What Goes into a Portfolio?

Posted on July 25, 2015 by David Niguidula

One of the most common questions schools ask about portfolios is, “What goes into it?”
It helps to start with a couple more essential questions – “What is our purpose for the portfolio?” and “Who is our primary audience?”Most of the time, schools want the portfolio to be a demonstration of a student’s best work. One simple way to start is to select 2 to 4 assignments for each subject. (That is, for elementary schools, you might have a couple of reading samples, a couple of writing samples, and a couple of math samples; for middle and high schools, you might ask students to include 2 to 4 assignments from each full-year class.)Some schools focus on a certain subject area; in that case, you might want a sample of each of each type of assignment. For example, a student’s writing portfolio could include a narrative essay, an argumentative essay, and a response to literature; a technology portfolio could show students’ use of word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, and Internet research.A “growth over time” portfolio could include examples of the student doing something similar at different times of the year. For example, we could see a first grader’s ability to read independently at the beginning, middle and end of the year; we could also see a Spanish student’s ability to speak in the language at various points. Sometimes, the growth over time is around some deeper skill; by filming math students working through problems throughout the year, we can see how their problem solving skills grow, or science students could show how their ability to create a good hypothesis has improved from one quarter to the next.Project-based learning allows us to see the process of building the project, from initial idea through to completed
work. We can see the steps – and the mis-steps – along the way.

The key element when you are getting started is to build on what your teachers and students are already doing. Your students are undoubtedly doing interesting things; the portfolio should allow you to capture those moments.

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