Developing A Teaching Portfolio or Dossier

A teaching portfolio or dossier is a group of materials organized by an individual---ideally, with assistance from mentors and/or peers---to document and present his or her teaching practice. These materials are often arranged in formats that reflect a specific intention, such as emphasizing accomplishments and illuminating areas for growth. In general, they should be selected with care to highlight the most important aspects of one's teaching practice and to offer supporting evidence of effective teaching from a diverse range of sources, going beyond student evaluations and peer observations.

The teaching portfolio can be developed and refined in a variety of ways, with its specific purpose at a given moment serving as the guideline for its form and content. For instance, when seeking professional advancement and tenure, the portfolio should be a persuasive set of documents that provide evidence of teaching achievements. In contrast, the portfolio can also be organized as a more personally-focused collection of materials that stimulate self-examination and self-evaluation in teaching development, which might be only one aspect of what one would present to a tenure committee.

The various uses of teaching portfolios and their increasing popularity speak to a larger effort in higher education aimed at placing teaching on an equal footing with research, publishing, and presenting in terms of value, commitment, rewards, and recognition; it also signals a growing culture of assessment and accountability that is reshaping the field of education.


Teaching portfolios may be constituted in a range of types and purposes, as outlined by the University Center for the Advancement of Teaching at Ohio State University. An effort to build consistency in the ways teaching is valued by an institution through evaluation of teaching can be found in the Cornell University Teaching Evaluation Handbook, which is published by the Center for Teaching Excellence. For an online handbook with a more narrow focus on the topic, see Hannelore B. Rodriguez-Farrar The Teaching Portfolio: A Handbook for Faculty, Teaching Assistants and Teaching Fellows Third Edition (Providence: The Harriet W. Sheridan Center for Teaching and Learning, Brown University, 2008).

A  comprehensive, instructive book on the topic is Peter Seldin's The Teaching Portfolio: A Practical Guide to Improved Performance and Promotion/Tenure Decision, Third Edition (San Francisco: Anker Publishing Company, Inc., 2004).

  • Founded by inventor, industrialist and philanthropist Peter Cooper in 1859, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art offers education in art, architecture and engineering, as well as courses in the humanities and social sciences.

  • “My feelings, my desires, my hopes, embrace humanity throughout the world,” Peter Cooper proclaimed in a speech in 1853. He looked forward to a time when, “knowledge shall cover the earth as waters cover the great deep.”

  • From its beginnings, Cooper Union was a unique institution, dedicated to founder Peter Cooper's proposition that education is the key not only to personal prosperity but to civic virtue and harmony.

  • Peter Cooper wanted his graduates to acquire the technical mastery and entrepreneurial skills, enrich their intellects and spark their creativity, and develop a sense of social justice that would translate into action.