School hiring officials have begun to see the value of portfolios in giving them a broader perspective of candidates. They are also being used to assess student performance and program outcomes as well as teacher performance and competencies, leading to decisions about promotion, salary, tenure, and certification. Therefore, the process you start now, will carry on into your career as an educator. It is NOT a one time event but rather a process of reflection as well as evaluation and assessment. It is a collection that documents your experiences, training and preparation, skills and accomplishments, and plans for continued professional growth and development. In particular, it assesses how all of these will meet the needs of potential employers.
What Should Be Included?
The portfolio is more than a container, scrapbook, or photo album; it is a 'purposeful' collection. The purpose (at this point in your career) is to get a job, so the collection is likely to be a dossier of your very best work and greatest accomplishments.
To determine the appropriate contents of the presentation portfolio, you should use the 'value-added' concept—if the item adds value for the current purpose, then include it. If it does not, omit it. It may include lesson plans, sample student work, certificates, conference programs, photographs, evaluations, letters of recommendation, philosophy statements, professional development and so forth. There is not a magical list of items that must be included or are appropriate for every occasion. The decision rests with the individual educator and should be made based upon who the audience will be.
It is important to remember that the individual exhibits may not speak for themselves; sometimes there is a need for you to 'connect the dots' and interpret the contents for the reviewer. Reflective statements or captions in a job search portfolio will help you to put the exhibit into context and show how the item (or section) is relevant to your candidacy for the position.
How Should It Be Organized?
There are a number of ways to organize the portfolio—by time, function, or themes. It will be easier to interpret if you divide the exhibits into categories such as 'Technical Skills,' 'Management Abilities,' 'Interpersonal Qualities,' 'Teamwork' or 'Community Involvement,' for example. The organization and order should showcase your 'fit' with the targeted organization. It should be arranged for quick, easy reference.
The presentation itself should show some creativity and individuality, but the content should not be overshadowed by design and flash. The most comfortable container for use in the job interview is the 3-ring binder with sheet protectors and tabbed dividers.
How and When Is the Portfolio Used in the Job Search?
Although not all school districts incorporate portfolios into the formal hiring process, the number using them is increasing. It is not always about 'show and tell.' Candidates who have gone through the process of portfolio development tend to present themselves more effectively during interviews because the level of organization and analysis demanded by the process.
Recent studies have shown the most effective time to use a portfolio is after the initial screening interview (whether conducted on-grounds or at the district). Principals and building interview teams are consistently more interested in the portfolio. However, a few ask for it as a part of the application process—you may want to consider a duplicate version if you are asked to part with it for any length of time. Consider including the statement 'Professional Portfolio Available for Review' on your resume (if space allows it) as a way to draw their attention to it.
This excerpt is from the article 'Portfolios for the Educator's Job Search' by Sue Sherbert in the 1998 AAEE Job Search Handbook.