Thursday, 26 August 2010

Building my portfolio

Yesterday I went to two seminars organised by the CILIP Career Development Group London and South East division: ‘Portfolio Building’, and ‘Chartership and Beyond’.  You might notice a slight Chartership theme there...  ‘Chartership and Beyond’ is the compulsory course for all Chartership candidates, so there are no prizes for guessing why I went to that one.  The Portfolio Building seminar was a voluntary half-day course (very reasonably priced at £11.75) which I chose to attend because I’m currently trying to turn a large pile of evidence into a portfolio, and I’m keen for any guidance on how to do that.

Both seminars ranged across a number of topics, but the key theme of the day for me was “How to make your evidence meet the assessment criteria through the intelligent use of reflective practice”, or “How to pass by making sure that your select, present, and justify to show yourself in the best light”.

A couple of things from the two session particularly stood out and deserve individual credit.  Sabelo, a Candidate Support Officer from the CDG group had compiled seven reflective diary questions tailored to evaluating an event you were a part of - I used those as the skeleton for this post.  Also Michael Martin’s presentation on the whole Chartership process was informative, encouraging and reassuring.  I felt relieved that nothing he said came as a complete shock - it’s nice to know that I’m on the right track!

Before the day started I was perhaps a bit cynical about the courses I was attending.  I had unfairly assumed that they would come across as being solely about how to tick the boxes on an assessment form.  I wasn’t expecting to find the reflective practice exercises so useful or enjoyable, or to come away feeling that I could apply what I had learnt in contexts wider than just Chartership itself.

From the two sessions I gained a much better idea of how to organise the physical evidence for each item included in the portfolio.  It’s not just about having a single piece, e.g. a certificate or review, it’s about creating a short narrative, e.g. an event flyer, a visitor feedback form and a critical reflection on what happened and what you’d changed.  I’m also now more comfortable with the requirements of the four assessment criteria, and have a clearer idea which evidence best illustrates each of them.  I’ve identified things that I’ve done at work that meet various of them, especially the two part of number 1, that I had previously considered for inclusion in the portfolio.  An example of this is linking the organisation of Open Libraries as part of Open Cambridge to the role of the library and the College within the University.

I’ve been converted into a fan of reflective writing (hence all this droning on).  I used to be able to see that it ought to be useful, but I’d never really got much from the reflection I tried to do.  I thought that working from a list of questions to ask yourself was probably a bit of a gimmick.  But now having been forced to try it out, and to listen to other people’s evaluations using the same scheme, I can see that a set of fairly basic questions in a number of areas can help you to think of ideas and connections that would otherwise have gone unnoticed.

I would have liked to have had more time on the day to talk to the other participants (not that there wasn’t time allowed for that in the schedule).  Near then end of the morning session I had a really interesting conversation with a librarian from a London University with a large mature student intake about strategies for making inductions accessible and successful.  I wish now that I’d taken her details so that we could continue the conversation afterwards.

I’ll naturally be trying to use all that I learnt from the day as I work towards assembling my portfolio.  One of my first actions will be to renew my efforts to group my evidence under the 4 assessment criteria, and I’ll be writing up reflective thoughts on some museum visits quite soon too.  I’m also going to write up my own personal list of evaluative questions that can be used for most reflective situations, incorporating ideas from the different examples given throughout the day.  Lastly I’m going to get down and read a couple of portfolios and try to analyse the way in which their authors have organised them to meet the requirements.

Thank you very much to the event organisers and presenters.  Next time can we have better weather, please?


  1. Very interesting, thanks for the summary.

    So what were the 7 reflective diary questions?

    not-at-all-procrastinating Celine

  2. I was hoping someone would write something up about these sessions. Great post!

    I'm also very interested what these 7 diary questions are... maybe they'll help me with my reflective writing too.

  3. (This is from memory, as the bit of paper is at home)

    What was it?
    What was your role?
    What were your emotions/reactions to it?
    Why was it important to you?
    What problems did you have to overcome?
    What did you learn from it?
    What would you change/do the same next time?

    All fairly basic, obvious things to ask, but it seems to make a huge difference to me to actually have them written in front of me to be answered.