Writing about your teaching and your students’ learning

The heart of each portfolio entry is the Written Commentary. This is where you will be helping the assessor to 'see' how your evidence shows how you are meeting the relevant standards in your school context. The Guidelines to the Written Commentary provide questions to help you describe your practice and the reasoning behind it in the best light.

The Guidelines call for three different kinds of writing about your teaching: descriptive, analytical and reflective writing. To some extent, these different kinds of writing match the stages in your Written Commentary. It is important to be aware of each style of writing and to make sure each style is present in your entry. 

You will be using descriptive writing mainly in the initial stages of your written commentary as you describe the unit of work featured in your entry: its aims and why they were important for your students; the learning plan and its rationale; the research you drew upon and how you used it; your plan for catering for different students and monitoring their learning; and what happened during the implementation stages. This will provide a coherent account of the unit of work, showing clear links between each of its stages.

You will be using analytical writing later to take the assessor inside your thought processes, your reasoning about each stage of the entry, your interpretation of what was happening during the unit of work and your evaluation of its impact. It is important to recognise the difference between descriptive and analytical writing. Your analysis will deal with reasons, motives, and interpretation and will be grounded in the concrete evidence you provide in the materials you submit.

This is perhaps the most important part of your portfolio entry. What matters here is the quality of the discussion you provide about the evidence in your student work samples, video segments and artefacts. You will be pointing constantly to evidence about what your students are doing, saying, writing, learning and so on, as a result of your teaching. You will also be identifying how it illustrates the way you are meeting the standards in your school context.  

It is not necessary that your teaching of this unit of work was an unequivocal success (teaching rarely is). What matters more is the quality of your analysis in the light of the purposes for your unit of work. Professional development benefits flow from thinking analytically about practice and evaluation of one’s own work. Assessors will be looking for thoughtful and honest discussion about your teaching and factors affecting its implementation and impact on student outcomes.

In the final sections of your Written Commentary, you will move to a more reflective mode of writing as you share what you have learned about your teaching and its impact on students. Assessors will be looking for an insightful reflective discussion about your teaching. You will be reflecting on how you would handle a similar unit of work with students in the future. This is where you will be showing assessors how you will use what you have learned about your teaching to inform and improve your practice in the future.