Assess students



A portfolio is a collection of student work created for the purpose of demonstrating their learning or showcasing their best work. While portfolios are often associated with the visual arts, they are useful in any subject area. Portfolios may take a variety of formats including paper, hybrid, or electronic. [more]

Types of portfolio

There are various types of portfolios that are used to achieve different purposes:

View examples of student materials by purpose for each type of portfolio

Suggested uses of portfolios:

Strengths of portfolios:

Limitations of portfolios:

Resource requirements

Knowledge about developing course learning objectives and constructing individual assignments is required. You should also understand how to use and interpret scoring rubrics and have a system for managing individual student works and portfolios.

Plan your portfolio

STEP 1. Describe the assessment context

Consider the course content, class resources, and how the instructional setting and larger educational context impact the course. Make sure to include the age, majors, educational background, motivation level, and skill levels of students. Knowing the audience for whom the portfolio is intended is critical.

STEP 2. Identify needs and develop course learning objectives

Course learning objectives, shaped by what is most essential for students to know, your needs, and any instructional priorities, specify what you want students to learn from the course. For example, "The students will be able to demonstrate their knowledge of “Erikson’s Psychological Stages of Development by naming the eight stages in order and describing the psychological crises at each stage.” [more]

STEP 3. Determine the purpose of the portfolio

Use the course learning objectives to guide the content and purpose of the overall portfolio and individual assignments. Specify the purpose of the portfolio, what student products will be included, and how you will measure success.

STEP 4. Determine how you will use the results

How the results will be applied are the underlying goals of your portfolio. Consider whether you intend to use results for a formative assessment or summative assessment. Also, consider how much the portfolio score will count toward the course grades.

STEP 5. Plan the portfolio

Determine the audience for the portfolio.

The type of portfolio you require should be determined by the intended audience and reason for creating it. The audience for a portfolio may include:

  • Course instructors
  • Students/Peers
  • Potential employers
  • College admission reviewers
  • Identify course goals and learning objectives.

Like individual assignments and exam items, a portfolio should be linked to course goals and specific learning objectives. The type of portfolio you assign should be based on what you intend students to learn and how you intend to use it. The materials you ask students to include in their portfolios should align with the portfolio type and purpose [more]

Choose a portfolio format

The kinds of student materials included and how you intend to use the portfolio will help you determine which format (paper, hybrid or electronic) is best. For example, if graphical or audio materials will be part of the portfolio, a paper portfolio format will not work or, if sharing materials is important, an electronic portfolio is best. [more]

Develop a rubric to evaluate the portfolio

You should develop clear guidelines for evaluating the portfolio and provide them to students as they begin their portfolio. [more]

Additional information

Courts, P. L., & McInerney, K. H. (1993). Assessment in Higher Education: Politics, Pedagogy, and Portolios. Westport, Connecticut: Praeger Publishers.

Division of Instruction. (n.d.). Portfolio Assessment In Quest (Quality Education for Every Student). Retrieved October 6, 2006, from Prince Georges County Public Schools Web site: http://www.pgeps.org/%7Eelc/portfolio.html

Heywood, J. (1989). Assessment in Higher Education (2nd ed.). Wiley, New York: Chichester. (Original work published 1977)

Ittelson, J., & Lorenzo, G. (2005). An Overview of EPortfolios. Retrieved October 17, 2006, from The Educause Learning Initiative Web site: http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI3001.pdf

Klenowski, V. (2002). Developing Portoflios for Learning Assessment. New York, NY: Routledge Falmer.

On Purpose Associates. (2001). Portfolio Assessment. In Funderstanding. Retrieved October 6, 2006, from http://www.funderstanding.com/portfolio_assessment.cfm

Page last updated: Sep 21 2011
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