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.
Nina Caris, Biology, Texas A & M University
John Zubizarreta, English, Columbia College
William L. Perry, Mathematics, Texas A &
Nina Caris, Department of Biology, Texas
of Teaching Responsibilities
Strategies and Methods Syllabi and Objectives
- Exams from
Courses Taught Future Directions
- Efforts to
of Teaching Effectiveness Teaching Awards
- Other Teaching
of Teaching Responsibilities
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
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
from Courses Taught
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
of Teaching Effectiveness
Ratings of Faculty
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.
Comparison of mean scores from Caris' lecture sections (B113/114)
with the average mean
scores of all lecturers' sections in Introductory Biology.
The instructor was consistently well
prepared and well organized for class
The instructor had the ability to explain difficult material
The instructor encouraged students questions.
The instructor appeared to enjoy teaching this course.
The instructor has increased and improved my understanding
of the subject.
For an overall rating, this is one of the best instructors
I have had at TAMU.
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
All=all Biol 113/144 sections)
Comments from Graduate Students
It is rewarding
to end the semester by reading the unsolicited comments on the
back of the teaching evaluations. Some excerpts follow:
Letters of support
from graduate students and peers are also located in Appendix J.
- "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."
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
- 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:
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.
I am honored
to have recently received the following awards in recognition
of Former Students Distinguished Achievement Award, College-Level
Teaching, Texas A&M University, 1991.
- AMOCO Foundation
Award for Distinguished Teaching, AMOCO Chemical Company, 1991.
for Teaching Excellence Scholar Award, Texas A&M University,
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.
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
- 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
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
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
John Zubizarreta, Department of English, Columbia College
Teaching Responsibilities, Philosophy, Strategies
Responsibilities, Philosophy, Strategies
Scholarship with Students
- Student Evaluations
- Letters from
Reading Lists, Assignments, Handouts, and Exams
Related Activities and Committee Work
- Letters from
- Future Teaching
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 goalbut
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
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.
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.
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:
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";
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."
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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
William L. Perry, Department
of Mathematics, Texas A&M University
- On the Portfolio
of Teaching Responsibilities and Methods
of Course-Instructor Evaluations by Students
- Closing Statement
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 documentchanneling
my efforts and forming the foundation for improving instruction.
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.
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.
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
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
Selected evaluation questions and mean responses are listed below:
* 5. Compared with all the instructors I have had in
college this instructor was:
Given your natural ability, background preparation and the
amount of time that you spent on the course, you are being
given a fair grade.
The instructor seemed well-prepared for lecture or discussion.
The instructor was in control of the direction of the class.
The instructor lectured well.
The instructor genuinely tried to help the students learn
the material and showed concern for their progress.
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.
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
will be engaging in eight specific activities to improve my teaching:
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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
- 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
- I will continue
development of the "rolling row" method of individualizing instruction.
- 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.
- 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."
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.
A: Course Outline
Syllabus for Mathematics 131: Mathematical Concepts - Calculus
Appendix B: Course-Instructor Survey and Responses
Appendix C: "Find the Calculus" Examples
NYS School of Industrial and Labor Relations, Cornell University