We teachers might like to think we know it all…… or we’re really uncertain about how to further our own development… or we’re looking for a way to improve our performance, but uncertain of how to go about it. At the end of the day, there’s always a way to improve our teaching, and usually reason enough to do so, no matter how good one might already be in the teaching profession.
One way to direct our professional development as teachers is through the use of specialized teacher portfolios. After an internet search, I found two different portfolios, each with a slightly different focus.
Portfolio for Student Teachers of Languages:
This European Portfolio for Student Teachers of Languages (EPOSTL) focuses on concrete issues related to teaching, such as Context, Methodology, Resources and Lesson planning. Below is a mind map of the topics covered in this portfolio. There is the occasional reference to cultural sensitivity, but most of the indicators refer to general teaching skills for a beginning teacher, with the emphasis on language teaching.
Portfolio for (Pre-) Primary Teachers of Languages
For more experienced teachers wishing to have a deeper look at their plurilingual and intercultural competences, there is another portfolio developed by the European Centre for Modern Languages. The Pepolino portfolio was developed for teachers of pre-primary education, but it could be used for teachers in primary education as well, depending on your own starting situation. There are a few indicators for general teaching skills, but also quite a few related to cultural sensitivity and diversity. For teachers working in multicultural schools, this is an excellent way to test your own development in this area.
Both of these portfolios look really large – and therefore a bit daunting – as they are documents with no less than ninety pages each. When embarking on using a pre-designed portfolio like this, therefore, it’s important to realize you don’t have to fill in all ninety pages, just the few that focus on the competences you wish to work on. So look through it carefully, check what areas are going well already, and then decide what areas need your immediate attention.
The British Council has on online teacher’s skills assessment you can fill in to get a general idea of what you might work on, to improve your teacher skills. Of course, this online assessment is linked to an online course (also offered by the British Council), which you can follow if you like.
The nice thing about portfolios is that they allow you to work on at your own pace, on areas that you’ve decided are relevant to your daily practice. There’s a certain measure of self-evaluation involved, which means you need to look at yourself honestly: not too generously, but not too harshly either. Whatever you do, be willing to confront yourself with the good, the bad, and the ugly, and realize that a good teacher is a growing teacher.
And have fun! Because that’s what makes learning work well: a dose of enjoyment while working on our teacher skills.