At Unrulr, we’re interested in the future of education. We believe authentic learning is much more than tests and grades— it’s about experiences, human connections, and individual passions. One of the best ways to gain a nuanced picture of the whole learner is through a curated and living student portfolio.
In this guide, we’ll introduce you to student portfolios, explore why student portfolios are important by looking at some benefits for both learners and educators, and share some tips for implementing and assessing student portfolios in your learning community.
Read on to learn about student portfolios and how to get started.
A student portfolio is a collection of student work compiled over time to showcase a learner’s progress, skills, and achievements. This can include project work samples, finished assignments, case studies, and self-reflections. Student portfolios can be digital or physical and tailored to specific subjects or projects. In this guide, we will mostly be talking about digital student portfolios.
Tracking student progress over time Student portfolios can document a learner's progress and understanding of a particular subject or skill. Educators can use the portfolio to gauge how a student has grown and changed over the course of a school year and identify areas where additional support may be needed.
Assessing student work Educators can use the portfolio as a summative assessment tool to evaluate a student's mastery of a particular concept or skill and provide constructive feedback on how to improve. Additionally, portfolios can be used as a formative assessment tool to regularly check for understanding and get instant feedback to quickly determine what your students need more help with.
Communicating with parents and other stakeholders Student portfolios can be used to communicate a student's progress to parents and other stakeholders, such as school administrators or mentors. This can provide a more holistic and textured picture of a learner's abilities and potential than a traditional report card or test score.
Self-reflection and self-assessment Student portfolios can serve as a metacognition tool when learners reflect on their progress and understanding and identify areas where they need to improve. This can help students take ownership of their learning and set goals for their future growth. Reflection is a core feature of posting progress updates on Unrulr.
Documenting learning for college and career readiness Student portfolios can showcase a student's knowledge and achievements to external stakeholders, such as college admissions or potential employers.
Many types of works can be included in a student portfolio, depending on the subject or project and the portfolio medium. Some common examples include:
Traditionally, portfolios primarily focus on polished final products with less emphasis on the journey that led to those products. Modern portfolios should aim to focus on process as much as final products, giving educators and other viewers insight into the learner’s thought process and learning journey.
Student portfolios are an important tool for presenting and assessing student work that is hands-on or project-based. They help organize individual materials that are relevant to a specific project or experience, providing a more complete representation of a learner’s progress and accomplishments. Portfolios can also be used to tie together separate projects within a given subject or class, providing a longitudinal look at a student's learning journey.
The creation and evaluation of student portfolios should be a collaborative process that benefits both students and teachers.
Of course, when considering the benefits of student portfolios, we should start with the students themselves! One of the main benefits of student portfolios is that they are curated by the learner, giving them ownership of how their learning is represented.
Other student benefits include:
By regularly updating their portfolio and presenting their work effectively, students are equipped with crucial skills for college and career readiness, and are empowered to become active participants in their education. This kind of learner agency is essential for deeper learning.
Educators can also reap the rewards of student portfolios! Student portfolios can help educators to:
Incorporating student portfolios into teaching styles like project-based and experiential learning can enhance student opportunities to demonstrate their knowledge and skills. Reviewing student portfolios can also help teachers reflect on their teaching practices, allowing them to identify areas for improvement and use student work as evidence of their own growth and development as educators. It's a win-win situation!
When it comes to putting together portfolios in the classroom, it's all about letting the students take the lead! They should be the ones creating their portfolios and choosing what pieces of work to showcase. That being said, as an educator, it’s your job to coach your students on how to best represent their work.
Creating an effective student portfolio requires some planning and attention to detail. Here are a few steps students should follow when creating a portfolio:
It is essential to define the purpose and goals of the portfolio. Students should consider what they want to accomplish with the portfolio and what they want their audience to see. Ask your students to consider the questions:
This will help them select the best type of portfolio and determine what work and materials to include.
There are several types of portfolios, including traditional portfolios, electronic portfolios, and online portfolios. Have your learners consider their goals and the kind of work they want to showcase when selecting the right type of portfolio for their needs.
There are a few different options for setting up student portfolios, including:
Once your students have selected the type of portfolio they want to create, it is time for them to gather and organize their work and materials. This includes choosing the work samples, organizing them logically, and including descriptions and reflections for each item.
Self-reflection and assessment of progress are integral to creating an effective student portfolio. Students should be encouraged to evaluate their strengths and weaknesses, set goals for future growth, and identify areas for improvement. This type of higher-level thinking and metacognition is essential for deeper learning.
Finally, when it comes time to present their work, coach students on how to showcase their portfolio in a professional and organized manner. Ensure students use proper presentation tools and prepare adequately ahead of time. This will help them effectively demonstrate their skills, knowledge, and progress to others, including college admissions officers or potential employers.
Getting started with student portfolios in your classroom can seem daunting, but it doesn't have to be— here are our tips to help you get started:
Student portfolios present the opportunity for learners to showcase their skills, knowledge, and growth in a fun and engaging way (don't forget the fun part!).
When assessing student portfolios, it's important to remember that the goal is to gain a holistic view of student progress and understanding. Some questions you should ask yourself are:
Providing actionable feedback is essential to help students continue developing and improving their skills. Keep in mind the learning objectives or core competencies of your learning community— using a rubric or criteria to guide your assessment may be helpful.
Make the most of portfolios by incorporating peer assessment into the mix. It's a win-win: students get a fresh perspective on their work, and their peers get valuable practice evaluating and critiquing. Additionally, crowdsourcing assessment might just save you some time 😉.
Student portfolios are a powerful tool for enhancing student learning and engagement and assessing student progress and understanding. Whether you're a teacher looking to track student progress over time or a student eager to demonstrate your skills in a real-world context, portfolios can benefit all parties involved.
So why not give it a try? Start small with a single project or assignment, and see its impact on student learning and engagement. The results might surprise you!
Book a demo or create an Unrulr account today.
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