A social work portfolio is a fundamental process of demonstration, evaluation and assessment. Many colleges and universities call the final portfolio a “capstone project.” It is a qualitative and quantitative tool to demonstrate learned skills, the value of the work that you performed and the knowledge that you gained in a degree program.


Because portfolios are student-centered, self-assessment is a vital component of the process. In social work, a main feature of the job is assessment, which is the ability to think critically, analyze human behaviors and interactions, and evaluate research in order to incorporate relevant theories into practice. Therefore, the self-evaluation aspect of a portfolio, particularly in social work, is significant.


Self-assessment is a qualitative tool used by students and their instructors. Self-assessment provides students an opportunity to reflect on learning and to assess growth. The social work portfolio contains numerous self-assessments as learning progresses. Students can look back and see progression and evaluate competency by analyzing the components of their portfolio. Self-assessment also facilitates awareness of the varied range of goals and learning outcomes connected with social work experiences.

For faculty, a student's self-assessment provides insight into what she learned and how she learned best. Student self-assessment enables an instructor and a program director to evaluate the program to ensure that the course of study meets program objectives and to identify areas that may need strengthening or changes.


Self-assessments in a social work portfolio should address personal goals and objectives in the foundation and fundamentals of social work in three key areas: knowledge, value and skill. Typically the foundations cover such topics as the basics of social work, social welfare policies and services, human behaviors and social environments, the theory and practice of social work, and research and analysis.

The assessment should describe your learning experiences, including research, in-class exercises and presentations, guest speakers, field work, and term papers. It should show how these added to your knowledge, value and skill in social work. It should state your goals and objectives, and explain why these goals and objectives are important. Be specific and cite examples.


Self-assessment is never finished or complete. It focuses on goals and objectives for life-long learning. Self-assessment is a process that evolves as your experience and learning evolves. The portfolio will be your window into your own development, showing how you have grown personally and professionally. It can be used throughout your professional career as an ongoing reflection.

Expert Insight

Dr. Barry R. Cournoyer, professor of social work practice and former associate dean at the Indiana University-Bloomington School of Social Work, emphasizes the value of the social work portfolio in a book he co-authored titled “The Social Work Portfolio.” Cournoyer emphasizes the importance of learning how to learn and making this a life-long goal. He sees self-assessment as a cornerstone and fundamental component of the social work portfolio process.

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