For reasons that are a little unclear to me, my brother
decided to send me this picture of his tenure package today. I am not just posting it here out of familial pride (though there's a little of that) but because it's instructive to look at the top binder: his teaching portfolio.
I think that probably everyone who comes up for tenure just about everywhere now submits a teaching portfolio. Maybe I am wrong about that, but I certainly haven't heard of a place that doesn't require one. My sense is that these portfolios quickly became a standard in the second half of the 1990s. When I arrived at Emory in 1998, someone here had just received tenure, and her teaching portfolio was remarked upon as extraordinary. Now, the ones I've seen lately all look a lot like hers. That spring, I took a faculty workshop on assembling a teaching portfolio. The person who conducted it believed that assembling teaching portfolios made college faculty better teachers. I'll leave that for others to judge.
So, what are the gems of wisdom to be gleaned from all of this? I can think of at least three:
One, save copies of all your teaching materials so that you can throw them in a binder someday. ("Size circumscribes," writes Emily Dickinson, but there's no way she could get tenure now; no publications.)
Two, professional standards are not immutable. Maybe I am wrong, but it's hard for me to believe that research scientists at Research I universities were submitting teaching portfolios like this a dozen years ago. (However, when standards change, they usually "creep" upwards; so now we present teaching portfolios and
just as much research as a dozen years ago. But that doesn't mean that tenure standards couldn't change in other ways
.) Of course, this means that when you come up for tenure, you will likely be judged by at least some others who did not meet the same standards that they will expect from you.
Three, you should never send your brother any picture that you do not mind seeing posted on the Internet.
Labels: teaching, tenure-track