Building Student Portfolios
Portfolio assessment is an innovative form of alternative assessment that allows teachers to see the academic progress and accomplishments made by a student over time. Portfolios also provide students with the opportunity to reflect on what they have learned over the course of a semester or a year. When used appropriately, portfolios can be an excellent component of your overall assessment plan. This week we present five critical steps to help students and teachers begin the portfolio process.
This Week's Tips
Audiences for Student Portfolios (Monday)
Define an audience for the portfolio. This is a crucial step for several reasons. From a practical perspective, it can help direct the student's selection process. It also helps students see the value in the process, thus boosting motivational factors. An appropriate audience for the portfolio can range from parents, teachers, and administrators to local academic clubs and neighboring schools. Students can also get involved in choosing the people with whom they wish to share their work.
Parental Involvement in Student Portfolios (Tuesday)
Get parents involved—or at least informed—right from the start. Near the beginning of the semester, consider sending home a portfolio packet to parents explaining what a portfolio is, why you’re doing it (the educational rationale), and how they can become involved, if interested. Consider conducting student-led conferences where students formally present their portfolios to parents and teachers.
Reflective Practice in Student Portfolios (Wednesday)
Provide students with opportunities to practice reflection. Most students have not developed the skill of reflecting on their learning and strategizing for improvement. They need both experience and guidance in this area. Consider guiding them through a reflection activity with a set of lead-in sentences such as, "I enjoyed . . . ," "I thought I would . . . , but instead I . . . ." Model a reflection by preparing one for something you have learned.
Feedback Mechanisms in Student Portfolios (Thursday)
Build in a portfolio checkpoint mechanism midway through the semester. While most portfolios are created as a cumulative product, students need feedback throughout the gathering stages. Ask students to submit preliminary selections with a sentence or two about why they included the selection. This helps students place a greater value on the portfolio and begin thinking about how the portfolio reflects what they have learned.
Learning Strategies in Student Portfolios (Friday)
Ask students to include a reflection of learning strategies used. Rather than strictly focusing on what students have learned, ask them to also reflect on how they learned it. Learning strategies can include study habits, test taking strategies, or any other strategy used to learn something new in your class.