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Student Portfolios

Getting Started With Student Portfolios

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Are you feeling pressured about the need to use student portfolios? Do you have questions about what student portfolios are? Don't worry, you are probably headed for a rewarding teaching experience. In fact, there are many wonderful benefits to having students create portfolios.

Benefits of Portfolios

One of the most important benefits of using portfolios is the enhancement of critical thinking skills which result from the need for students to:
  • Develop evaluation criteria
  • Use this criteria to evaluate their work
  • Engage in self-reflection about their progress.
Additionally:
  • Students are pleased to observe their personal growth,
  • They have better attitudes toward their work, and
  • They are more likely to think of themselves as writers.

The payoff for using portfolios is made concrete when students discover they can earn college credit and, in some cases, skip the freshman writing class by creating a top notch writing portfolio while they are still in high school.

Before assigning a portfolio, it would be wise to to read Student Portfolios: Classroom Uses by the Office of Education Research to see what procedures enhance the success of a portfolio assignment.

The Working Portfolio

A working portfolio, often a simple file folder containing all the student's work, is helpful when used in conjunction with the evaluation portfolio because can be started prior to your deciding what you will require in the evaluation portfolio and thus protect work from being lost. Arrangements must be made, however, to store folders in the classroom.

Students at all levels generally become proud as they watch their work accumulate--even students who rarely work are amazed to see five or more assignments that they actually finished.

Getting Started With Student Portfolios

There are three main factors that go into the development of a student portfolio assessment.

  1. First, you must decide the purpose of your portfolio. For example, the portfolios might be used to show student growth, to identify weak spots in student work, and/or to evaluate your own teaching methods.
  2. After deciding the purpose of the portfolio, you will need to determine how you are going to grade it. In other words, what would a student need in their portfolio for it to be considered a success and for them to earn a passing grade.
  3. The answer to the previous two questions helps form the answer to the third: What should be included in the portfolio? Are you going to have students put of all their work or only certain assignments? Who gets to choose?

By answering the above questions, you are able to start student portfolios off on the right foot. A big mistake some teachers make is to just jump into student portfolios without thinking through exactly how they are going to manage them.

To help you answer these questions, you might find it helpful to review the Portfolio Planning Checklist and Suggested Portfolio Items for each kind of portfolio students will keep. Best of luck with creating student portfolios.

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