Frontline Initiative Teamwork

DSP in Action:
Creating Your Own Portfolio


Susan O’Nell is a project coordinator for the Pathways from Classrooms to Credentials Assessment project. She works at the Institute on Community Integration at the University of Minnesota

What is a Portfolio?

A portfolio is a collection of information that demonstrates mastery of work-related skills. In areas such as human services, skills are best demonstrated in actual work situations. Rather than paper and pencil tests, developing a portfolio is an exciting way to help bridge the gap between traditional testing, which is practical to implement but does not necessarily reflect true work skills, and skill demonstrations, which provides information on a person’s skills but is difficult to implement.

Why Create a Portfolio?

There are a number of reasons for planning and creating a portfolio that clearly reflects your work-related skills, knowledge and attitudes. A portfolio is a portable way to show others that you have mastered important work skills, which can be valuable in your career development. The portability of portfolios may also have potential to be a part of any voluntary credentialing structure in this field.

The process of creating a portfolio is a learning opportunity in and of itself. If you are bored with training options currently offered, you could propose to gain training credit by exploring an area of your interest, implementing new skills in work, and describing your new skills as a way to demonstrate to your employer your skill development. This documentation can then become part of a portfolio. If you’re not sure where to begin, you may get some good ideas by reviewing the Community Support Skill Standards (CSSS), the nationally validated core skills for community support human service workers.

Once you have a good portfolio developed, it may be useful in situations such as helping new or current employers understanding your skills and abilities in order to have a basis for hiring, raises, promotions or new positions. Portfolios may also be useful in getting credit for prior learning or in post-secondary educational settings.

What’s in a Portfolio?

 Your portfolio can have anything you’d like to put in it that meaningfully reflects your capabilities as a DSP.

Documentation of Work Samples

As a real reflection of your skills, the portfolio should contain authentic work samples. These can be displayed in any method that shows your actual work. We produce a lot of paper in human services and it’s likely many your samples will be based on reports, logs, or other paper based methods. However, there is no reason to limit your creativity. Using another method, such as a picture log or a video or audiotape presentation can be more fun and will make your portfolio stand out.

Other Items-

  • A personal statement regarding your views on our work and your professional goals;
  • A current resume;
  • Letters of recommendation from current and previous employers, coworkers and consumers or their families;
  • Certificates or awards you have received related to your work;
  • A table of contents that makes the materials easy to find and view.


 Plan not only what information you need to gather, but also the format you would like to use. For instance, if you want to demonstrate your skill helping a consumer select and use a new communication device, you could use a combination of pictures and audio tapes to show the process of selecting and then using the device with more sophistication over time. To help the reviewer understand the overall value of the sample, all samples should have a summary statement that includes information about the goal, the implementation, and the outcome of the skill being demonstrated in the portfolio.


Remember you must always respect the confidentiality of the person you are supporting. Get written permission from them and their guardians, if applicable, before using any pictures or other information that belongs to the person (such as formal records, etc.) Put copies of these permission slips into your portfolio (or at a minimum note on your samples that permission was given) removing names from documentation will let a prospective employer or any other person reviewing your portfolio know your respect for the consumer’s right to privacy and confidentiality. 


Building a portfolio can be both challenging and fun. Ideally your portfolio will be useful when seeking promotions, raises, new positions, or credit for prior learning. The very act of documenting and reflecting may help remind you of the value of your work and improve your ability to provide the best supports you can to people who rely on you.