The Portfolio Process

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The process of facilitating successful student portfolios can be broken into four steps:

  1. collection
  2. selection
  3. reflection
  4. connection


Although the first step, collection, is straight-forward, it is not always an easy step to facilitate successfully. It simply requires students to collect and store all of their work. Three challenges at this step are common.

One, most students and many teachers are not accustomed to documenting and saving all class work. Two, there is seldom an obvious place to put the work as it is collected, particularly when artwork or lab work is involved. And three, it is not always obvious how to generate artifacts from things like field trips, community service projects, jobs, and sports. The key skill in this step is to get students accustomed to collecting and documenting whenever possible..


How one facilitates the second step, selection, depends on the kind of portfolio (process or product oriented) and to what degree a teacher stipulates portfolio requirements. In this step, students will go through the work they collected and select the artifacts for their portfolio. This may be done by the student alone, with peers, and/or with the teacher. Many characteristics about the curriculum come to light in this step, particularly the nature of the work students are doing in class. For instance, if all students have to show are quizzes and tests, the portfolio will be rendered almost meaningless by failing to shed light on anything other than a student's ability to take exams. If, however, students have a more diverse set of work such as audio/video recordings, artwork, projects, journals, computer work, homework, compositions, etc., as well as exams, the portfolio will come to life. In this manner, portfolios provide a great deal of motivation to diversify approaches to teaching and learning.

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