As MIE Program Coordinator, I am often asked what advantages the MIE Concentration Program sees with using portfolios to help students keep track of their learning. While the answer to this is long, and varied, I thought I’d take the time in this post to list some very specific applications for portfolio use as career-building tools.
For starters, sometimes it helps people to think of their portfolio in the same way that they would think of a press kit. More than a business card, and often more ‘official’ than a website, artists use press kits all the time to show off their accomplishments, repertoire, references, media reviews, and etc. An MIE Portfolio can be used the same way – it’s like a press kit for teaching artists. A well-organized portfolio is like currency, when it comes to applying for teaching jobs or artist residencies! Prospective employers, whether they are at music schools, youth symphonies, or even parents looking for a private teacher for their child, can look at your MIE portfolio and get a very good glimpse at who you are as a teacher. Most likely, your MIE portfolio will include at least a learning narrative, rationale towards teaching, or a statement of self-assessment; and many peoples’ portfolios also have sample lesson plans, article responses, and pictures or video of past teaching experiences. This collection of documents says far more about who you are, and your experience as a teaching artist, than just a resume could.
While the sharing of some types of artifacts may be more relevant to some jobs than others, it’s important not to overlook the potential that ALL artifacts can have, if they are presented in an appropriate fashion. For example, just because you may be being considered as a private instructor for a young instrumentalist (as opposed to an assistant at a research center), I would encourage you to include some reading responses in your portfolio. If you chose articles (i.e. from the Journal for Learning Through Music) that are relevant to your teaching approach with young students, and included thoughtful reading responses, then prospective parents would see that you are not only familiar with current research in music-in-education, but that you strive to let that research inform who you are, in your own practice, as a teaching artist.
Another example of this deals with MIE alums who apply for jobs in arts administration. On occasion, one might find a community organization who wants to start a music program at their site, but isn’t sure what would be an appropriate approach. In an interview for such a job, the organization might ask its applicants what approaches similar organizations have taken. Or what trends are current in the field. Or if there might be an already-established program somewhere that could be replicated at their site. For the uninformed applicant, this could be a daunting question. However, for the MIE alum, who has done readings in national music-in-education journals where the journals report on similar programs across the country, the question becomes very easy. In fact, some of our Guided Interns at the Research Center have decided to focus their internships on gleaming that kind of information from sites across the MIE National Consortium, and their portfolios will reflect these trends.
Finally, I wanted to address some concerns that making an MIE Portfolio is a “daunting task,” especially for non-native English speakers. Portfolio work, like most types of homework or class assignments, is meant to be done in stages. This means that, along the way, students have the time to edit, proofread, and adjust their writing so that they can get it to the most professional standards. Working with an experienced English coach or writing instructor can have profound, and long-lasting, positive effects. Luckily, students of any degree program at New England Conservatory have the services of Patrick Keppel and the Writing Center at their disposal. (Patrick Keppel is the Editor of the Journal for Learning Through Music and the soon-to-be-published Journal for Music-in-Education, and is very familiar with the portfolio strategy used by the MIE Concentration Program).
Anyways, those are some specific ways that MIE portfolios can be applied to career-building situations. If you can think of any others, or have some questions, please post comments below!
P.S.: I cannot stress enough how effective a well-written and organized portfolio can be.
Randy Wong is Program Coordinator for the Center for Music-in-Education and Information Architect for the Music-in-Education National Consortium