5 Steps to Building a Student Portfolio

Tracking students' work with portfolios can help them focus

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If you're looking for a great way to assess students while keeping them aware of the work they produce, having them compile portfolios is the way to go. A student portfolio is a collection of a student's work, both in and out of the classroom, and it enables you to monitor students' progress and achievement over time.

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Set a Purpose for the Portfolio

First, you need to decide what the purpose of the portfolio is. Is it going to be used to show student growth or identify specific skills? Are you looking for a concrete way to quickly show parents student achievement, or are you looking for a way to evaluate your own teaching methods? Once you have figured out how the student will use the portfolio, you can start helping them build it.

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Determine How You Will You Grade it

Next, you will need to establish how you are going to grade the portfolio. If your school district doesn't require portfolios, would the student receive extra credit for it, or can you otherwise incorporate it into your lesson plan? Are all your students going to create portfolios, or just those seeking extra credit, or who want to track their work?

Determine what criteria you'll use to grade the portfolio, too, such as neatness, creativity, completeness, etc. Then you can use these criteria to decide how much each aspect will be weighted when computing the student's grade. 

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Decide What Will be Included

There are three main types of student portfolios:

  • Assessment portfolios, which usually include specific pieces that students are required to know, such as work that correlates with the Common Core Learning Standards 
  • Working portfolios, which include whatever the student is currently working on
  • Display portfolios, which showcase the best work the student produces 

If you want the student to use the portfolio as a long-term project and include various pieces throughout the year, be sure to assign it early enough in the semester.

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Choose Paper or Digital

Digital portfolios are great because they are easily accessible, easy to transport and easy to use. Today's students are tuned into the latest must-have technology, and electronic portfolios or personal websites are part of that. With students using an abundance of multimedia outlets, digital portfolios seem like a great fit for their natural talents and inclinations. However, you may opt for a paper portfolio because of the potential challenges and distractions of the digital medium. When you pick a portfolio medium, be intentional about your choice.

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Factor In Student Involvement

How much you involve the students in the portfolio depends upon the students' age. While older students should be able to follow instructions about how to build their portfolio and what's expected, younger students may need more guidance and reminders. 

To coach the students about what they want to include in their portfolios, ask them questions such as, "Why did you choose this particular piece?" This dialogue will help students craft a portfolio that truly represents the work they've completed.