Portfolios, Observations, Syllabi

Portfolios and teaching observations produced in adjunct development programs must be formative—these activities must be separate from a department’s evaluation of its adjuncts. Their purpose is to support adjunct faculty’s teaching and promote continued professional growth. These activities may also provide opportunities to coach adjuncts as they work to meet departmental expectations and document the teaching skills they are continuing to develop.

Formative classroom observation enables the faculty member to receive helpful feedback in a confidential setting.  Instead of trying to conceal any areas where they know they need to improve, faculty members are willing to discuss their weaknesses as well as their strengths.

Three meetings are recommended: (1) meet before an observation to exchange information about the particular class your colleague will be teaching or observing; (2) during the observation, record what occurs in the class, either as a narrative or using another form you’ve agreed upon; (3) hold a follow-up discussion after the class(es) have been observed.  (Rochester Institute of Technology describes the 3-step process.)  All materials from the observation and the pre- and post-observation meetings must remain confidential. Nothing is to be shared unless the faculty member being observed wishes it to be.

Mutual observations between adjunct and roster faculty are also very beneficial for both parties.

Resources on formative classroom observations:  U of Central Florida and U of Minnesota

Teaching portfolios are collections of materials that document a faculty member’s teaching skills. Many new PhDs have teaching portfolios, but not all faculty are familiar with the practice. Portfolios usually include a statement of teaching philosophy as well samples of syllabi, assignments, lesson plans, and sometimes graded student work. (U of Minnesota provides a nice overview here.) After creating an initial portfolio, faculty may continue to add materials as they teach more courses and develop new lessons and areas of expertise.

Some departments now require portfolios from anyone applying for a new position or for reappointment. Adjuncts who work on a portfolio in a formative setting will receive feedback that may help them strengthen the portfolio they ultimately submit when seeking a job, here or elsewhere.

Links on statements of teaching philosophy from George Mason U and from U of Minnesota

Resources on portfolios from Ohio State and Vanderbilt 

Guidance on constructing a syllabus from DePaul and Washington U in St Louis

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