Learning the Portfolio Way

For students entering the program after fall 2014

The Capstone Project will offer students the opportunity to integrate and apply learning in order to demonstrate mastery of social work knowledge, skills, practice behaviors, ethics and values necessary for evidence-based advanced generalist practice. In their final week, students will be presented with an advanced generalist case study and, in teams, will develop a poster presentation which illustrates their assessment and intervention in micro, mezzo and macro levels of practice.

For students entering prior to fall 2014

What is Portfolio Learning?

The social work portfolio is a final project due toward the end of your last semester in the program. It replaces a thesis or capstone paper and should be reflective of what knowledge you have gained, skills you have learned, values you have integrated into your practice, how you learn and what professional goals you seek to achieve. Portfolios can be used in many different ways and can be a record of your ongoing learning, a mechanism to continue to use self-reflection as a way to develop professional development and identity, and a way to assess directions that you may want to explore in the future.

Portfolio learning is a process that can continue well after you graduate from this program. It is a self-directed, student-centered process through which you have the opportunity to talk about yourself, describe what you have studied and experienced in the MSW program, and explore what you hope to achieve in the future.

Although the portfolio experience varies from student to student, at the most basic level, the process is simple. Throughout your tenure in the program, you collect information about yourself. The actual items that you include in your portfolio very much depend upon you and your career plans, but the following must be included:

  • a cover page
  • a choice of either a narrative submission letter describing what is included in the portfolio or an outline/index listing what is included and in what order
  • a resume, including a list of individuals who have agreed to serve as references
  • written responses to sample interview questions intended to help you prepare for professional interviews that ask you to reflect on different aspects of your field practice experiences and capacities. Answers should be succinct -- no more than one or two paragraphs -- to be useful in actual interview settings. (Questions are listed at the end of this page about portfolios.)

In addition, you must choose to include one of the following three options:

1. Three samples of work produced in classes and/or the field, including brief (2-3 page) self-assessments of each (e.g., what you learned), or a longer self-assessment addressing how the three samples work together. You may select whatever papers and/or projects you wish. For instance, you may select three samples from three different topical areas to demonstrate the breadth of your knowledge and skills, or you might select three samples that focus on the same general topic as a means of highlighting the depth of your expertise in a particular area. Or you may select samples that, taken together, illustrate your growth and progress as a student over the course of the program. Alternately, you may choose special projects you may have worked on in your internship(s) or a process recording. If you choose the latter, you must be sure to disguise the identity of the client(s) involved, meet HIPPA or FERPA regulations or other confidentiality policies of the agency and obtain permission from your field instructor. The focus of your self-assessments should be similar to that described above -- a demonstration of the breadth of your knowledge and skills, the depth of your expertise in a particular area or an illustration of your growth and progress as a student over the course of the program.

2. Personal statement (6-9 pages). For the personal statement, you have two choices: (a) write a new statement, referring to Cournoyer & Stanley (2002, pp 74-76) for some information on what you might choose to include in your personal statement, or (b) write a new personal statement based upon a review of the personal statement you composed for your initial application to the MSW program. Reflect upon the change, growth or persistence of your values, views and skills in light of your experience in the MSW program (i.e., what you have learned, what you already knew, what more you hope to learn in the future).

3. A theoretical or practice paper (6-9 pages). Write a paper that describes and/or explicates a theory or practice model that is of particular interest to you. For example, you may choose to describe a particular theory and discuss its relevance to social work or you may choose to write about a specific practice model and discuss its clinical applications.

What supplemental materials can you include?

You may include additional items; however, none are required. This is your chance to be creative and express who you are as an individual and/or demonstrate how that expression can contribute to your professional identity. Supplemental materials could include, but are not limited to:

  • evidence of special achievements (awards, certificates of training, etc.), evaluations from previous employment, letters of recommendation, special projects in which you were involved through employment or student internship and/or letters from clients or families
  • evaluations from field placements
  • non-narrative or non-textual reflections on your experience and work as an MSW student
  • results and responses to exercises in Cournoyer & Stanley, such as the Life Long Learning Questionnaire or Self-Assessment of Social Work Knowledge Survey Questionnaire
  • a career time-line (retrospective and/or prospective)
  • journal entries or personal reflections on coursework, field placements, social work circles or interpersonal relationships
  • Multiple Intelligence Assessment at http://surfaquarium.com/MI/inventory.htm (include results and your personal response)
  • Emotional Intelligence at http://ei.haygroup.com/resources/default_ieitest.htm (even if you choose not to include either of these assessments, you may find them interesting for self-knowledge)

How is the portfolio evaluated?

Two readers will be assigned randomly from the program’s instructional faculty and staff, and will review each portfolio, ensuring that the portfolio contains all required elements and sufficiently conveys a sense of your development as a student and trajectory as a social worker. Some of the pieces you choose to include in your portfolio may have been evaluated by a faculty member or your field instructor prior to your decision to include it in your portfolio. The portfolio will be assessed as “satisfactory” or “unsatisfactory.” Only “satisfactory” portfolios will meet the requirements for graduation from the program. Students can receive a grade of S (satisfactory) without including supplemental material.

Portfolio Learning Factors

The most important features about portfolio learning are:

  • You! This is about your presentation of yourself.
  • It is a process. Portfolio learning focuses on your experience and how it evolves; it is about what is happening to you.
  • It never ends. Portfolio learning never ends. It changes as you change throughout your life. It is what life-long learning is all about.

What are the guidelines for deciding what goes into the portfolio?

Each artifact should relate to the purpose for which your portfolio is being used. Strong components will answer the following questions in a positive way.

  • Does the item demonstrate and/or document the assets you want to put forward?
  • Is the item clearly and strongly related to the purpose the portfolio is built for?
  • Does the item give the individual any 'value add on' (make you a stronger candidate)?
  • Does the item strengthen the portfolio?

Portfolio Assignment: Interview Questions

Thinking about what you hope to be doing/where you want to be working after graduation, answer three of the following eight questions in one to two paragraphs each:

  1. How would you describe yourself personally and professionally?
  2. What are some of your strengths as a social worker?
  3. How do you think you will develop professionally in the next two years?
  4. What are your long-term career goals?
  5. How do you feel you have grown personally and professionally while a social work student?
  6. What approach do you generally use when working with a client?
  7. Describe how you have intervened with a particular client. What worked well? What didn’t work well?
  8. How do you feel you work with colleagues in a team-based approach?

Last Updated: 7/28/14