Course Portfolio Discussion
Almost all of the material in this document was provided by
University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Compiled and interpreted by
Gavin LaRose, then at Nebraska Wesleyan
University, now at the University of Michigan
Questions or comments to Gavin:
- What is a course portfolio?
- What is in a course portfolio?
- What do these items accomplish?
- How should one go about writing a course
- What is a course portfolio used for?
A course portfolio is an artifact which documents a course,
how it was taught, what it covered, what its objectives were, and how
they were accomplished. There are many different reasons for
maintaining a course portfolio, including:
A course portfolio may therefore also be a document for peer review
- to document and preserve reform efforts
- to help other instructors develop the same or similar courses,
- to document what the course accomplished, for the benefit of
follow-up courses, or courses in other departments which rely on
- to assess course content and goals
- to document student learning and teaching effectiveness
A course portfolio may include a number of different items to
provide "a semester-long window into the course" (--Steve Dunbar).
These may include
- materials defining and information about the course:
- the instructor's syllabus for the course
- the actual course syllabus as handed out
- the actual course syllabus as covered in the term
- a specific statement of course goals (if these are not
documented, e.g., in the syllabus)
- specific information on the pedagogical methods employed in
- course materials developed for the course:
- in-class handouts, labs, etc.
- homework exercises and solutions
- tests and project assignments
- developed software
- assessment relevant to the course
- instructor's evaluation of the course and reflections
- evidence of student learning
- information on course materials or methods adopted
In the portfolio, one wants to provide a record of what was
accomplished in the course, how and why. Therefore, the included
items should address the questions
- what did the course accomplish?
- what were you (as the instructor) trying to accomplish with the
- why were those goals selected?
- did the course meet the goals? how is this evident?
- what problems were encountered in meeting the goals?
- how was this accomplished?
- how was the course conducted and the students challenged?
- how was the level of the students addressed?
- what topics, materials and assignments were covered, and how
and why were these changed in the course of the term?
- what pedagogical issues were addressed?
- how were independent thinking and intellectual development
encouraged in the class?
- how was student competence with the subject matter
- how were applications of mathematics worked into the
- how was enthusiasm for the material conveyed?
- how should things change?
- what should be done differently next time?
- what was most interesting and most frustrating about the
The following is not a definitive recipe for a course
portfolio--instead, it presents two course portfolio "models" for
developed by Gavin with reference to
materials provided by Steve Dunbar
The first items in the portfolio may be most easily developed before
the course is taught. These are, from section 2 (What is in a
course portfolio), "materials defining and information about the
Then, during or after the term,
- Document the goals for the course. While this may be
part of an included syllabus, it may also be a separate
document which briefly describes the objectives in both general
terms (e.g., as to a dean or provost) and in different levels of
greater specificity (e.g., as to a colleague not in the
department, and then to a departmental colleague -- who may
be teaching the same course).
- Document the pedagogical substance in the course:
how the course is conducted, what students get out of coming to
class, where they will be challenged and how they will overcome
the challenges. Explain how what the students learn is measured,
and how the standards by which their work is judged relate to this
and to other courses (both more introductory and more advanced).
- Document the rationale for the course. Again, this
may be part of other included documentation. A separate document
may describe why the course format was chosen as it was and the
motivation for the content---in particular, how does it teach
students in the area of the course? How does it connect with
other courses? How does the order in which the material is
covered connect with the objectives, etc.?
- Include syllabi---that handed out to the students,
and that documenting what is to be covered in the course and when
(if this is not included in the handed out syllabus, as is always
the case in my syllabi).
- Include the actual syllabus---what was actually
- Include class handouts, labs, tests, project
assignments and homework (with solutions), etc.
- Include an evaluation of the course: in
particular, what worked and what didn't. Also evaluate the degree
to which students (or the instructor!) attained the objectives for
the course and how this is known.
- Include an assessment on how the course should be
changed to improve it the next time it is taught. Include
specific reference to the pedagogical methods employed.
obtained from a course portfolio
assembled by Charlie Hadlock, Mathematics Department, Bentley
This course portfolio consists of:
- a course information and syllabus document, which includes
- course objectives
- standard course information
- a period-by-period syllabus giving the topics to be covered in
- the final exam for the course
- all homework assignments for the course
Some of the uses of a course portfolio have been indicated in
section 1 (What is a course portfolio). Expanding on the reasons
for maintaining documentation on a course, the course portfolio may be
used personally and publically:
- it provides a record of the course, which should facilitate
teaching the course again
- it documents the priorities and goals of the course
- it documents how the course fits into the academic environment
in which it is taught and the degree to which it accomplishes
its goals in this environment
- it documents the value of the course and instruction in the
course to the ``consumers'' of the course, be they
students, the state, the trustees, or university colleagues
- it is a portion of a teaching development record
Course Portfolio Discussion
Last Modified: Sun Aug 13 19:29:47 CDT 2000