Learning Portfolios

Do you need a way to evaluate your students learning progress throughout the semester? How about trying a learning portfolio?

When using a learning portfolio you have students collect select pieces of works, assignments, and their recollections on these tasks and hand them in together. This gives you an idea of how they have progressed over the semester, where their weaknesses are, and how much effort they have been putting into the course. Learning portfolios help develop a number of skills for students as well.

  • Having students write down their problems and experiences helps them clarify their thoughts and feelings on the subject, and can help them understand where and how to improve.i
  • Writing down strategies for improvement makes it more likely that students will stick to their resolutions.ii
  • Learning portfolios can help students identify their knowledge gaps, as well as the best learning strategies to fill in those gaps.iii It can help students develop reflection and analytic skills.iv
  • Students can look back on their portfolio entries from earlier in the semester and see how they have progressed.v

If you decide to use a learning portfolio, there are a number of ways that you can structure it to best fit your class.

  • There are many items that can be included in a portfolio, such as: class assignments, as well as their earlier drafts, works in progress, course goals, instructor observation/evaluation materials, records of student participation, and/or, student reflections on how they overcame problems, plans for improvement, etc.vi
  • Portfolios need not only be handed in on paper. By using tools such as eClass to create a communal website, you can have students post their reflections and drafts through the semester and then select which ones they wish to submit for their final portfolio.vii
  • If you decide to use online tools to organize your learning portfolio project, consider allowing the students to share their reflections with each other online so that they can learn how others overcame obstacles and improved.viii
  • An added bonus can be given to students who spend a significant amount of time online working on their portfolio and examining others’ portfolios.ix
  • A portfolio is best used to showcase long-term growth and goals, so clear instructions and details should be given at the beginning of the course, and the final product should be handed in at the end of the course. A mid-term assessment of their portfolio may encourage students to improve more and keep up with their learning.x

If you are interested in learning more about learning portfolios, contact the Centre for Teaching and Learning at ctl@ualberta.ca

Sources

  1. Angelo, T. A., and Cross, K. P. (1993) Classroom Assessment Techniques. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  2. Chen, C. C. And Chen, Y. Y. (2008) Learning Performance Assessment Approach Using Learning Portfolios for eLearning Systems. Proceedings of the Fifth IEEE International Conference on Advanced Learning Technologies.
  3. Cheng, C. C. (2001). A Study on the Evaluation and Effectiveness Analysis of Web Based Learning Portfolio. British Journal of Educational Technology, 32(4), 435-458.
  4. Grant, A. And Dornan, T. L. (2001). What is a Learning Portfolio? Diabetic Medicine, 18, 1-4.
______________________________________
iGrant & Dorman, 2001, 2.
iiGrant & Dorman, 2001, 2.
iiiGrant & Dorman, 2001, 2.
ivGrant & Dorman, 2001, 2.
vGrant & Dorman, 2001, 2.
viCheng, 2001, 436.
viiCheng, 2001, 439.
viiiCheng, 2001, 450.
ixChen & Chen, 2008.
xCheng, 2001, 437.
 

Portfolio: Q & A

Q: What is a learning portfolio?

A: A learning portfolio is a collection of student works throughout the semester. It includes stages of students assignments (draft(s) and final copy), select pieces of work, and students recollections of their growth and improvement over the semester. All of these are handed in together at the end of the semester. This gives you an idea of how they have progressed over the semester, where their weaknesses are, and how much effort they have been putting into the course.

Q: What are the advantages of assigning a learning portfolio?

A: There are a number of advantages to a learning portfolio such as:
•    Having students write down their problems and experiences helps them clarify their thoughts and feelings on the subject, and can help them understand where and how to improve.
•    Writing down strategies for improvement makes it more likely that students will stick to their resolutions.
•    Learning portfolios can help students identify their knowledge gaps, as well as the best learning strategies to fill in those gaps.  
•    It can help students develop reflection and analytic skills.  
•    Students can look back on their portfolio entries from earlier in the semester and see how they have progressed.

Q: What can or should be included in a learning portfolio?

A: There are many items that can be included in a portfolio, such as: class assignments, as well as their earlier drafts, works in progress, course goals, instructor observation/evaluation materials, records of student participation, and/or, student reflections on how they overcame problems, plans for improvement, etc.

Q: I don’t really want all that paper from the portfolios floating around. Can I ask them to hand their portfolios in online?

A: Absolutely. By having your portfolio project online, using a communal discussion site such as eClass, students can post their reflections as they go and then select their favourites to hand in.
Another advantage of having the portfolio project online is that students can set their privacy settings so that they can view other student’s reflections. This can help struggling students see how their peers overcame the same obstacles.
A bonus can be given to students who spend a significant amount of time on eClass working on their portfolios, or learning from others portfolios.

Q: When should I assign the portfolio?

A: You should explain the portfolio at the beginning of the semester, and take the finished product in at the end of the semester. Because portfolios work well to showcase long term growth and changes in work ethic, the maximum amount of time possible should be given for them. Howeer, sometime around the middle of the semester, you should have an interim evaluation so that students know where they stand with their portfolio and if they need to invest more time in it.

Sources

  1. Angelo, T. A., and Cross, K. P. (1993) Classroom Assessment Techniques. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  2. Chen, C. C. And Chen, Y. Y. (2008) Learning Performance Assessment Approach Using Learning Portfolios for eLearning Systems. Proceedings of the Fifth IEEE International Conference on Advanced Learning Technologies.
  3. Cheng, C. C. (2001). A Study on the Evaluation and Effectiveness Analysis of Web Based Learning Portfolio. British Journal of Educational Technology, 32(4), 435-458.
  4. Grant, A. And Dornan, T. L. (2001). What is a Learning Portfolio? Diabetic Medicine, 18, 1-4.
______________________________________
iGrant & Dorman, 2001, 2.
iiGrant & Dorman, 2001, 2.
iiiGrant & Dorman, 2001, 2.
ivGrant & Dorman, 2001, 2.
vGrant & Dorman, 2001, 2.
viCheng, 2001, 436.
viiCheng, 2001, 439
viiiCheng, 2001, 450.
ixChen & Chen, 2008.
xCheng, 2001, 437.
 
-Rebecca Schaeffer, June 2011