This is my 5th year using student portfolios in the classroom. Student portfolios can have many different purposes and structures based on what the end goal of the portfolio is. I have to be honest that my use of the portfolio has evolved over time as I have used them more in the classroom. Before deploying them into the classroom, educators need to be clear on their why for implementation. A primary goal for me is a place for students to present artifacts of learning. Also to show a bit of who they are as learners and individuals.
Google Sites has been a wonderful tool for creation of student portfolios. It is free and has a very easy to use interface. Learners can easily create beautiful looking sites. They can easily embed artifacts from GSuite apps or other sources. When ready to publish or share, there is a variety of different levels from individual people, to district level, to global.
A showcase portfolio is a great way to have students think about how the work they do in class ties directly to course outcomes. This is where I started with portfolios in my classroom. The state of Wisconsin has adopted science standards that are informed by Next Generation Science Standards. The NGSS provide a series of 8 science practices that all students should be able to demonstrate. In a showcase portfolio, each standards is a separate page. On each page, students provide pieces of evidence for each of the different overarching practices. They then argue for how this evidence demonstrates that practice. In the examples below, you can see the design of the page in terms of explaining the outcome and the presentation of artifacts.
If you are thinking about a showcase portfolio, the first step is to decide on the overarching standards or competencies you want your learners to leave your class with. These don’t necessarily have to be content standards. When I first began using portfolios, my learners presented artifacts that demonstrated 21st Century Outcomes as outlined by the Partnership for 21st Century Learning. Regardless of what the standards is, it is important that students have a variety of potential artifacts to choose from. A major skill in this process is choosing their best work that meets the standard.
This year I switched to a more unit based model for my students. I wanted them to be able to tell more of a story of what was done in the unit through artifacts. In this model, each unit of instruction gets its own portfolio page. Students will add the major activities that were done in a unit in an attempt to explain to an outside audience what was done and how it relates to the central ideas of the unit. In addition students reflect on the learning process via reflection on quizzes and summative assessment. It is a time consuming process because students have to go into their portfolio multiple times in a single unit to keep it up to date. In the pages below, you can see that the flow of the unit is not quite as clear as I would like it to be.
The pieces don’t always come together to tell a learning story. But, this model gives students a space to think about their own learning more than the showcase portfolio does. I think it would benefit from some for of goal setting and monitoring.
Making a Portfolio a Learner Profile
A major goal for a student portfolio is to communicate more than just an academic picture of the learner, a learner profile. The Institute for Personalized Learning outlines the elements of a learner profile includes demographic and academic information along side of skills and driver for learning. On the first day of class, I ask my learners to create a passion page to communicate who they are beyond the wall of the classroom including their interests and aspirations. Google sites allows them to add YouTube videos to help communicate these.
On the Me as a Learner page, I like students to communicate their strengths as a learner and present artifacts that highlight these. In addition, students spend time completing a Me as a Learner document created by Barbara Bray. It asks them to think about their strengths and challenges as a learner.
As a part of our class, students are given time to complete a passion project. It is a term long project. The portfolio is also a place where student can house the products of passions projects and keep track of their progress.
The ability for students to use Google Sites is a nice introduction to the idea of creating a website. When polled, less than ⅓ of my students had created a portfolio for a class and less than ¼ of my students had ever created a website. So while we are addressing the thought process required to present artifacts or reflect on learning, students are also getting a chance to learn new technology skills that will extend beyond this classroom experience.