Teaching Guide

Portfolios have become the critical tool for creative workers, writers and managers to enter their professional fields. It is also, for many graduating students, the most resonate summation of their education at Columbia. The purpose of this guide is to help faculty provide parameters and resources for senior level students to shape the body of work they have developed in their majors into concise presentations in formats relevant to their fields of study. The following document will provide an outline for a teaching strategy that can be adapted to media/major followed by a set of resources available to faculty and students.


Provide students with a clear idea of what portfolio presentations (book, reels, tapes, clips, websites) look and sound like in their field to both inform and inspire them as they begin work on their own.

1. Establish “best practices” for portfolios in a given medium/field.

    Consult with industry professionals
    View the work of recent graduates
    Determine relevant content and media for the field.
    Determine an appropriate range of size/length for effective portfolios.

2. Assess student’s current work samples.

    Assign “Re-work” of selected projects and…
    Assign the development of new projects necessary to completing a portfolio

Suggested Assignments:

    Research companies and individuals in the field.
    Information interviews with appropriate professionals.
    Sketch out the first version of a complete portfolio in as much detail as possible.

Learning Outcomes:

    Students will be able to identify “best practice” for portfolios in their chosen industry.
    Through research assignments and meetings with professionals, student will demonstrate an understanding of the environment they will present their final portfolio in.
    Students will get a measure of the quality and relevancy of the body of work they have created at Columbia.

Introduce students to basic production techniques. Locate and connect with outside support for documentation of work samples and design for final portfolios.

1. Final selection of work samples for portfolio.

    Discuss and implement editing and sequencing strategies.

2. Format work for print or DVD, and website.

    Document or record or layout work samples in appropriate formats.
    Assemble work into book or DVD.
    Revise and re-work
    Use “Web Agent” (or other web building tools) to assemble and organize work samples on a portfolio website.

Suggested Assignments and Workshops:

    Demonstrate (or bring in experts to demonstrate) relevant production techniques such as photo documentation and print book lay-out.
    Editing and sequencing exercises.
    Make a mock up or a mini version of a portfolio in the format the final work will be put in. Any cohesive set of student work samples can be used. The creation of a scaled down portfolio will help students carefully consider the editing, sequencing and production details involved in building a portfolio.
    Web Agent workshop at the Portfolio Center.

Learning Outcomes:

    Students will demonstrate the ability to select and sequence their work samples in a coherent and engaging presentation.
    Students will demonstrate knowledge of collaborating with creative workers in other media to produce their final portfolios.
    Students will demonstrate knowledge of industry "production" standards for presenting their portfolios.

Using a portfolio to interface with professionals in the field requires the ability to verbally provide a context for one’s work and one’s goals. Developing competence and confidence in presenting portfolios is part and parcel of developing a portfolio.
1. Verbal and interview skills

    Conduct a workshop for writing a portfolio statement and a short bio that would introduce a viewer to the work at hand and to the artist’s immediate goals. Though such statements may not be included a portfolio, the exercise of writing them lays the foundation for effective verbalization.
    Practice presenting portfolios via on-campus reviews and off-campus information interviews with industry professionals.

Suggested Assignments:

    Mock Interviews with portfolio materials (on video is helpful).
    Information Interviews with industry professionals
    Show-Off Portfolio Reviews at the Portfolio Center

Learning Outcomes:

    Students will demonstrate increased ability to effectively articulate their creative vision as evidenced in their portfolios and their immediate career goals.
    Students will demonstrate a deeper understanding of their portfolio strengths and weaknesses.
    Students will be more aware of the protocol and nuance of communicating with professionals.


    Visit the Faculty Guide for in depth information about ways we can work with your class.
    Search online portfolios.