Explanation · Writing Tips · Sample Teaching Descriptions · Other Items to Include

What is this section of a portfolio?

When you are putting together a teaching portfolio, the description of your teaching responsibilities is a relatively simple document to start writing first. This document should be an expansion of the teaching duties that you list on your curriculum vitae. It will provide your audience with the context for the rest of the items in your portfolio.

If you are writing this narrative for a formative portfolio, it can include as much information as you want to reflect on. If you are writing this narrative for a summative portfolio, keep in mind that you are describing your experience for others who are deciding whether they should hire or promote you. Also, be as descriptive as possible. Keep in mind, for example, that “Teaching Assistant” and “Instructor” have different meanings in different departments or universities. TAs can be true assistants, such as graders or recitation/laboratory instructors, or they may be independent instructors who have complete responsibility for a course. This section will provide the appropriate space for clarification and explanation.

Writing Tips

To begin, think about what your actual responsibilities have been and describe each one with a sentence or two. Using this information, write a narrative that describes what you did, who your students were, and why you chose to do what you did.

To help you get started, answer the following questions for each class you have taught.

  • What is the description of the course? What were the goals of the course? Was it a general education requirement, or a majors-only course? Was it a two-quarter sequence?
  • How many students did you teach at a time? Were they undergraduate, graduate, or non-traditional students? Were they all majors in the discipline or did they have different majors? You might want to include their average GPA, attrition rates, etc.
  • What was your responsibility for that class? Did you lead a recitation section or a laboratory section or did you have full responsibility for the class? Were you a grader?
  • What types of teaching methods and strategies did you use?
  • Did you design the curriculum? If so, was it the entire curriculum or a part of it?
  • Did you create: quizzes or exams, assignments, in-class activities, assessment tools?
  • Did you select audio or visual materials to be used in class? Did you design in-class demonstrations? Did you look for supplemental readings?
  • Did you hold office hours or review sessions? Did you tutor students one-on-one?
  • Did you advise students on term papers, projects, and group activities for class?

In addition to the above, you should consider adding a reflective sentence or two. Below are some questions you may want to answer:

  • How did this teaching job affect your development as a teacher? Did it provide you the opportunity to learn new skills, or did it hinder your development. Why?
  • What kinds of instructional techniques would you like to try in future courses, and why?

If you have taught many courses over many years, you may want to consider either only including courses from the previous five years or organize this section around categories of similar courses (for example, if your responsibilities, teaching methods, and the student populations for five courses were the same, write a brief course description for each and only one narrative about your responsibilities). Note however that this section is intended to provide your audience with context — not only what the students were like, but also what types of teaching strategies you used. Don’t sell yourself short by categorizing many courses together for the sake of convenience. If the courses were truly different, take the time to provide a description for each.

Sample Teaching Descriptions

Sample 1 (Psychology)

The instructor provides a concise description of the course and course goals but does not address what her responsibilities were.

ESPY 5140: Advanced Adolescent Growth and Development (taught four times)

This course covers development from age 12–21. Topic areas include methods of inquiry, biological, cognitive, and social development, cultural influences, school achievement, moral development, and “sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll.” Students (primarily high school teachers earning an M.A.) are required to complete assignments, keep a reading response log, lead one discussion session, write three critiques of relevant research, and conduct an in-depth case study of one individual. The primary goal of the course is application of abstract theories and principles to daily practice.

Sample 2 (History)

This instructor does a better job of describing what his responsibilities were but does not address who the students were or his reflection about the course.

Fall and Winter Quarters, 1999–2000, The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio

As instructor of record, I was responsible for all aspects of an “American Civilization, 1877–Present” course, each with more than forty–five students. This involved choosing course themes, creating the syllabus, writing and delivering almost fifty lectures, producing PowerPoint presentations or overhead slides for each lecture, devising study guides, writing and grading exams, holding regular office hours, creating and maintaining a class web site, and handling all administrative aspects of the course.

Comprehensive Examples

The following samples are written by winners of the Graduate Associate Teaching Award at OSU, and are examples of various formats you may choose to use.

Other Possible Items to Address in this Section

As you know all too well, teaching is not confined to the classroom. There are many other roles you may play and responsibilities you may have that could be described and appropriately included in this section. Reflect on the following items and decide whether they are roles you fulfill as a teacher or whether they would be better articulated as professional service (if it is the latter, these may be relocated to a separate section of your portfolio).

Mentoring and advising students

What are your interactions with students outside the classroom? Are you involved in non-credit activities with students, such as academic clubs or mentoring programs?

Developing graduate teaching assistants

Are you involved in unit-based or university-wide teaching orientations or courses?

Mentoring other teachers

Do you mentor peers informally or formally?

Managing instructional resources

Do you oversee labs, field sites, libraries, resources centers, learning centers, or tutoring centers?