Do’s and Do Not’s of Building a Portfolio

The portfolio of evidence is the most substantial part of your journey toward your apprenticeship qualification. It is a snapshot of all the things you have done, proving your competence, skills, and experience in all manner of technologies, roles, and practices. With the change to Standards apprenticeships, getting your portfolio right is key. No longer are you simply satisfying criteria with it, you are taking it to an independent assessor to whom you will defend your work and prove why you are worthy of Merit and Distinction grades. With that in mind, there are a few things to consider as you put your portfolio together.


Do talk about yourself

When developing a portfolio, your primary objective is to document your competence in the areas set out by your Standard. As such, when gathering and developing evidence, you need to write all about yourself; “I did”, “I worked on”, “I was able to”. It may feel arrogant at first and might run counter to the writing style you’ve used since school, but in your portfolio it’s one of the most important things to get right.

Do Not develop vague, non-specific evidence

Writing in terms of you and what you did allows you to showcase the things you’ve done and how you’ve gone about them. The flip side to this is evidence that reads “we did”, “I would”, “I could”, or even “you should”. All of these remove you from the picture and don’t highlight what it is you did. You aren’t writing instructions, or making suppositions about how you would do something, you are creating a narrative that sets out the work you did, the skills you gained, demonstrated, and developed, and the impact of it all.


Do Get a wide range of evidence

Evidence can be developed in a range of forms, and each lends itself to particular tasks, activities, or criteria. Including a wide range in your portfolio gives you the benefit of each, but also implicitly demonstrates your competence with a range of tools and techniques. A portfolio primarily reliant on Word documents can be ok, but a portfolio containing written reflections, recorded discussions/Q&As, video evidence, testimonies, presentations and more will stand out. This is especially pertinent in the wake of the new Standards, where an independent assessor reviews a summative portfolio as part of the process to determine a final grade. What impression will how you present your evidence make?

Do Not even think about copying work

Everyone reading this will understand plagiarism and that it’s wrong, that is axiomatic. Still, though, there are some who will use the work of others like it’s their own. It’s lazy, it’s obvious, and it’s the wrong impression to make on your mentor or independent assessor.

This doesn’t stop at consciously copying others, though. Deriving from the work of others, such using a forum post to inform your own troubleshooting/development, and failing to give proper credit where necessary can appear just as bad. If you properly credit others in your work you avoid this problem, but also demonstrate your ability to research and use a range of information sources.


Do critically reflect

Doing an apprenticeship is an opportunity to gain new skills, develop existing ones, and learn from the expertise of industry professionals. The difference from starting your apprenticeship to finishing it will be stark and recognising this development in your evidence will give an added dimension to your portfolio. Answering a few simple questions like ‘What skills have I gained and developed?’, ‘How might I do this differently in future?’, or ‘How can my work benefit my colleagues and organisation?’ takes a few minutes but pays dividends.

Do Not pretend everything you do is perfect

We all make mistakes. Anyone who says otherwise is just too proud to admit it. Mistakes are part of any learning and development process, and as an apprentice you are constantly learning and developing. With this in mind, don’t be afraid to talk about all the times things went wrong in your evidence. Recognising mistakes, understanding what caused them, their impact, and how they can be rectified and avoided in future is an extension of your critical reflection, and a demonstration of your technical and soft skills.


Do document as you go

Planning ahead is a useful step in making the task of gathering evidence quick and straightforward. When preparing for or doing work, ask yourself what the opportunities for getting evidence are; is there a deliverable at the end you can showcase? Did you work with an expert who can write a witness testimony highlighting your ability? Knowing this and making notes or capturing some evidence at the time will make preparing a piece ready for your portfolio quicker and easier. This is especially beneficial if you want to gather evidence beyond what you are planning with your mentor/assessor and can be useful when planning new SMART targets with them.

Do Not try and create evidence days or weeks later

Just like a meal is better when prepared with fresh ingredients, portfolio evidence tastes is better when the work it’s based on is fresh in your memory. You’ll find you’re better able to recall what happened, where it happened, and who with. Any product evidence you need to use will be easier to get too; you might find after days and weeks that the document you used as part of the job won’t show up in your email inbox, or you can’t remember which ticket it was you updated after finishing the task at hand.


These do’s and do not’s are by no means an exhaustive list of things to consider when developing your portfolio. Don’t limit yourself to what this post says, but do take it on board and use it when building your portfolio.

To misquote Baz Luhrmann’s ‘Everybody’s Free to Wear Sunscreen’, “Trust me on the portfolios.”

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