What is a professional portfolio?
A portfolio is a record of goals, growth, achievement, and professional attributes developed over time and in collaboration with others. A portfolio illustrates goals and development over time, and not simply the highest level of achievement. For professionals, a portfolio is a thoughtfully organized collection of artefacts that illustrates professional status, pedagogical expertise, subject matter knowledge, knowledge of learning processes, and professional and personal attributes that contribute to teaching.
The portfolio itself is a powerful product of the reflection and assessment processes required to produce it. Portfolio development involves the complex processes of self and collaborative evaluation. These include the somewhat cyclical processes of goal setting, reflecting upon growth, and recognizing achievement, followed by further goal setting to facilitate continued professional development. Portfolio development also requires decision-making and analysis concerning the selection and arrangement of the artefacts to be included as well as the development of presentation skills to facilitate communication concerning professional development.
What are the purposes of a professional portfolio?
The purposes of a portfolio are to be a
- Framework for self-assessment and evaluation
- Framework for collaborative assessment and evaluation
- Record and display of professional goals, growth, and achievement
- Foundation for career-long and lifelong self-directed professional development
What is the value of a portfolio?
A portfolio has value as both a process of assessment and evaluation and as a product of that process. As is true of many processes, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. That is, the meshing of self and collaborative evaluation with products that demonstrate the outcomes of those evaluations is greater than either the processes or the products alone. Momentarily, as a way of clarifying the value of portfolios, especially to those who have little or no portfolio experience, an artificial separation will be made. Consideration will be given first to the value of the process and second to the value of the product.
Process. Developing a professional portfolio is a complex, thought-provoking process of self-evaluation–reflection, decision-making, and goal setting–that takes place over time and in authentic contexts. If begun as a student teacher, it has potential to be a vehicle for career-long professional development and a source of unrivalled personal satisfaction.
Responsibility for continued growth rests with individuals. Although all must engage in self-assessment and evaluation if meaningful professional growth is to take place.
For some, self-evaluation begins with reflection. Reflection helps individuals to learn who they are and to be aware of how they perform. Over time, reflection significantly affects and directs professional choices and directions. The portfolio process can prompt individuals to reflect on themselves and their practice on a regular and continuing basis.
Portfolios also have value as facilitators of shared or collaborative evaluation. By means of the portfolios, it is possible for an individual to demonstrate the knowledge, skills, talents, and interests that contribute to their personal branding. Conscientiously prepared portfolios that illustrate an individuals’ competencies enable assessment and evaluation that is fair and meaningful.
Portfolios also facilitate personal and collaborative goal setting. Goal setting is critical to effective evaluation in that it can be the primary means through which individuals shape their growth. Goals can be set individually or in consultation with others, usually those with more experience and or expertise.
Through a cycle of goal setting, striving to meet those goals, recognizing achievement, and subsequently revising those goals or setting new ones, portfolio development can ultimately lead to improvement in one’s career and generally advanced professional development. In addition, the combination of engagement in self-reflection and shared evaluation as facilitated by portfolios can be a cornerstone of career-long and lifelong professional development.
Product. Additional value is attributed to the portfolio itself, the product. As Seldin (1991) observes, “Portfolios can give a purpose and framework for preserving and sharing work, provide occasions for mentoring and collegial interactions, and stimulate an individual to reflect on their own work”. Each portfolio is a display of individual goals, growth, and achievement, as well as a testimony to acquired knowledge, and professional and personal attributes.
Portfolios are unique and valuable means of communication between, for example, an artist and his potential client. Two of the most important times to use this means of communication are during practicum and in professional employment interviews. At these times, portfolios can stimulate thoughtful discussion and engage in compelling discourse regarding many aspects of their professional development. While portfolio presentation is not yet mandatory during employment interviews, portfolios are increasingly welcomed and there is reason to believe that in future they may be requested.
Finally, a portfolio has value as a source of self-satisfaction and pride. Like all symbols of growth and success, portfolios help stir feelings of accomplishment. Unlike awards given by others, portfolios are a celebration of both self and collaborative evaluation.
In summary, the value of professional portfolios is both actual and potential. They are credible vehicles of reflection, assessment, evaluation, and a yet under-utilized means of communication. As their development in the educational community becomes more widespread and the forms of evaluation they facilitate better understood, their value is certain to escalate. More professionals engaging in portfolio development at this time are making a promising investment in themselves and their careers.