Why you shouldn’t post your teaching dossier online

January 30, 2018

Students and colleagues sometimes ask me if they should post their teaching dossier or portfolio online. My answer is immediate: No!

Those who know me know that I am a big fan of developing a strong online professional presence. I encourage students and colleagues to keep their LinkedIn, Twitter, and other online professional profiles current. But there’s something about a teaching dossier that’s different. I couldn’t put my finger on it until I read an article by White & Conrod (2016) where they tell the story of how their teaching philosophies were plagiarized.

Your teaching philosophy is a key element of your dossier. Developing it is hard work. It involves some deep reflection, brain work and soul-searching. You dig deep into yourself to figure out who you are as an educator, what matters to you and why it matters. Honestly, articulating your teaching philosophy may be the single most difficult element of putting together your teaching dossier. When it’s done, it should be a reflection of who you are and what matters to you as an educator.

Other people may have similar philosophies, but in the end, your statement is about you and your values. It is yours and yours alone.

If you post it online, it becomes easy for others to cut-and-paste what you have shared. These may not be bad people. They may be too afraid or too intimidated to engage in the deep reflection required to develop a philosophy of their own. Who knows? My point is, don’t make it easy for others to steal your teaching philosophy.

Share your dossier selectively, with those who need it, such as employers or those evaluating your teaching. You might also choose to share your dossier with those who would benefit from it, such as students or junior colleagues. That does not mean you have to post it publicly online. You have other options:

Alternatives to posting your teaching dossier publicly online

  1. Share print copies of your work. This may sound old fashioned, but if someone does not require digital access to your dossier and a paper copy works just as well, why not? You might choose to add “Confidential” to the header or footer to make it clear you do not want it to be shared widely.
  2. Save a copy of your work in a digital format that is hard to copy. An protected .pdf isn’t foolproof, but it is an option. Another option is to save your work as a .jpg., but if you choose this route, be sure that the .jpg is high quality and easy to read.
  3. Save your work as a password protected or “read only” online document. Share the password or link with caution.

Again, share selectively and make it clear that your work is not for distribution.

I suspect that some people who are vehement believers in open access or the sharing culture may disagree with my stance on this issue. There are plenty of websites that offer tips about how to post your entire dossier online. Don’t get me wrong. I share lots of my work online, free of charge in an open access format. It may be OK to share parts of your teaching dossier publicly online, such as your previous teaching experience, but not all of it. The key is to think critically about what you want to share and how you choose to do that.

It is important to understand that the more publicly you share, the easier you make it for others to copy-and-paste your deep thoughts, rather than engaging in their own soul-searching journey. If you want to offer others a short-cut and do the hard work for them, that is an option. But if you’d rather not, think twice before posting your entire teaching dossier publicly online.

The point is for you to think critically about who you want to have access to your inner most values about teaching. In my view, your teaching philosophy is a key element of your identity as an educator. Don’t make it easy for others to steal your professional identity.


White, M. A., & Conrod, J. D. (2016). Is nothing sacred? Our personal teaching philosophies have been plagiarized. University Affairs. Retrieved from https://www.universityaffairs.ca/opinion/in-my-opinion/is-nothing-sacred-our-personal-teaching-philosophies-have-been-plagiarized/


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Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.

Opinions are my own and do not represent those of the Werklund School of Education or the University of Calgary.

27 Great Resources on Using Portfolios for Language Learning and Literacy

June 10, 2011

Some of my favorite resources for using portfolios, strength-based and asset-based evaluation and assessment for language learning. I’ve divided them into practical resources for the classroom language teachers, video resources and research resources for students and scholars. The resources cover a range of topics related to languages and literacy including:

  • portfolios for younger learners
  • portfolios for adult learners
  • foreign and second language teaching
  • literacy and ESL

Practical Resources for Language Teachers

Portfolio Assessment in the Foreign Language Classroom

An amazing online resource that’s part of the Portfolio Assessment Project conducted by the The National Capital Language Resource Center (NCLRC), a consortium of Georgetown University, The George Washington University, and the Center for Applied Linguistics.

Assessment and Independent Language Learning

This site is a veritable cornucopia of resources on strength-based assessment from the Subject Centre for Languages, Linguistics and Area Studies in the UK.

Global Language Portfolio

A project headed up by Patricia Cummins, the Global Language Portfolio (GLP) is an electronic document used by learners, teachers, educational institutions, employers and other organizations to present information about language. It promotes language learning and the development of cultural competence, and it is modeled on the European Language Portfolio (ELP).

Independent Language Learning

This site by the University of Manchester covers a number of aspects of independent language learning, including assessment. But it goes further than that. It also talks about how learners can set goals and stay motivated.

Portfolios in English Language Teaching (ELT)

A site from the BBC that talks mostly about using portfolios to use English, but the principles can be applied to any language. They also reference the Council of Europe’s portfolio page.

A Resource for Integrating Collaborative Language Portfolio Assessment (CLPA) into the Teaching-Learning Cycle of Adult ESL Instruction (Manitoba Best Practices)

A 68-page downloadable .pdf that includes best practices and examples. It is directed towards adult ESL learners, but the principles could be applied for any language.

The European Language Portfolio: A Guide for Learners (15+)

An 8-page downloadable .pdf on the European Language Portfolio. I love the simple, plain language approach of this resource.

Junior European Language Portfolio

The junior version of the European Language Portfolio is a Council of Europe initiative, launched in the 2001 European Year of Languages. The ELP provides pupils with a record of their achievements and progress in languages. Junior European Languages Portfolio.

Downloadable e-copy of European Language Portfolio – Junior version

A 36-page .pdf resource teachers can use with their junior students. Hard copies are available for sale from the National Centre for Languages, but this electronic version is free.

Downloadable Teachers’ Guide on Using the European Language Portfolio – Junior version

This teachers’ guide accompanies the Junior Language Portfolio. Like the portfolio itself, hard copies are available for sale from the National Centre for Languages. This 26-page .pdf version is free.

Student Portfolios in the Foreign Language Classroom – FLTEACH FAQ

A great synopsis prepared by Lee Risley that includes topics such as the purpose of a portfolio, contents of a portfolio, assessment of portfolios and resources.

Video Resources

World Language Assessment: Using Feedback in Assessment (15:06)

A production of Wisconsin Public Television. Jennifer Block, Kari Ewoldt, and Jaci Collins use literature circles, LinguaFolio, and student portfolios to provide students with the crucial feedback they need as they continue to learn and grow.

European Language Portfolios

A series of five videos. This series is a recording of a webinar of a live presentation on the European Language Portfolio by Margarete Nezbeda, project coordinator of the ECML-project Training Teachers to use the European Language Portfolio. I recommend watching them in order, otherwise it seems a bit disjointed. Here are the links to: Part 1 (09:58), Part 2 (09:48), Part 3 (09:59), Part 4 (07:03), Part 5 (07:16)

Research Materials

Student Reflection in Portfolio Assessment: Making Language Learning More Visible

By Viljo Kohonen at the University of Tampere, this article was published in Babylonia in 2000. It’s available as a 6-page .pdf download and it addresses topics such as visible and invisible outcomes in language learning, how to increase visibility of learning using portfolios, how to get started, and how to get students thinking about learning processes.

Portfolio Assessment and English Language Learners: An Annotated Bibliography

By Emily Lynch Gómez, published by the Northeast and Islands Regional Educational Laboratory at Brown University. This 25-page .pdf download addresses topics such as performance assessment, using portfolios at the state and district levels and classroom-based use of portfolios.

An Introduction to Electronic Portfolios in the Language Classroom

An article by Sadia Yasser Ali in the Internet TESL Journal. This research article gives an introduction to portfolios before offering ideas on how to use electronic portfolios in language classrooms; the steps of developing electronic portfolios and the technological requirements for developing them.

Portfolio Assessment in Simulation for Language Learning

By Amparo García-Carbonell, Frances Watts and Beverly Rising, this 6-page article published by the Tilburg University Press discusses experiences from two different universities in three different fields of study. The principal purpose of the simulations used is to learn English as a second or foreign language within a specific field of study.

Enhancing the pedagogical aspects of the European Language Portfolio (ELP)

This document (in .doc format) is published by the Council of Europe. More of a research document than for classroom practical use.

Development and Implementation of Student Portfolios in Foreign Language Programs

Developed by the California Foreign Language Project, this website contains a variety of pages including: purpose of a portfolio, audience of a portfolio, method, analysis and results, conclusions and recommendations.

Using a Literacy Portfolio in a Third-Grade Class

A 30-page .pdf download by Caroline Kuperschmid, Third-Grade Teacher, and Sandra Cerulli, Reading Specialist. Contains information on how to implement reading-writing portfolios in class and authentic examples from grade 3 students.

Literacy Portfolio Assessment: A Resource for Literacy Workers

Don’t be fooled by the “older” look of the front page of resource. It’s a solid 71-page resource by Maurice Taylor, University of Ottawa. Includes topics such as testing and assessment in adult education, alternative assessment, and how to develop a literacy portfolio.

Portfolios: Assessment in Language Arts

A brief overview of using portfolios for assessment in language arts courses by Roger Farr, archived by the ERIC Clearninghouse on Reading and Communication Skills.

A Case Study of Using Portfolios to Make Language Learning More Visible at a Japanese Senior High School

A 6-page research article by Kenji Nakayama. (You may need to install Japanese character fonts on your Adobe reader to access this resource.)

The European Language Portfolio and its Potential for Canada

By Rehorick, S., & Lafargue, C. (2005) this paper is from the Proceedings of a conference held at the University of New Brunswick.

Related posts:

Student portfolios for Language Learning: What They Are and How to Use Them

Also, you can check out my Diigo list on Learning Portfolios.


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Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.

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