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Residents & Fellows October 19, 2017

A Guide to Creating a Teaching Portfolio for Medical Residents & Fellows

If you’re a medical resident or fellow preparing for a career in medicine, do you need to create a teaching portfolio? Although it’s not necessarily a yes-or-no question, if you anticipate taking your career in the direction of academic medicine — now, or down the road — experts suggest doing so.

“Residents spend 20% of their daily activity in teaching efforts, primarily instructing other residents and medical students on the practical delivery of medical care,” write the authors of a 2013 study published in The Journal of Graduate Medical Education.

That same report points to a prior lack of objective measurements of these teaching skills, due largely to “time and resource constraints.” Yet this has begun to change in recent years, with more attention being paid to developing teaching skills among physicians.

It’s standard for academic physicians — those whose role includes research and teaching at medical schools — to maintain a teaching portfolio. But even doctors who don’t consider themselves as strictly academic may want to consider creating a portfolio, as a way to document their full range of skills and experience (and hence stay more competitive in the job market).

“Even if you are not required to keep a portfolio, the TMA Subcommittee for Academic Physicians encourages physicians involved in academic medicine to consider the benefits,” explains the Texas Medical Association. “Teaching portfolios are an academic physician’s ‘body of evidence’ — a centralized source for documenting professional accomplishments, professional development, and teaching philosophies.”

“With the recent changes in postgraduate medical education and training, it has never been more important to keep a well presented and comprehensive record of the skills, qualities, and competencies needed to present at educational reviews, training assessments, and interview,” agrees The BMJ.

With that in mind, physicians-in-training who have had educator experience during their residencies, and who can compellingly present this experience within a teaching portfolio, could understandably see an advantage to creating a teaching portfolio to accompany their CV.

Key Elements To Creating A Teaching Portfolio

As the 2013 study illustrates, there’s no fixed standard for creating a teaching portfolio. Still, just as when you’re assembling your physician's CV or résumé, a certain set of best practices can be applied.

“Your institution may have a prescribed format and scope of content for a teaching portfolio,” explains the AAMC. “If it does, you should maintain your internal portfolio in accordance with those standards”—but you should also consider creating a teaching portfolio that “is even more comprehensive to be submitted with your CV when applying for positions at other academic institutions.”

When creating a teaching portfolio, the AAMC and other experts advise including the following elements:

1. Table of Contents. Beginning with a TOC makes it easy for reviewers/interviewers to find what they’re looking for, creating efficiency (and likely earning you extra points for thoughtfulness, too.)

2. Teaching Philosophy. A brief rundown of your philosophy serves as the portfolio’s mission statement. The AAMC advises an approach that answers such questions as: What has your role as teacher been? What’s your theory of learning? What are the characteristics that make good teachers?

3. List of Intramural Teaching Activities. According to the AAMC, these intramural activities include CME courses and lectures, “teaching rounds, clinical didactic and bedside sessions, small group learning experience, problem-based learning sessions, seminars, journal club leadership, one-on-one teaching sessions, editorial assistance to students, supervision and advising students or others, preparation/administration of board exams, evaluator for clinical examinations, membership on committees related to education.”

4. List of Extramural Teaching Activities. Again, per the AAMC these include “visiting professorships, invited lectures and educational presentations at regional/national meetings, development of patient educational materials.”

5. Teaching Assessment. Summary of or reference to student evaluations, peer evaluations, departmental reviews, letters of support (solicited or not solicited).

6. Additional Activities. What other activities have you undertaken to improve your teaching abilities? List them briefly near the end of your portfolio.

7. Awards. If you’ve received any award for teaching and medical education, don’t forget to list them, but do so briefly and modestly.

8. “Additional Evidence.” Your last section “should include pieces of evidence that do not fit clearly into any one particular category,” advises The BMJ, including items such as foreign languages, “outstanding sports or extracurricular activities,” learning modules, and “evidence of commitment to specialty (for example, elective).”

The University of Washington Medical Center also advises not including media such as videos, entire slide presentations, and course syllabi, as well as duplicating items already found in your CV.

A final note: Make your teaching portfolio fewer than 10 pages in length, “excluding title, table of contents, and appendices; include place, date and type of activity,” the AAMC adds. The BMJ also advises paying attention to your teaching portfolio’s presentation and organization, advising that it be collected within a large ring folder complete with dividers and plastic wallets.

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