Date of Award

2000

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Faculty

Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences

Abstract

This study on the use of teaching portfolios arose from a number of converging trends and policy initiatives within the higher education sector that led to demands for the improvement of, and a more reflective scholarly approach to, university teaching. In Australia, and overseas, institutions have responded to these demands by implementing teaching development and evaluation programs for academic staff that arc based on the use of portfolios. A teaching portfolio is essentially a documentary record of selected aspects of a teacher's work across a range of instructional settings. According to some proponents, portfolios can capture the complexity of university teaching in a manner that is both discipline-based and context-specific and thus offer advantages over traditional approaches to teaching appraisal and improvement. However, as portfolios are a relatively recent phenomenon in higher education, their increasing use for both summative and formative evaluation of higher education staff raises a number of questions and concerns. Against this background, the present study explored the role of teaching portfolios in the professional development of academic staff and the appraisal and improvement of teaching quality. It did so through an evaluative case study of a Teaching Portfolio Project (TPP) that involved the planning, implementation and evaluation of a Staff Development Program (SDP) for academic staff in the School of Nursing at Curtin University of Technology. Stufflebeam's CIPP evaluation model, comprising discrete context, input, process and product evaluations, provided the framework for informing the design of the SDP and for a comprehensive investigation of the issues surrounding the use of teaching portfolios in a university setting. The study has shed substantial light on the usefulness of portfolio-based approaches to teaching development. The findings show that with careful planning and appropriate resources a portfolio-based staff development program can be successfully implemented in a university department and point the way to introducing similar initiatives across the university. They also provide insight into how portfolio preparation may be integrated with existing institutional practices for teaching improvement and appraisal, and how portfolios can be adapted to document teaching across a range of instructional settings. Taken together, the findings of the present study demonstrate that the process of portfolio preparation provides a useful approach to the appraisal and improvement of university teaching and can be a powerful and engaging strategy for academic staff development. The findings further demonstrate that the preparation of a portfolio can facilitate reflective teaching practice and improvement, and that group-based approaches can promote a collegial discourse for teaching development. Whilst the findings of the TPP show that portfolio use in higher education appears to fulfil its early promise, they also highlight areas that will require further investigation.

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