Getting Started With Student Portfolios

What to include, how to grade and why to assign portfolios

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There are many wonderful benefits to having students create portfolios--one is the enhancement of critical thinking skills which results from the need for students to develop evaluation criteria. You can also use this criteria to evaluate their work and engage in self-reflection about their progress.

Additionally, students are pleased to observe their personal growth, they tend to have better attitudes toward their work, and they are more likely to think of themselves as writers.

The payoff for using portfolios becomes concrete when students discover they can earn college credit and, in some cases, skip a freshman writing class by creating a top notch writing portfolio while they are still in high school.  

Before proceeding with assigning a portfolio, familiarize yourself with the rules and credit requirements for such a project. There's little point to requiring this work from students if they're not properly credited or don't understand the assignment. 

Working Student Portfolio

A working portfolio, often a simple file folder containing all the student's work, is helpful when used in conjunction with the evaluation portfolio; you can start it prior to deciding what you'll require in the evaluation portfolio and thus protect work from being lost. Arrangements must be made, however, to store folders in the classroom.

Students at all levels generally become proud as they watch their work accumulate--even students who rarely work will be amazed to see five or more assignments that they actually finished.

Getting Started With Student Portfolios

There are three main factors that go into the development of a student portfolio assessment.

First, you must decide on the purpose of your student's portfolios. For example, the portfolios might be used to show student growth, to identify weak spots in student work, and/or to evaluate your own teaching methods.

After deciding the purpose of the portfolio, you will need to determine how you are going to grade it. In other words, what would a student need in their portfolio for it to be considered a success and for them to earn a passing grade?

The answer to the previous two questions helps form the answer to the third: What should be included in the portfolio? Are you going to have students put in all of their work or only certain assignments? Who gets to choose?

By answering the above questions, you are able to start student portfolios off on the right foot. A big mistake some teachers make is to just jump into student portfolios without thinking through exactly how they are going to manage them.

To help you answer these questions, you might find it helpful to review the Portfolio Planning Checklist and Suggested Portfolio Items for each kind of portfolio students will keep.

If done in a focused way, creating student portfolios will be a rewarding experience for both student and teacher.

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Kelly, Melissa. "Getting Started With Student Portfolios." ThoughtCo, Feb. 21, 2017, thoughtco.com/getting-started-with-student-portfolios-8158. Kelly, Melissa. (2017, February 21). Getting Started With Student Portfolios. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/getting-started-with-student-portfolios-8158 Kelly, Melissa. "Getting Started With Student Portfolios." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/getting-started-with-student-portfolios-8158 (accessed September 23, 2017).