How can administrators effectively document their
work responsibilities, performance, accomplishments, strategies,
goals and philosophy?
Create an administrative portfolio, advised Dr. Peter Seldin,
distinguished professor of management at Pace University NY, and the
author of Administrative Portfolio: A Practical Guide to
Improved Administrative Performance (2001).
Although thereĂs no fool-proof system for creating an administrative
portfolio, Seldin said heĂs learned much from his own research and
from working with administrators whoĂve developed them. He led a
workshop on the topic at the American Association for Higher Education
conference in Chicago in March.
An administrative portfolio consists of comprehensive and thoughtfully
chosen materials conveying the scope and quality of an administratorĂs
duties and performance. "The pieces fit together like a jigsaw puzzle.
All the parts fit together and the sum is greater than the parts,"
said Seldin. He noted that while the portfolio content is important,
the process of creating it is just as valuable.
Portfolios are useful to serve many purposes:
A well-done portfolio offers a coherent administrative profile that
integrates material from the administrator and others to support
claims, including comments from peers and supervisors. The ideal is a
50-50 balance between material from self and others, but this ratio
can shift a bit either way depending on the portfolioĂs purpose.
Overall, specificity is the key. Avoid bland, vague statements, and be
ready to back up specifics with supporting documents. Length can vary,
but a document of 8 to 12 typed pages plus appendices housed in a
one-inch three-ring binder is usually about right, said Seldin. Bulky
materials like videos can be made available upon request.
Seldin provided a sample table of contents:
Not all portfolios will look alike. Content and organization can vary
widely depending on its purpose, the administratorĂs position, the
school context and the administratorĂs activities and interests. "ItĂs
highly personalized, as individual as a fingerprint," said Seldin.
How does an administrative portfolio differ from the usual year-end
First, a year-end report is typically written based on questions from
the boss. "Not so with administrative portfolios," said Seldin. "You
can include what you want too."
Also, year-end reports rarely result in better performance. With an
administrative portfolio, the very process of putting it together
forces administrators to look at their strategies and activities,
reflecting on how, what, and why¨a key step in improving performance.
"Administrative portfolios display the thought behind administrative
action, not just the results. That why one of the significant parts is
the administratorĂs self-reflection," he said.
For an administrator who already does a year-end report, putting
together an administrative portfolio will take less time because it
builds on the report.
Expect to spend about 15-20 hours over three or four days creating a
typed draft if data is scattered, or 12-15 hours if youĂve already
gathered some. Make sure the portfolio is current and includes the
date of creation to make annual updating easier. Go back three to four
years, occasionally five. Beyond that, include only the most
significant accomplishments, like being named "Administrator of the
Can an impressive looking portfolio gloss over weak performance? No,
said Seldin. "Supporting materials must be provided for every claim.
An elegant portfolio cover and fancy graphics cannot support claims
for administrators any more than for students."
The person who creates the portfolio owns it, decides who sees it and
how itĂs used. But when putting one together, donĂt go it alone, he
advised. Creating a portfolio is best done with a mentor or coach,
using models of other portfolios. "Most administrators have little
experience with the process of compiling an administrative portfolio,"
explained Seldin. A mentor or coach provides resources, suggestions
and feedback. "The best coach or mentor is not just someone in your
same position," he said.
"The process of collaboration is not position-specific," he said. In
fact, not knowing the details of an adminis-tratorĂs job can help a
mentor document how she handles her role overall without too much
emphasis on the nitty-gritty.
The movement to create administrative portfolios is still in its
infancy; like teaching portfolios, it may take several years to gain
widespread acceptance, said Seldin.
Someone has to be the first at a school to develop a portfolio. "I
have found that those who volunteer to do this are very good and want
to document it," he said. The process works best when a small group of
administrators get together for mutual support, an approach thatĂs
been well received at some schools, he said. His book has a section on
how to do this in four days.
The critical first step in creating a portfolio is addressing these
questions, which Seldin wrote to help administrators get started on
the narrative section:
1. Describe your administrative responsibilities.
2. Describe your administrative methods and explain why you do what you do. Give examples. Seldin advised administrators: "Please give this section the seriousness of purpose it deserves."
3. What is the impact of your schoolĂs culture on what you do as an administrator?
4. What would you like your colleagues or supervisor to know about you as an administrator?
5. How do you stay current on relevant issues?
Administrators rated the effectiveness of selected items in improving
Not so effective: