4 Tips for Meaningful Student Portfolios

Student portfolios have become an important educational tool. This is the time where students can express themselves and show their growth and learning. Most students find the process of creating portfolios to be a chore rather than a valuable exercise. With some tweaks, teachers can encourage students in the process. Here are 4 tips for meaningful student portfolios | 21st century assessment.

Allow Time for the Reflective Process

Schools know the importance of the portfolio, but never explain what exactly they’re looking for. Teachers are under immense stress in these areas and often feel pressured to find the time for portfolios. In order for students to create a meaningful portfolio, they need to set aside time for the reflective process.

Once time is given for the reflective process, schools must ensure teachers engage with students during some aspect of the portfolio design process. It’s impossible to just tell them to work on their portfolios. Teachers aren’t going to get the results they’re looking for. For better results, consider some of the following options:

Students write a reflective essay about their portfolio progress
Break up students into groups for mini brainstorming sessions
Host a peer conference with students designing their portfolio
Meet with students individually or in small groups

Create a Portfolio That Addresses One Student

Portfolios should reflect the student, not a particular subject. Students have different sides to themselves. Some of them are superstar athletes while others are honor students, band kids, activists, theater kids, and artists. All of them should be reflected in their portfolios. They should be allowed to create a portfolio that reflects all of the interests. It shouldn’t be limited to school subjects.

They can include their favorite songs, books, films, poetry, and artists they like. Other elements to include in their portfolio include their community service and athletic accomplishments. They can also include anything they created on their own. Students should be encouraged to include the things they’re passionate about. This reinforces the idea that their portfolio is something that’s unique to them and not something they have to do.

Provide Guidelines That Encourage Thoughtful Choices

Students should be encouraged to include ideas and examples that are reflective of their school and home environment. Basic guidelines should also be set to ensure that their portfolio establishes their academic goal or purpose. The portfolio shouldn’t be focused on one activity or a particular subject. All subjects should be represented.

Other factors include setting a minimum or maximum of pieces or subjects that should be included. There should also be strict guidelines when it comes to including appropriate content. Controversial subjects, strong language, and provocative topics should be omitted from the project.

Add Variety to Make Portfolios Stand Out

One reason students hate the portfolio process is that because they get asked to do the same things. They’re often asked to add one or two things they’re interested in. It’s important for them to include a variety of things they’re passionate about to make their portfolios stand out among the rest. This is ideal for team or group planning. Encourage students to include ideas and artifacts such as:

Struggles or challenges they faced throughout the year
Subjects or activities that showed progressed this year
Videos or photos that showcase the things they worked on
Lessons that they learned this year
Ways that they used their newly developed skills outside of school
Projects outside of school that prove the application of their school-related skills

The key to a meaningful student portfolio is a healthy balance between academic subjects and personal interests. Students should have many options to show off their different personalities and interests as well as their academic interests. If teachers don’t allow them to get creative in the process, they’ll never show interest. By allowing this balance, their portfolio will become a valuable and personal educational tool.