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by Jim Durkel

What is a portfolio?

A portfolio is a collection of work. It is easiest to imagine the portfolio for an artist or a writer; these portfolios would contain photographs of the artist's works or samples of the writer's writing. It may be a little harder to imagine how a portfolio for an intervener would look.

Before discussing how a portfolio for an intervener would look, lets look at why an intervener might want to create a portfolio.

Why create a portfolio?

A portfolio is evidence of your skills and talents as well as a record of training you have done. The portfolio can be used as a "scrapbook" to help you remember and reflect your successes, it offers you an opportunity to think about ways to improve your skills, and it can be used as proof of your abilities and accomplishments during annual performance reviews or when interviewing for a new position. Many colleges are using portfolios to document life accomplishments and are offering their students course credit for these accomplishments.

In your role as an intervener, you are working as a paraprofessional in the public schools. With the enactment of the Federal "No Child Left Behind" legislation concerning quality public education there are new guidelines concerning the qualifications of paraprofessionals. A portfolio is one way to document that you have these qualifications.

What can be in a portfolio?

Portfolios can be as simple or as elaborate as you wish. It is important that materials be organized in some way so that proof of an accomplishment is easy to find and is clearly labeled. A portfolio is not merely a collection of materials that have been stored willy nilly in a cardboard box. Nor does a portfolio need to contain an example of everything you have ever done. A portfolio is an organized collection of samples of your accomplishments designed to show case your skills.

These samples can take many forms. For example, a portfolio may contain a copy of a post-secondary degree or copies of certificate of attendance from workshops or conferences. The portfolio might contain video tape segments of you engaged in an activity with a student. It might contain a copy of materials you adapted for your students. Just keep in mind that the portfolio is a record of your work, not of the student's work. (Though you can create a separate student portfolio to document your student's accomplishments and progress.)

Here is a partial list of what might be in the portfolio. This list is not necessarily complete!

  • A summary of your credentials/qualifications/etc. which might include:
    • Your resume (you might want to include job descriptions from relevant experiences)
    • Results from any written exams you have taken relevant to being a paraprofessional in the public schools
    • Copies of post-secondary degrees
    • Copies of school transcripts (possibly including high school), especially showing relevant classes, like sign language or child development (you may want to include course syllabi to highlight the content of the classes)
    • Certificates of attendance for workshops and/or conferences (you may want to include the agendas for these trainings to highlight the content of the training)
    • Professional certificates, like those for sign language interpreters, Braille transcribers, or day care providers
    • Descriptions of relevant personal experiences, such as having a child of your own with disabilities
    • Copies of previous work performance evaluations
    • Letters of recommendations from employers (especially supervisors or professionals who directed your work)
    • Copies of any relevant honors or awards
  • Written samples of your work, which might include:
    • Data collection sheets that highlight how you collected and organized data
    • Samples from a school-home communication book (make sure you have permission from the child's parents and other relevant school personnel, if necessary)
    • Communication other team members
    • Articles you might have written for a newsletter
    • Handouts you might have developed for an in service training or workshop
  • Examples (either the material itself or photographs) of materials you have created or material adaptations you have made
    • Samples of materials in Braille
    • Samples of communication boards
    • Samples of adapted games
    • Samples of experience books
    • Samples of calendar systems
    • Adapted recipes
    • Bulletin boards you created
    • Adapted worksheets
  • Samples of the student's work that reflects your role as an intervener:
    • A hard copy of TTY conversations with the student that highlight your support of the student's performance
    • An experience story written by the student that includes references to you and your role during the experience
    • A video tape or photographs of you supporting student success in some activity, for example:
      • An independent living activity, such as grocery shopping or cooking
      • The student ordering an item at a fast food restaurant
      • The student interacting with peers
      • The student engaged in a recreation/leisure activity
      • The student engaged in an academic (reading, math, science, etc.) activity
      • The student in PE
      • The student using some piece of adapted equipment, including low vision aids, mobility devices, note takers, assistve listening devices, communication devices, etc.
      • The student engaged in a recreation/leisure activity
  • Samples that demonstrate your competency in some procedure or instructional technique, for example:
    • Video tape of you interpreting for the student
    • Video tape of a conversation with the student that highlights your skills at facilitating the interaction
    • Video tape of you checking hearing aids or assistive listening devices
    • Video tape of you acting as a sighted guide for your student
    • Video tape of you providing various levels of prompts and reinforcements
    • Video tape of any medical procedures you have been trained and authorized to conduct (such as tube feeding) (you might want to include written evidence of the training)
    • Video tape of you implementing positioning and handling techniques you have been trained and authorized to do (you may want to include written evidence of the training)
    • Video tape of any sensory integration activities (such as brushing) that you have been trained and authorized to do (you may want to include written evidence of the training)
  • Evidence of your thinking about your role as an intervener, for example:
    • Excerpts from a journal where you reflect on the student's progress and what you might do keep doing or change
    • Excerpts from team meetings (with permission from other team members) that highlight your suggestions/thoughts
    • Reflections from some article you read/workshop you attended/video tape you viewed that gave your some ideas about something to try with your student
    • A professional development plan for yourself

Some hints for organizing the portfolio

  • Consider making an index for the portfolio. The index might follow the recommended competencies for an intervener.
  • Consider using a 3 ring binder for as much of the material as possible. Where video tape is used, make sure the video tape is clearly marked with a reference to the competency or skill demonstrated on the tape.
  • If you are including materials that don't fit in a 3 ring binder, consider storing all the materials together in a storage box
  • The portfolio is not static. You can add new material and take out old material that is no longer representative of your work.