Probationary Teacher Portfolio – Yes or No?

There are currently 35 teachers in my district holding probationary contracts.

Most teachers, particularly those just entering the profession or new to the province, will start employment with a board under a probationary contract, a provision introduced by the 1988 School Act. Section 98 sets out the requirements. The contract must be for a complete school year, cannot be offered to someone employed by the board in the preceding school year (other than as a substitute or temporary contract teacher—see below) and will terminate on the following June 30th. If, at the end of the year, the employer’s evaluations of the teacher so indicate and the teacher agrees, the probationary contract may be extended for an additional period not exceeding a second full year.

Probationary Teacher Portfolio Questionnaire

Principals are responsible for completing a formal performance evaluation on teachers holding a probationary contract, which will assist them in making a recommendation to the Superintendent of Schools regarding contract status for the subsequent school year. They are required to submit that evaluation, along with their recommendation, by April 30th.

Starting this year, so that our principals will have as much information as possible when completing these evaluations, we are asking our teachers to create, present and submit a portfolio. This portfolioportfolio-300x157 can be designed in a format of their choosing as long as it’s contents satisfies what is asked in this questionnaire. They should be able to take examples of the work they are already doing and compile it. Reference documents include the Teaching Quality Standard and the new Framework for Student Learning. We are asking them to present and submit the portfolio sometime in early April to allow time for the principal to review it before completing the evaluation.

Support will include exemplars of other teacher portfolios, time through the district Mentorship program, and ongoing support from their principal. Other than that it is the responsibility of the teacher to complete the portfolio. And I don’t see it as hoop to jump through. My hope is that they’ll continue to build the portfolio for years to come. Personally, I developed an electronic portfolio a number of years ago and have referred back to it on a number of occasions throughout my career. A portfolio, as a living document, is a wonderful tool for reflection.

The main concern over the portfolio initiative of course is time. Some are worried that we are burdening our new teachers with additional work in an already labour intensive year. That’s a very good point. On the other hand, if we want the best teachers for our district, and if we want to ensure they are continuing to grow in their practice, we need to insist that efforts are being concentrated in the right place. In the ever-changing and complex world of education, a portfolio is one way teachers can show us they are on the right track. We must be certain we’ve got it right. Only then should we enter into a long-term relationship through a continuous contract.

So what say you? Probationary teacher portfolio – yes or no?

Categories: 21st Century Competencies, 21st Century Learning, Capacity Building, Education Transformation, Human Resources | Tags: , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

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7 thoughts on “Probationary Teacher Portfolio – Yes or No?

  1. Hi Greg –

    I like the idea of the portfolio too as it encourages professionalism early on and sets those habits of self-reflection as you noted. A strategy that will help mitigate the workload concern and goes a long way to establish the expectation of collaboration is to have all teachers come to a “portfolio meeting” early in the year. I was included when I was on a cyclical evaluation for my admin contract too. (Leadership opportunity for me.)

    At the introductory meeting, there were about six or eight of us. We had some conversation around what a professional portfolio could contain related to the TQS. We all agreed to come together for a work session several weeks later to get started, although it was framed that however we proceeded from that point was voluntary. The initial work session was informal and had two main topics of conversation generated by the group – how to set up an electronic portfolio and quality content to include regardless of portfolio format..

    Following that session we informally broke off into pairs/threes and kept going. From that first group meeting though, we had established relationship for quick questions or ‘look sees’ on an ongoing basis through the year. I don’t think anyone felt that they were ‘going it alone’ which made things easier.

    I think you’re on the right path.



  2. Some of the teachers in my building are working toward their full teaching registration (they begin with a provisional license after graduation).

    You might be interested in their portfolio requirements:

    One teacher who is finishing up shared how much he appreciated being ‘forced’ to take the time to reflect on a unit after teaching it. Usually, teams of teachers have barely enough time to mark the work and move on. The process requires teachers to look back over student work, identify items understood well, and look for implications for future instruction.

    The process is one that I’d like to work into staff meeting this next year – it is so important.

    Yes, the portfolio process takes time. But I guess the follow up question is this: If we believe portfolios are valuable for teachers, how can we reflect the importance in the time we give them to reflect on their practice and reflect on student work?


  3. I like the idea of a portfolio at the same time that I worry it could burden beginning teachers during their first year of teaching. On the other hand, with support and guidance, this could prove to be an exciting adventure from which they will learn much about themselves and teaching. I would love to hear how it goes. Keep us posted.


  4. In a word, “Wow!”. Of course, I’ve never been one for just a word! This is absolutely stellar Greg. I’m not sure if this is being done anywhere else, but I truly hope you are able to put this into practice. I realize we do not follow a business model and I understand that there some factions that would take great umbrage to a model like this being put in place, but my honest opinion is that this should not only be for probationary teachers but ALL Teachers. We consider ourselves a profession and there is tremendous work going on in our profession. We need to celebrate the many excellent things taking place and raise the bar.

    So much is made of accountability and the need to raise standards, but at the end of the day as far as teachers are concerned, it’s our own individual motivation that decides what we’re going to do. Why not make this something that all teachers are asked to do. In this way, we would be ensuring that excellence is striven for at all times, not just to get a permanent contract.

    And in a dose or reality, yes I realize that there is virtually no chance this would happen for teachers past probation and with that in mind, I completely and wholeheartedly hope this is done to set teachers up at the start of their career. I think it IS a hoop to jump through but a very valuable one. Will look forward to hearing about your next steps on this.


  5. Tamara

    Many teacher ed programs have a portfolio component as part of their requirements for graduation. Teacher candidates spent weeks to months after their final practicum reflecting, blogging, and proving how they had met each standard for the BCCT. Not a bad process, but it was never used. Districts did not want to see it, even when it was offered.
    Additionally, the first year of teaching is incredibly overwhelming. Adding a portfolio on top of the could be the straw that broke the camel’s back :S
    While I do like portfolios, I think it is important, if implemented, that there is time given to complete them, and that they are actually used/considered by admin and/or districts.


  6. Pingback: We All Want Excellent Teachers | Educational Leadership in the 21st Century

  7. Pingback: You Weren’t Hired To Maintain The Status Quo | Educational Leadership in the 21st Century

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