Frequently Asked Questions

LIS 596: Professional Portfolio

Question Index

  1. In discussing various matters regarding the portfolio, the word "experience" is frequently used. In the context of this class, how do you define an "experience"? ^^go to answer^^

  2. What are some of the organizational devices I might use in developing my digital repository of atrifacts/reflections? ^^go to answer^^

  3. Can an experience include more than one artifact? ^^go to answer^^

  4. Can an artifact have more than one competency mapped to it? ^^go to answer^^

  5. What is a "professional practice standard set""? ^^go to answer^^

  6. What is a "professional practice standard"? ^^go to answer^^

  7. How many experiences/artifacts should a presentation portfolio contain? ^^go to answer^^

  8. Can my portfolio contain evidence of experiences/competencies in areas that don't ferret out as common in a set of relevant position announcements? I.e., can I include relevant experiences/artifacts that distinguish me from other professionals but aren't necessarily tied to any expressed competency? ^^go to answer^^

  9. Are there any practical reasons for doing the competency mappings for artifacts? ^^go to answer^^

  10. How does grading work? ^^go to answer^^

  11. Can I use experiences involving group work in my portfolio? How should I document group work? ^^go to answer^^

  12. When is it inappropriate to use a particular experience or artifact in a portfolio? ^^go to answer^^

  13. Can I use photographs in a portfolio that contain identifiable images of people? ^^go to answer^^

  14. How do I document a website other than providing the URL. Websites change and even disappear. How can I guard against changing circumstances when I want to present a website as it existed at a given point in time? ^^go to answer^^

  15. What is the difference between experiencing something and practicing something when assessing the level of competence with artifact/comptency alignments in my digital repository? ^^go to answer^^

  16. In developing my draft and presentation portfolios, am I constrained in my experience/artifact choices by the choices I made for the artifact/competency mapping? ^^go to answer^^

  17. Should I include email addresses, telephone numbers and other contact information in my portfolio? ^^go to answer^^

  18. What exactly is an "artifact" in the context of the portfolio? ^^go to answer^^

  19. Can I use experiences in my portfolio for which I have no artifacts/evidence?^^go to answer^^

  20. What exactly is an "reflection" in the context of the portfolio?^^go to answer^^

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  1. An "experience" is any activity that involves a family or related knowledge/skills. For example, you may have done a DFW in which you both worked the reference desk and participated in a library collection weeding project. The reference desk work and the weeding project are two separate experiences since they involve different families of knowledge/skills. ^^return to question^^

  2. While any rational mechanism for organizing digital resources online will work, if unsure of how to approach the task, you can keep your digital repository useful and "found things found" by doing the following:
    • Meaningful file names. Create a meaningful file naming convention and stick to it! Files should be consistently named in a manner that is semantically meaningful to you regardless of the length of the file name. When appropriate, include a date/time stamp in the name—"WeedingProject-Bellingham-2007-02-28.doc"
    • Folders for experiences. Keep families of files describing a single experience in a single folder in your digital repository—i.e., organize artifact files by experience. You are more likely to remember that weeding project in Bellingham than you are to remember WeedingProject-Bellingham-2007-02-28.doc. (see Question 1 for a definition of "experience")
    • Spaces in file names. Not all computer operating systems and applications can handle spaces in file names (or handle them elegantly), so do not include spaces even if your home machine permits it! For example, the Firefox browser running Skydrive puts underscores before and after filenames on download—e.g., "My File.doc" turns into "_My File.doc_".
    • Knowledge/skill organization. Organize folders for experiences in top-level folders with names based on an experience's family of knowledge/skills. So, for example, you might have a top-level folder for "Reference Experiences" resulting in "Reference Experiences>>Bellingham-2007-2008>>ReadyReference-Bellingham.doc". ^^return to question^^

  3. Yes, many experiences contain more than one artifact. For example, a weeding project might include project planning documentation including things like images of whiteboards with flow diagrams etc., task descriptions and personnel assignments and a PowerPoint (possibly even with voice-over for network streaming) used in personnel training sessions. ^^return to question^^

  4. Most artifacts map to more than one competency in a competency set. For example, with a given competency set, a library weeding project might map to compentencies dealing with collection management as well as competencies dealing with project planning and execution as well as personel management and leadership. ^^return to question^^

  5. In this course, a "professional practice standard set" is a formal set of professional performance standards promulgated by some authoritative organization that is intended to define knowledge and practice in a particular field of endeavor. Sometimes such sets define competencies for an entire profession (or the entire profession in a geographic region) and sometime only for some practice niche within a profession. So defined, the WebJunction Competency Index for the Library Field, the ALA Core Competences of Librarianship and the Map, GIS and Cataloging / Metadata Librarian Core Competencies published by the Map and Geography Round Table are all competency sets. A partial listing of competency sets can be found at ^^return to question^^

  6. A pratice standard defines some specific expectation with regard to personal knowledge, skills, processes and states of mind required of the professional in practice as set out by authoritative bodies exercising some degree of authority. In general, the competency documents (i.e., professional pratrice standards) are represented in hierarchical form. The following image is from a page in the WebJunction Competency Index for the Library Field.

    As with all hierarchical structures, the entries become more specific the deeper they are in the taxonomic structure. Like all taxonomic structures, knowing fully the meaning of taxons (entries) deep in the structure is dependent on knowing that entry's position in the taxon path—i.e., the path from the top, or root of the hierarchy to the entry of interest. In the image above, the red arrows represent the taxon path down through the hierarchy for a single competency. Thus, when we identify a specific entry or competrency standard, we do so by identifying its full path as illustrated. To understand the full meaning of "Understands and applies federal, state, and local financial laws and regulations" by knowing its position in the taxon path—i.e., knowing all of the entries in the path above it. To eliminate these entries above the entry of interest is equivalent to dropping the first digit or two from a Dewey Decimal Classification Number.

    The lower two entries in the taxon path are competencies since they define knowledge, skills or habits of mind possessed by a competent professional working in this area. The two upper entries are not competencies since they identify no specific knowledge ot skills and merely serve to contextualixe the actual competencies organized below them. So, a compentency is a taxon path from the root of the hierarchy to the entry of interest. ^^return to question^^

  7. There is no set number of experiences/artifacts that a presentation portfolio should contain. The number is somewhat dependent on the purpose of the portfolio—e.g., whether the portfolio is intended to represent your general competence within a practice niche or is intended to address the knowledge and skills of a specific professional position where what is presented should specifically target those competencies of interest to the position. A good rule of thumb for how many experiences/artifacts to include in an adequate general portfolio is to rely on the set of common knowledge and skills ascertained by examining numerous well defined position announcement in the target practice niche. If, for example, there are five common areas ferreted out, then artifacts demonstrating these five might be enough. The portfolio should also demonstrate dedication to a copmetence in the five attributes. ^^return to question^^

  8. A portfolio is intended to paint a portrait of you as a professional. Therefore, in addition to covering the bases for an adequate portfolio as touched on in Question 7, including relevant knowledge and skills that distinguish you from other qualified people is always desirable. ^^return to question^^

  9. Learning how to do competency (practice standards) allignments/mappings has a number of highly useful outcomes and can be used in development of a portfolio and in numerous ways in reflective practice.
    1. "Why" this artifact.  Recall that you are squirreling away these experiences/artifacts for later use in painiting various professional portraits of yourself.  We assure you, as your repository grows during your professional life, you will lose track of the reasons for squirreling away many of these items.  The competency mapping will help you remember the reason for keeping various things in your data store.  You might even consider as your repository grows large developing a competency index to your artifacts (put on your information organization hat).  They will also help you examine your growth in a given competency by being able to compare early artifacts with later artifacts.
    2. Competency language.  Even if you don't use the mappings explicitly in your presentation portfolio (and nothing says you have to or even should), actually taking a few moments to do such a competency mapping when you store away your experience/artifacts in your digital repository can be useful later on.  Such mappings can be very, very useful in giving you a professional language for addressing how an artifact fills the bill when you actually prepare a finished reflection.
    3. "See also" references.  Even if you don't want to explicitly frame your artifact/experience reflections around competencies in a presentation portfolio, that would not mean that you couldn't include a competency mapping link (a kind of "see also") with each portfolio entry that took the reader to a separate listing of competencies met.  There are probably dozens of variations on this theme.
    4. Artifact "solos".  In the class, we speak of experience/artifacts as though the two are always present in finished (presentation) portfolios.  That may not always be the case.  The core resource is the artifact.  It is what demonstrates competency.  The experience contextualizes the artifact.  That is its role.  Sometime, the context may not be that important and you just want the artifact.  In such a case, the mapping will give you the language (see #2 above) to discuss the artifact independent of a contextualizing experience.
    5. Gap analysis. Developing a habit of competency mapping increases your ongoing awareness of the professional competency set (or sets) you are using. Consistent (and persistent) mapping will lead you to the recognition of gaps in your knowledge and expertise in terms of the competencies. So, in this way, they serve as an additional mechanism for monitoring your professional development.
    So, there are lots of pragmatic reasons for getting in the habit of thinking of artifacts in terms of competencies they demonstrate and taking a few minutes up front to handle the task of recoding those facts when you squirrel the artifact away. ^^return to question^^

  10. LIS 596 is a credit/no credit course and people will receive credit if they: (1) came into the class with a suite of resources archived in their digital repository so they have resources to work with immediately; (2) fully and sincerely engage in the work of all assignments; (3) listen and demonstrably grow through the processes of self-analysis and peer critique; (4) think through how to systematize addressing the discovered deficiencies over time; and (5) generate the "best" draft and presentation portfolio under their individual circumstances. ^^return to question^^

  11. Students in the iSchool appropriately do a substantial amount of group course work. In addition, the natural unit of work in professional practice is the group. Many competencies defined in professional pratice standards involved knowledge and skills relating to leading and participating in group practices. So, experiences and artifacts resulting from group activites are common. When there is a probability that you might want to use outcomes from group work in your portfolio, it is best to discuss that possibility with your group colleagues. Should a member of the group object to such uses, a discussion should be had whether use would nevertheless be acceptable with the identity of the person objecting redacted.

    A second issue is the actual archiving of artifacts from group work. If you plan to use such artifacts, make every effort to gather all resources to be used as evidence into your own repository. Do not depend on parts of a group project residing in a location controlled by other group members and being maintained in a persistent manner. ^^return to question^^

  12. There are only three circumstances that preclude someone from using an experience or artifact in a professional portfolio:
    • such use would violate some contractual agreement not to disclose the kind of information contained in the artifact/experience (e.g., a non-disclosure commitment signed as part of an employment agreement);
    • the information can be generally considered to be a trade secret (usually (but not always) made explicit in an organizational policy or individual employment contract); or
    • such use would violate someone's right of privacy (or right of publicity) by revealing personally identifiable information such as a person's name, likeness (image) or contact information. Care should always be given in upholding privacy rights as to whether such personal identification can be inferred from the question alone even absent name and contact information. In most privacy cases, redacting the personally identifiable information is sufficient.
    In all cases of doubt, independent, authoritative advice should be sought. When doubts remain, do not use the artifact/experience. (see also Question 13) ^^return to question^^

  13. Photographs and other forms of graphic images enrich the portfolio by providing context and illustration and can give it a personal touch difficult to achieve otherwise. The old saying that a "picture is worth a thousand words" is absolutely true. As useful as they are, photographs are problematic when they include recognizable images of people—especially images of children. Where possible, take (or crop) images so that the actually identities of people cannot be discerned. If is not the fact that an image is used, but rather that the person in the image is personally identifiable. So, for example, if you want to include a picture of you reading to children, then take the picture from behind the children where you are capturing the backs of their heads. If you cannot avoid including identifiable images including faces, then consider preparing a release form for people (or parents) to sign granting you permission to use the image.

    This is frequently all right if the release also promises not to include any names or to be used outside the confines of your digital portfolio. (see also Question 12) ^^return to question^^

  14. Documenting an actual website is one of the more difficult tasks in portfolio implementation. Since websites change and original work disappears in that process, it is best to archive a snapshot of the website as it existed at the relevant moment in time. This can be accomplished with screenshots and tools such as Snagit that actually capture images of a full scrolled screen. ^^return to question^^

  15. There is a distinction to be drawn between experiencing something and practicing something. A person may have 30 years of experience driving and be no better at it than he or she was 29-1/2 years earlier. Practice entails trying to improve by noticing what one is doing wrong and trying different strategies to do better. It also entails meaningful feedback, usually from someone knowledgeable about the skill. That is why the notions of "practice" and "apprenticeship" in professions go hand in hand. The experiences in your portfolio are clearly "experiences" but usually do not entail much (or any) "practice" since that can come only from engaging in similar experiences in which exercising different strategies to make the outcomes better have been tried (hopefully successfully on occasion). ^^return to question^^

  16. In developing your draft and presentation portfolios here in LIS 596, you are absolutely not constrained in your choices of experiences and artifacts to include by the choices you made for the artifact/comptency alignment. While you should carry the substance of what you learned in terms of process and how to derive appropriate language for discussing competencies from the mapping assignment, the actual portfolios will be more thorough in covering the requirements of practice and your specific expertise and accomplishments than the alignment exercise was ever intended to be. ^^return to question^^

  17. We usually suggest that any html page holding an email address use the encoding convention email [at]—e.g., "sasutton [at]". As for email addresses in PDF and other file formats (Word, Excel, etc), while you used to be “safe” knowing the bots wouldn’t crawl non-html, that is no longer the case.  Anything with text placed online will be crawled and emails harvested.  For the moment, using the solution above will keep spam down – but even that eventually fail because the bots will be designed with instructions to piece together the addresses from the various text replacements for the @ symbol. ^^return to question^^

  18. An artifact in the context of the portfolio is any resource (any digital or digitized entity) that stands as evidence of the level of professional competence of a professional action on the part of the portfolio owner. An artifact is evidence of: (1) the occurrence of a professional activity; and (2) the professional quality of the outcomes of the activity. Thus, the observer of the artifact should be able to state: "This artifact created by John Doe represents competent professional work." ^^return to question^^

  19. In general, including experiences in your portfolio that are not supported by artifacts should be avoided except through the inclusion of a full resume. By definition, a portfolio is evidence-based documentation of professional-level experience. The purpose of an experience in a portfolio is to enable the reader to draw independent conclusions regarding the level of professional attainment by examining one or more artifacts of that experience. Quite simply, if there is no such artifact to examine, no conclusions of professional-level attainment can be independently reached by the reader.

    This does not mean that there may not be alternative means for including references to undocumented experiences in a portfolio. For example, one may have considerable undocumented experience in reference services. Including some discussion of ones philosophy of reference service in the personal statement of professional aspirations, goals and philosophy of practice would be appropriate since one is not putting an experience forward as proof of professional competence.

    Where circumstances prevent the inclusion of evidentiary artifacts (e.g., none exist from a work context or those that do cannot be used for reasons of confidentiality or contractual prohibition), many professionals seek out professional service (i.e., volunteer work) where usable evidentiary artifacts may be generated—e.g., volunteering for online reference with Internet Public Library where usable artifacts are generated.

    Also, recall that the portfolio is only one of the resources available to you in framing your professional portrait. The resume is another. The role of the resume is to set out the formal listing of your experiences. As such, it plays a different, but complementary role, to that of the portfolio. It is quite appropriate to include non-documented experiences in your resume. ^^return to question^^

  20. An artifact reflection in a professional portfolio is a "rhetorical device"—a form of argument/persuasion/proof intended to get the reader to "see" the artifact in the manner intended by the author of the reflection. The reflection's role (and the author's intent) is to inexorably lead the reader to see the artifact in light of the professional attainments it evidences. The description of the substance of the artifact and its context is merely a hand-maiden of this rhetorical intent. A reflection that merely describes the artifact and/or its contextualizing experience, fails as a rhetorical device.^^return to question^^

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