What is a portfolio?

What is a portfolio?


In the Cleveland State College of Education and Human Services, you will gather a portfolio of work that you produce throughout your program. Your portfolio is a crucial part of your teacher education experience and serves as a significant method of demonstrating how you meet the standards of the Cleveland State teacher preparation program. Over the past 12 years of experience using portfolios in our teacher education programs, we have found that candidates who understand the process complete the requirements thoughtfully. When done properly, the portfolio is a valuable tool for fostering and documenting professional growth.

We want the portfolio process to be a positive experience for you. Toward that goal, this handbook provides:

  • An explanation of the purpose of the portfolio
  • Clarification of the portfolio process at Cleveland State
  • Technical information about managing your portfolio
  • Additional resources to help you understand and make the best use of the portfolio

In the most general terms, a portfolio is documentation of professional growth and competence. We have found that candidates have different ideas when they hear the word portfolio. Let’s examine some common misconceptions that people have about CSU portfolios.

Some people think of a portfolio as a scrapbook of memorabilia. Scrapbooks contain photos, captions, and snippets of text. Scrapbooks rely heavily on visual appeal and on the use of brief, punchy statements to generate an emotional response. This is NOT what your CSU portfolio will be. Although you might include some photos in your portfolio, the contents of your portfolio must offer a reviewer insight into your knowledge, skills, and attitudes about teaching (called “dispositions” in education). Photos with captions alone are not substantial enough to offer insight into your thinking or evidence of your skills..

Some people think of a portfolio as a file cabinet or notebook containing a complete collection of assignments from all your courses. This idea of a portfolio treats everything equally with the ultimate goal of gathering as much material as possible. This is NOT what your CSU portfolio will be. Your portfolio will be selective and include only a small subset of your finished work. Some assignments will be required to be in your portfolio. Other assignments will be included because you have chosen them as evidence to demonstrate something important about your skills or knowledge.

Some people think of a portfolio as a showcase of best work, similar to a portfolio that an artist or a designer might use to win a contract with a client. This idea of a portfolio includes only the artist’s best work and does not document the prior work it took to reach that level of ability. In addition, the artist herself chooses how to organize the portfolio.
This is NOT what your CSU portfolio will be.

Your portfolio will include high-quality pieces of work, but it will contain work that you produce at every stage in your teacher preparation program to demonstrate your growing competence in the CSU Outcomes, a set of standards that identify and describe the essential knowledge, skills and dispositions you need to start your teaching career. At each transition point you must meet expectations for that phase of your program, but we expect that you will continue to develop throughout your program. At the end of your program you will produce an employment portfolio that will include only your best work to market yourself to potential employers.

In summary, your CSU portfolio will have the following characteristics:

  • The portfolio will contain documents that provide substantial evidence of your knowledge, skills,

    and dispositions related to the CSU Outcomes.

  • The portfolio will contain only selected work identified by the faculty and by the candidates.
  • The portfolio will document professional growth by including work generated at all stages of the

    teacher preparation program.