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CIRTL Coffee Hour: Constructing Your Teaching Portfolio

Posted by on Tuesday, December 10, 2013 in Events, News.

Ever wonder exactly should be in a teaching portfolio….or perhaps, how you should go about getting the teaching experience that would let you construct one?

Don Gillian-Daniel, Jenna Gorlewicz, and Mary Loveless addressed just these questions at a recent CIRTL Coffee Hour.

Jenna Gorlewicz

Jenna Gorlewicz is in her first year as a tenure-track assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, a position she accepted after earning her Ph.D. from Vanderbilt in 2013. Jenna talked about how her interest in teaching challenged her to seek different opportunities to teach and to learn more about how to do it well. When TA’ing a course in Mechanical Engineering as a graduate student, Jenna volunteered to go beyond the standard duties of managing lab sessions, offering to guest lecture whenever possible and to be very active in curriculum and lab development. She also pursued the CFT’s Certificate in College Teaching to help her learn more about principles of effective teaching. One of the principles of effective teaching is that we gather data on our students’ learning—that is, we ask whether, what, how much, how effectively our students are learning. This type of research—variously called the scholarship of teaching and learning, discipline-based educational research, or teaching-as-research—was a major component of the Jenna’s Certificate Program, and she was able to pursue a CIRTL-supported teaching-as-research project  Getting a Feel for Dynamic Systems through Haptic Robots [VUnetID req.] that allowed her to gain a deep understanding of some of the key elements of effective teaching. By seeking out these experiences, Jenna was not only able to learn a lot about her own interests, skills, and aspirations, she was also able to build a story she could “sell” in job interviews. For more about her journey so far, see her PowerPoint presentation.

Mary Loveless

Mary Loveless is on the faculty at Vanderbilt’s Center for Science Outreach, where she teaches high school students in the School for Science and Math at Vanderbilt a research-based science curriculum. While earning her Ph.D. in at Vanderbilt, Mary built her teaching experience by seeking out opportunities for outreach, which led her directly to the rewarding work she is pursuing now. Mary offers the following advice for seeking outreach opportunities.

Outreach is a great way to diversify your teaching portfolio. Many universities have outreach organizations or relationships already in place. I encourage you to ask your mentor or others in your lab or department to find out more about these existing relationships. Partnering with existing programs is a great and easy way to build up your teaching repertoire.

If you find that no such relationship exists at your university, take this opportunity to be proactive in the local community! Get out there and talk to local schools (e.g., if you are in a STEM discipline, try looking for STEM specific magnets) or organizations (e.g., Girl Scouts, etc…).  Science and math teachers are typically responsive to hosting a guest lecture/lesson that complements the core state-required lessons. You and the teacher can work together to mold an appropriate lesson. If stepping into a science/math class isn’t feasible, try looking at extracurricular clubs (rocketry clubs, robotics, engineering, etc…). These clubs typically seek out speakers for their meetings or even help with advising projects/competitions.

Below are some examples of using outreach to build your teaching portfolio as well as approximate time commitments and what they may lend to your portfolio.

Outreach Activity Time Commitment

Key teaching characteristics

Demonstration presentations. 

1-2 hour lesson/hands on activity for a class/club

(Ex: Introduction to Medical Imaging presentation to an Engineering Club at the local high school)

Preparation time: Varies but keep in mind your audience and the level of apriori knowledge 

Presentation: 1-3 hours (can be done multiple times a year)

  • Create de novo teaching material
  • Implement unique teaching style/techniques
  • Demonstrate versatility in teaching difference audiences
Co-teaching a STEM class with a teacher as a teaching fellow. Some universities have partnerships that allow post-docs to co-teach a class at a local school for a year (1 day per week during the school year) Preparation/In-class time: Varies but approximately  10 hours a week (3 hrs prep/7 hrs in-class) for a school calendar year is a good estimate 


  • Create de novo teaching material
  • Build collaborative teaching skills
  • Demonstrate versatility in teaching difference audiences
Mentoring a high school student in the lab. A great opportunity to get one-on-one teaching experience is to host a high school student and mentor them in a research project (typically over summer) Preparation time: Varies – identifying a feasible project that can be worked on by a minor in a 6 week period is ideal 

Lab time: Depends on the schedule decided between student and mentor (after school vs. “full time” – 30-40 hr – during summer)

  • Build one-on-one teaching skills
  • Demonstrate versatility in teaching difference audiences/environments


Working with an existing outreach organization may afford you the opportunity to obtain feedback/assessment that can be included in your teaching portfolio. An additional perk of getting involved with outreach is the potential for getting letters of support or assistance on Broader Impact sections on grants.


Don Gillian-Daniel

Don Gillian-Daniel
has served as an Associate Director of the Delta Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison for several years, helping prepare graduate students for future careers that involve teaching. He shared some of his wealth of knowledge about how to document one’s teaching in a teaching portfolio, noting that effective teaching portfolios are always developed with a specific purpose and audience in mind and typically contain documentation and analysis of student learning in addition to a statement of teaching philosophy. The Delta program provides a great handbook for developing a teaching portfolio that can be a helpful addition to the CFT’s guide to developing a portfolio.

This CIRTL CoffeeHour is part of a series on Career Development for Post-Docs developed by Professor Anita Mahadevan-Jansen that meets the second Monday of each month, 4-5 central time. Go to to log-in (it’s free, easy, and fun), or go to the FEL Conference Center to participate in person.

CIRTL is the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching, and Learning. Supported by the NSF, CIRTL is a consortium of 22 research-intensive universities that uses graduate education as the leverage point to develop a national STEM faculty committed to implementing and advancing effective teaching practices for diverse student audiences as part of successful professional careers.

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