Like any good teacher, Hofstra University’s School of Education reinforces its lessons for teacher certification candidates as they prepare to ace their portfolios for the edTPA, or Teacher Performance Assessment. In the six years since New York State began requiring the intensive portfolio Hofstra education professors have become experts.
Here, they share tips for success based on experience. This advice comes from two veteran educators: Dr. Stephen J. Hernandez, Hofstra’s edTPA Coordinator and Director of Early Childhood Special Education, and Dr. Alan Singer, Director of Secondary Education Social Studies and Chair of the Department of Teaching, Learning & Technology Programs.
Clearly their expertise is making a difference: Between 92 percent and 95 percent of teacher candidates from Hofstra succeed each year, according to Dr. Hernandez. To submit a portfolio, a candidate must construct a series of three to five lessons, implement (and videotape) them, and then engage in an analysis of the students’ performance and their own teaching. The Hofstra professors say the video portion produces the most anxiety for teacher certification candidates.
1. Remember, you’re the video’s producer and director, not the star.
Organize the room for filming by setting up the camera mid-room, with one or two student tables in view. Place students without permission slips off-camera, but close enough that the microphone can pick up their participation in the discussion. If possible, move the teacher’s desk out of the way. Conduct classes with the video camera running for several days just for practice. This will allow students to get comfortable with the set-up and for you to test for any technical glitches.
“They obsess over the video,” Dr. Singer said in an interview. “I try to get them to understand they’re the director, not the star. The stars are their students in the classroom. Show them participating.”
2. You are not expected to invent everything.
Good teachers adapt their materials from a number of different sources. This is fine, just be sure to cite the sources you use. If you use state-, district- or university-mandated curriculum material, or material that’s been published or posted online, make sure you note this in the analysis portion of the edTPA.
3. Remember the ‘Rule of Three.’
Try for three student responses to every question. Call on students who don’t volunteer and ask them to comment on previous classmates’ responses. Stimulating student-to-student interaction is edTPA gold. Ask three questions, not one: What? Why? And, where is the evidence in the text? You may post cue-card prompts on the wall off-camera to remind you.
4. Use an ‘exit ticket’ for the filming sessions.
Even if it’s not your practice, have students take a short quiz or write a response. This serves as an “exit ticket,” or a concrete demonstration that students have understood the lesson. Having this in hand when the class is over is a simple way to formally evaluate individual student work. The summary question can be your exit ticket question. Students can write, and then discuss. If some students need more time, have them stay after class to finish if necessary.
5. The commentary, not the video itself, is the key to passing.
Your self-evaluation of your strengths and weaknesses is the most important piece of the edTPA portfolio. It shows you understand that teaching is an art and reaching students can require persistence and a willingness to change your approach. Before you submit the videos, show them to your teammates to identify positives and negatives in your clips that you need to discuss in the analysis portion of the edTPA.
During the student teaching semester, Hofstra offers a seminar on completing the edTPA portfolio, as well as weekly support sessions. Dr. Hernandez says that new teachers tell him that this level of support builds their confidence, both during the portfolio preparation and, later, in the classroom.