Michelle Montoya, Rebecca Garland Dorcas Place Parent Literacy Center June 23, 1997

The current welfare reform legislation will have a monumental impact on the more than 200 women enrolled annually at Dorcas Place who are receiving AFDC or other public assistance. Many of our students will be forced off the welfare roles and into the job market within a couple of years. The majority of our student have little or no work history, hence, are not familiar with the requisite workplace behaviors such as teamwork, conflict management and self-motivation. Our inquiry question was as follows: Will the creation of work portfolios help students to 1) identify workplace competencies, and 2) demonstrate that they possess these skills?

Our class consisted of approximately 30 women between the ages of 18 and 40. Their academic grade levels ranged from 4 to 7.


We began by identifying five categories for organizing the portfolio that incorporated what we felt were the competencies and materials necessary for success in the workplace. These were:

We met with the students and had them identify what they felt were the characteristics of a good woker. Then we asked them to brainstorm ways they could prove that they possessed these skills. The list they created became the Table of Contents for the second section outlined above.

We spent class time creating resumes, coverletters, and reference lists, roleplaying and videoing interview situations, exploring personal interests and abilities through the use of several commercial interest inventories (Harrington-O'Shea, Choices), and introducing the ways one might research a specific job field. Our plan for practicing ways which one might use the work portfolio never happened due to lack of time.


While the students didn't get a chance to present their portfolios before an evaluation team, they did share the contents with the class. These sharing sessions were extremely helpful in generating input and giving students ideas about how to improve their own portfolios. The sharing that took place also served to reinforce the importance and usefulness of the materials the students were gathering. As they realized the possibilities and usefulness of the portfolios, their interest and motivation increased.

Next year, to better illustrate the success of work portfolios, we plan to administer pre and post surveys, asking such questions as:

1) What is a coverletter?

2) Why is a resume important?

3) How would you prove to someone that you are reliable?

4) How would you answer this question in an interview: "What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?"

5) Please list three references here.

6) What jobs would you be good at and why?

7) What kinds of different jobs are available to you in your field?

8) List the names and phone numbers of three people who are working in your field and could give you more info.

We intend to introduce work portfolios much earlier in the year, in order to have time to include an exploration of their uses. Portfolios can be used to organize job-related materials, to preview before an interview, and to use during the interview itself. We are aware that students need to practice these uses, and we plan to provide opportunities for this by requiring formal presentations.

We are sure that work portfolios have helped students identify workplace competencies and develop ways to prove that they possess them. We feel that the nature of the portfolio itself proves this. However, we have no quantitative data to back our claim at present. Next year, we will!