Teachers' Portfolios: A Reflective Tool towards Professional Development

Teachers' Portfolios: A Reflective Tool towards Professional Development

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-9948-9.ch009
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To achieve professional development and the intended educational goals, teachers' reflection has been considered as a necessary component of the teaching process. Indeed, reflection is process of questioning one's practices, intention and the emerging outcomes. Such reflection is also a source of inspiration, creativity, flexibility and thus, a means to achieve learners' motivation and interest in active and engaged learning. To enhance reflective teaching, teaching portfolios have been widely advocated in language teaching. To that end, this chapter attempts to provide a teaching portfolio model which aims at prompting teachers' reflection over their profession. Additionally, it illustrates the way such tool needs to be used by teachers so that they can reflect effectively and improve their teaching.
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Changing teachers’ role has become a pervasive need of higher education to help students govern and accomplish their studies in an autonomous manner. This requires a shift in language teaching and assessment practices from a teacher-centered to a learner-centered pedagogy. Nevertheless, though teachers’ knowledge of how to foster this learning approach, their pedagogical skills and motivation to achieve that aim are essential, yet when it comes to practice unexpected outcome may emerge. This is because teaching is a complex and highly skilled activity which requires more flexibility and planned actions to improve quality education and meet the intended learning outcomes as Grundy (1998) states: “the complexity of teaching as characterized by the individuality of students, the dynamic nature of classroom interactions and the demand for innovation defies any claim that teachers may be simply implementers of something that gains its legitimacy elsewhere”(p.31).

In fact, the classroom is a site that provides opportunities for experimentation, exploration and change for both teachers and students (Allwright, 2005). To this end, teachers’ reflection is required to make them aware of the theory and motives behind their own teaching, to think about it, and to take some deliberate steps to develop (Gibbs, 1998). Reflective teaching is a cyclical process which includes teachers’ observations of classroom behaviors, attitudes and interaction. This can result in revealing students’ learning needs and styles within the course. Therefore, obtaining such data requires continuous analyses and reflection upon them as well as decision making and planning. Indeed, teaching practices also need teachers’ evaluation and revision, then the adaption of their teaching contents and materials according to their students’ learning needs and preferences; in addition to adopting, creating and bringing more innovation to their teaching.

To engage in those stages, teachers can use portfolios to innovate and adjust their teaching towards autonomous learning approaches. This is so, since a teaching portfolio can serve as a source of reflection and review through engaging the teacher in assessing his/her work, thereby promoting decision making regarding priorities, goals and areas for future development or improvement. Besides, this tool can promote peer-review of other teachers’ portfolios and collaboration with them for effective use.

In attempt to support teachers benefit from its potential, a teaching portfolio sample is suggested in this chapter. This aims to promote teachers’ reflection on their teaching and assessment practices so that these can be geared towards developing student autonomy. Its intended audience can include other faculty members, i. e., teachers, teacher trainers, alumni and department head. It is worth noting here, that this teaching portfolio sample is not exclusively concerned with language teaching, but it can also be used in teaching any discipline. It contains three sections which are: Teaching philosophy and goals, Teaching Dossier and Reflections on Teaching. This chapter describes the objective and content of these sections, with more illustrations and details, besides attempting to clarify how this tool needs to be used to enhance reflective teaching through providing guidelines of their use. Still, one needs first to account for what constitutes reflective teaching and its importance and relation to teachers’ portfolios.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Educational Assessment: The process of documenting, usually in measurable terms, knowledge, skill, attitudes, and beliefs. Assessment can focus on the individual learner, the learning community (class, workshop, or other organized group of learners), the institution, or the educational system as a whole (also known as granularity).

Self-Assessment: The process of looking at oneself in order to assess aspects that are important to one’s identity. It is one of the motives that drive self-evaluation, along with self-verification and self-enhancement.

Education: The wealth of knowledge acquired by an individual after studying particular subject matters or experiencing life lessons that provide an understanding of something. Education requires instruction of some sort from an individual or composed literature. The most common forms of education result from years of schooling that incorporates studies of a variety of subjects.

Professional Development (PD): A means of supporting people in the workplace to understand more about the environment in which they work, the job they do and how to do it better. It is an ongoing process throughout our working lives.

Portfolio: A compilation of student work assembled for the purpose of (1) evaluating coursework quality and academic achievement: (2) creating a lasting archive of academic work products, and (3) determining whether students have met learning standards or academic requirements for courses, grade-level promotion, and graduation.

Evaluation: A systematic determination of a subject’s merit, worth and significance, using criteria governed by a set of standards. It can assist an organization, program, project or any other intervention or initiative to assess any aim, realisable concept/proposal, or any alternative, to help in decision-making; or to ascertain the degree of achievement or value in regard to the aim and objectives and results of any such action that has been completed. The primary purpose of evaluation, in addition to gaining insight into prior or existing initiatives, is to enable reflection and assist in the identification of future change.

Cognitive Functioning: A term referring to a human’s ability to process to (thoughts) that should not deplete on a large scale in healthy individuals. Cognition mainly refers to things like memory, the ability to learn new information, speech, understanding of written materials. The brain is usually capable of learning new skills, typically in early childhood, and of developing personal thoughts and beliefs about the world.

Teacher Autonomy: The professional independence of teachers in schools, especially the degree to which they can make autonomous decisions about what they teach to students and how they teach it.

Reflective Practice: The capacity to reflect on action so as to engage in a process of continuous learning. A critical attention to the practical values and theories which inform everyday actions, by examining practice reflectively and reflexively. A key rationale for reflective practice is that experience alone does not necessarily lead to learning; deliberate reflection on experience is essential.

Awareness: The ability to perceive, to feel, or to be conscious of events, objects, thoughts, emotions, or sensory patterns. In this level of consciousness, sense data can be confirmed by an observer without necessarily implying understanding. More broadly, it is the state or quality of being aware of something.

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