What is a Student Portfolio? - Ideas & Examples

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  • 0:01 Value of Student Portfolios
  • 1:00 Innovative Portfolio Ideas
  • 3:37 Best Practice Examples…
  • 6:15 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Sherri Nash

Sherri’s teaching includes middle school through college. Degrees include bachelor’s marketing education, master’s adult education and doctorate in curriculum instruction.

In this lesson, you'll discover the value of student portfolios for assessing student learning. Identify innovative ideas and best practice examples of student portfolios for elementary, middle, and high school students.

Value of Student Portfolios

A portfolio is a collection of student work that can demonstrate learning and be used as an effective assessment tool. The portfolio complexity can range from a simple collection of teacher-identified student assignments to a more complex student-driven product demonstrating learning standards with the teacher evaluating mastery of content for a grade. A portfolio can be completed as a short-term project or a comprehensive one that spans over the school year. We will discover the value of portfolios, innovative ideas, and examples of best practices to implement portfolios in elementary, middle, and high school classrooms.

Assume you are a middle school teacher exploring the use of student portfolios. You discover this valuable tool could be used as an assessment, provides experiences for students to be creative and reflect on their learning progress, and demonstrates mastery of content standards to parents, teachers, and for future college admissions and employment opportunities.

Innovative Portfolio Ideas

You decide to implement the portfolio process with your students using ideas you discover through research and by talking with other teachers. Innovative portfolio ideas focus on:

Providing assessment guidelines: The student portfolio can be effective to assess student learning if a rubric or checklist is used to objectively evaluate the portfolio. Students should have opportunities to review the rubric or checklist before starting the portfolio to understand the expectations. The rubric (checklist) needs to identify components to guide the development of the portfolio and clearly define how points are awarded for the grade.

Organizing the portfolio in a format: The portfolio can be organized with paper documents in a notebook or scrapbook, or digitally online or in flash drive files.

Reflecting on learning experiences: Students can analyze the content standards for the class and make decisions on what to include in the portfolio to demonstrate learning of these concepts. Reflection allows the student to self-evaluate the learning experience. Students can express their thoughts during learning activities in journals.

Trying a variety of strategies: Depending on the portfolio, a variety of documentation strategies can be used. Students can organize paper documents including papers, artwork, written assessments, teacher-written feedback, peer reviews, and other learning evidence in a notebook or scrapbook. These paper documents can be scanned; students can record interviews and create videos for digital portfolios.

Finding resources: Teachers can assist students in discovering resources to use in developing the portfolio. Examples of resources include digital cameras, video equipment, technology resources, and personnel to assist individual students.

Owning the portfolio: Students are empowered to design, develop and implement an individualized portfolio. This process enhances creativity, critical thinking, decision-making, and evaluation skills.

Leading the process: The teacher will guide the portfolio process and needs to implement timelines for students to follow.

Initiating student portfolio presentations: Students can formally present the final portfolio to an external audience to further develop oral communication skills.

Obtaining support for student portfolio presentations: Recruit parents, business/industry, community, college/university, and peers to participate in portfolio presentations. High school students can use the portfolio for high school scholarship opportunities, college entrance discussions, and employer interviews to demonstrate skills.

Best Practice Examples of Portfolios

Imagine your school district hosts a portfolio presentation event for students in all grades at the end of the school year. You look around the room at all the students sitting at individual tables while various adults stop to interview each student. Let's peek at some of these best practice portfolio presentations.

Elementary Students

Several parents gather around second-grader Shelly as she demonstrates her PowerPoint portfolio of what she identified as her best work. The slides are organized by her school subjects. After each subject, there is a slide expressing her opinion of the subject and how she can use this knowledge in her life. She confidently answers questions about her learning experience.

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