two semesters. I consider these evaluations to provide baseline data to measure future improvement. I consider the students' opinions to be the most important data for me in determining activities to improve the course. The university exists to educate students — they are our primary constituents and we must be assiduous in bringing the highest quality instruction to them.

The evaluations indicate that in the areas I consider to be of most importance I am performing well, but there exists room for improvement. I consider the written comments of the students to be of primary importance and use them to modify my teaching from semester to semester, whenever a significant number address the same issue. For example, one semester enough students remarked that I was digressing too often from the topics at hand ("getting off on tangents," in their words). I have made sure since then to keep digressions related to the subject matter, to illustrate important points.

Selected evaluation questions and mean responses are listed below:

Question

Fall 1991
Mean

Spring 1992
Mean

* 5. Compared with all the instructors I have had in
college this instructor was:

4.44

4.56

**7. Given your natural ability, background preparation and the amount of time that you spent on the course, you are being given a fair grade.

4.18

3.97

**9. The instructor seemed well-prepared for lecture or discussion.

4.56

4.66

**12. The instructor was in control of the direction of the class.

4.47

4.72

**13. The instructor lectured well.

4.29

4.53

**14. The instructor genuinely tried to help the students learn the material and showed concern for their progress.

4.62

4.56

**16. If I were required to take a final exam in this subject made out by another instructor, I would feel that this teacher had prepared me well.

4.03

4.19


* Responses are: 5-One of the best 4-Above average 3-Average 2-Below average 1-One of the worst
** Responses are: 5-Definitely agree 4-Agree 3-Neutral 2-Disagree 1-Definitely disagree


graphic: checkmarkTeaching Improvement Activities

  I will be engaging in eight specific activities to improve my teaching:

  1. Videotaping of classroom teaching. Every semester, I will use the services of the Center for Teaching Excellence to videotape and analyze my classroom teaching, following up with consultation with the staff. I will use this process at intervals recommended by the CTE and measure progress in the areas addressed by the staff in their evaluation.

  2. Peer visitation of class and evaluation of syllabi, exams and assignments. I will ask colleagues to visit my class and also evaluate course materials each semester.

  3. Pre- and post- tests. I will investigate for suitability of use in Spring 1993, the ETS BASIS examinations to measure student knowledge gained each semester.

  4. Syllabus development. In Spring 1993, 1 will add a section in which I explain some of my methods and point out how former students have received them. This should give confidence to the students and alert them to my methods so they can prepare accordingly.

  5. In 1992-93, I will conduct a random poll of former students to obtain their evaluations of my course from their perspectives as either upper-classmen or alumni.

  6. I will continue development of the "rolling row" method of individualizing instruction.

  7. I will continue to add articles to the "find the calculus' file (see Appendix C). Whether in the long run the collection will be of use to colleagues remains to be seen. However, once a substantial number (annotated, of course) are pulled together, I will share them and obtain evaluations as to usefulness to other teachers of calculus.

  8. I will, in Spring 1993, develop new questions for the course-instructor survey. In particular I will develop questions focusing on the syllabus, "rolling row" and "find the calculus."

graphic: checkmarkClosing Statement

I am driven to do the best possible job for the students of the university. Consequently I strive to be the best I can be in my teaching, research, and service. In teaching, improvement can only be made by means of honest assessment (self, student and peer) of performance and planned efforts at strengthening teaching methods, techniques and abilities. The portfolio offers a concrete assessment and planning document for that purpose — I simply wish I had adopted this approach about twenty years ago — my students would have benefitted.

graphic: checkmarkAppendices

Appendix A: Course Outline
Syllabus for Mathematics 131: Mathematical Concepts - Calculus
Appendix B: Course-Instructor Survey and Responses
Appendix C: "Find the Calculus" Examples

 


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NYS School of Industrial and Labor Relations, Cornell University