Putting Together Professional Portfolios

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Christine Forde, Margery McMahon & Jenny Reeves

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    About the Authors

    Christine Forde is a Professor of Leadership and Professional Learning in the Faculty of Education at Glasgow University. During her career, she has worked as a primary teacher and a tutor in Initial Teacher Education, but most recently has been involved in working with serving teachers on a variety of professional development programmes including the Scottish Qualification for Headship (SQH). She works mainly in the areas of leadership and management in schools and in teacher professional development and learning and has published a number of books and articles on teacher professional development with her two co-authors, most recently Professional Development, Reflection and Enquiry (Paul Chapman, 2006) with Margery McMahon and other colleagues. She is involved with colleagues in research projects looking at preparation programmes for headship and the recruitment and retention of head teachers. In addition, she has published books in the area of gender and education and feminist perspectives on education: Feminist Utopianism and Education (Sense Publishers, 2007).

    Margery McMahon is Programme Director of the MEd in Professional Development, Reflection and Enquiry (Chartered Teacher Programme) at the University of Glasgow. With a background in History and Politics, she has worked as a Lecturer in Politics, as a teacher of History and Politics and as Head of a History Department. In her main role in the Faculty of Education she oversees the Chartered Teacher programme and teaches on a number of its courses. She has published several articles on professional development and professional learning and was co-author with Christine Forde and other colleagues of Professional Development, Reflection and Enquiry (Paul Chapman, 2006). She has been involved in research projects relating to Teachers' Working Time and the Impact of Chartered Teacher and is currently involved in a research project on Programmes for Headship and a project on Intercultural Professional Development. Her roots in History and Politics are sustained by contributing to courses on Educational Policy and Globalization and researching and writing about Northern Ireland. Her latest book is Government and Politics of Northern Ireland (Colourpoint Publishers, 2008).

    Jenny Reeves is Director of Continuing Professional Development at the Institute of Education at the University of Stirling. Her particular research interests lie in the dynamics and impact of practice-focused learning and sense-making processes in, and across, organisational boundaries and she has published a number of articles relating to these topics. She has published two books in 2008: Practice-Based Learning: Developing Excellence in Teaching (Dunedin Press), co-edited with Alison Fox, and Educating Experienced Teachers: Exploring the Social Dynamics of Professional Knowledge Transfer and Creation (Springer). She also has a chapter in Changing Teacher Professionalism, edited by Sharon Gewirtz and Pat Mahony (Routledge, 2008). Recent research projects include looking at the outcomes of practice-based approaches to leadership development in South Africa and Scotland, working in partnership with a local authority using organisational learning as a strategy for school improvement and continuing exploration of issues of practice and knowledge transfer and creation in relation to Chartered Teachers, including working with Margery McMahon on the Impact of Chartered Teacher project.

    Preface

    This book has its origins in our work with educational practitioners on programmes for continuing professional development. Each of us is involved in a number of professional development courses for teachers and school leaders who are working towards professional qualifications and academic awards. In these programmes, portfolios are used as a tool to chart the development of the professional practice of the practitioner and to aid critical reflection. This work raised for us a number of significant questions, particularly about the relationship between development and professional practice, which we have gone on to investigate through different research projects. In this book we draw widely from both our teaching and research to explore the purposes and principles underpinning the development of professional portfolios and to provide practical advice about how to design and build a portfolio.

    We would like to thank our colleagues at the University of Glasgow, the University of Stirling and the Western SQH Consortium, who have very much been part of the development of the approaches discussed in this book. Particular thanks goes to Dr Brian Canavan, University of Glasgow, for his input in relation to electronic portfolios and for agreeing to the inclusion of his professional portfolio as an exemplar. Finally, we would also like to thank the many participants on the various professional development programmes whose questions and suggestions have helped us refine our ideas.

    ChristineFordeMargeryMcMahonJennyReeves

    How to Use This Book

    There are many reasons why you as an educational practitioner are considering embarking on the task of developing a portfolio but at the heart of all of these reasons lies our understanding of what it means to be a professional, that is, to be a practitioner who seeks to develop and extend their practice for the benefit of learners. Improving and reviewing the professional performance of teachers and other educational practitioners is a major issue across all education sectors and so emphasis is placed on continuing professional development and accreditation. However, it is important that educational practitioners develop their skill and sense of agency in looking closely and finding ways of improving their practice and a portfolio provides a framework for this. Portfolios are created by teachers and other educational practitioners either as part of a programme of study or as an ongoing record of their opportunities for professional development. These examples of portfolios can be described as ‘professional portfolios’ where the distinctive feature is the relationship between the learning and practice of the educational professional.

    You may be working in an early years establishment, a primary or secondary school or within tertiary education. In each of these sectors, there are numerous examples of portfolios being used as part of professional development. Portfolios are a common feature in the range of professional programmes such as Chartered Teacher in Scotland, as well as professional qualifications in preparation for headship. Portfolios are also used as part of becoming an accredited teacher in higher education. You may be involved in one of these or a similar programme that leads to an academic or professional qualification, or you may be keeping a portfolio as a professional review and appraisal tool, or you might be maintaining a portfolio as a career development activity. Whatever your starting point and professional context, in this book you will find material that will provide guidance as you go about the task of planning and building your professional portfolio. This book will enable you to:

    • design and plan a portfolio
    • chart and analyse relevant professional experiences
    • identify your professional development needs
    • plan your learning to develop your practice
    • assess your performance against standards and competences frameworks
    • reflect critically on your practice
    • present evidence of your practice and achievements
    • plan your future development.
    Outline of Chapters
    • Chapter 1: What is a Portfolio?

      We explore the idea of a ‘professional portfolio’ and examine several different examples of professional portfolios developed by educational practitioners.

    • Chapter 2: Professional Learning

      We consider different ways of exploring the professional learning of educational practitioners. We look at the use of standards, competences frameworks and benchmarks to plan and then reflect on professional learning which can be used to shape a professional portfolio.

    • Chapter 3: Writing a Professional Autobiography

      We look at the development of a professional autobiography as a way of beginning the process of self-evaluation which is a key element of a professional portfolio. We examine ways of using a professional autobiography to chart your development over your career as an educator.

    • Chapter 4: Action Learning

      We explore the concept of ‘action learning’ and how it can be used in the continuing professional development of educational practitioners. We look at different spheres for learning such as self, organisation and the wider educational environment and ways of planning learning.

    • Chapter 5: Reflection as Learning

      We consider the place of reflection in the continuing professional development of educational practitioners and explore ways of using reflection to review and enhance practice.

    • Chapter 6: Recording Learning and Practice

      We focus on the question of providing evidence of professional development and learning. Here we examine two critical issues: what is ‘evidence of learning’ and what makes ‘good’ evidence.

    • Chapter 7: Describing and Reflecting on Practice

      We look at what we mean by ‘critically reflective writing’. We explore a framework for different levels of reflective writing and different strategies to generate ideas.

    • Chapter 8: Designing an Electronic Portfolio

      We examine the use of e-portfolios: some of the advantages and possibilities in using an e-format and ways of avoiding some of the pitfalls. Examples of the design of e-portfolios are included to enable you to plan and construct e-portfolios.

    • Chapter 9: Designing and Constructing Your Portfolio

      In this final chapter we draw together a number of the key ideas explored in the previous chapters and consider ways of designing and constructing your professional portfolio through which you can plan and demonstrate your professional development as an educational practitioner.

    A Learning Cycle

    The chapters in this book are sequenced to follow the process of learning underpinning the design and construction of a portfolio. We move from the process of self-evaluation and the identification of needs to planning learning experiences and then on to charting and reflecting on practice and development.

    Each of the chapters in this book has a number of key questions and practical tasks to enable you to apply the principles to your own professional portfolio whatever format you wish or need to adopt. You will find here:

    • examples of work
    • practical activities for individuals and groups
    • summaries and checklists
    A Note about Terminology

    In this book we are examining the process by which practitioners can design and construct a ‘professional portfolio’ to chart their development as a professional. As portfolios are used by practitioners across all sectors of education, we have used the term ‘educational practitioner’ or ‘practitioner’ rather than the more specific term ‘teacher’ unless we are discussing a particular example from a school context.

  • References

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