Using Portfolios

A portfolio is a systematic collection of student work that can be used to document progress. This work includes varied demonstrations that the student is able to apply their skills to real life activities. When they are used for assessment, portfolios include some form of predetermined scoring guide that focuses attention on the key learning objectives and helps assessors score the contents consistently. Many programs use portfolios to measure progress on the EFF Standards or to demonstrate work readiness.

The advantages of portfolios are that they:

  • link assessment directly to what’s been taught
  • the contents reflect authentic evidence of learning

Portfolios by themselves do not assure that you will have a rich, reliable or valid assessment of student performance. Just as with other assessments, the portfolio needs to be aligned with your learning objectives and the Standards you are working on. Make sure that you are clear with students about the purpose for the portfolio and involve them in selecting the work to be included.

Portfolios are also only as good as the opportunities for self-reflection and assessment they provide. Set up time for the students to discuss the portfolios with you and with other students.

Some Kinds of Portfolios

Celebration portfolio
Celebration portfolios allow learners to communicate things they are most proud of. In evaluating the portfolio teachers ask: “What do we think is really special about your work and why?” This kind of portfolio allows students to develop a sense of what represents “good” work without any externally imposed standards

Growth portfolio
A grow portfolio provides examples of work over time. Students are asked to evaluate how they have improved.

Project portfolio
A project portfolio collects materials together from a single teaching and learning activity and allows many separate activities to be considered and evaluated as a whole.

Work readiness portfolio
These portfolios allow learners a chance to collect and describe materials they can show an employer.

  • Sample Questions to Ask Students about their Portfolios
  • Describe what the work in your portfolio shows us about what you’ve learned.
  • What’s your favorite piece in the portfolio? Why is this your favorite?
  • On which piece in the portfolio did you work the hardest? What made it hard?
  • Did you receive feedback along the way that helped you to improve your work?
  • What did you do as a result of the feedback?
  • What makes your most effective piece of work different from your least effective?
  • What does your best work tell you about how you have improved?
  • What does your best work tell you about where you need further work?

A Sample Cover Sheet for a Best Work Portfolio

The work I have chosen is …

It shows …


I want you to notice …


I put this in my portfolio on ____________________________________.