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Portfolios are a powerful way to help students showcase their work, reflect on their learning, and set goals for the future. But as an educator (first as a middle school teacher and now as a college professor), I have always been looking for ways to refine the portfolios. So, with that in mind, here are five ideas for how to get the most out of student portfolios:

  1. Let students choose the platform. Some might prefer the chronological approach of a blog. Others might prefer the static approach of a website. Let the students make this decision with a strong sense of the pros and cons of both approaches.
  2. Have students reflect on both the learning process and the final product. There’s a common mantra in the education community that “it’s about the journey and not the destination.” I’m not sure I agree. Sometimes the product drives the process. So, have students reflect on both.
  3. Encourage students to choose a variety of work, including their best work, their favorite work, and the work that demonstrated the most growth. Initially, I struggled with this idea. After all, an artist tends to showcase their best work rather than their mediocre work. However, I’ve met many artists who include early work samples to show their growth and development.
  4. Don’t wait until the end of the year to start the portfolio process. Integrate the portfolio project into your unit plans. Take time out on certain days to have students select work and create reflections.
  5. Use multimedia. Not only can you encourage students to choose work in multiple formats, but you can also use audio, video, and text-based formats in the reflection process.

Ultimately, you want students to continue to develop portfolios beyond the classroom. So, the more a portfolio feels real to them, the more likely it will be that students continue creating portfolios in the future. Although I provide questions and a solid framework to guide them, I also encourage students to hack the framework and make it their own. After all, it’s not an authentic assessment if it doesn’t feel authentic to the student.

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John Spencer

My goal is simple. I want to make something each day. Sometimes I make things. Sometimes I make a difference. On a good day, I get to do both.More about me

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