Once upon a time, portfolios were used mainly by individuals in the world of visual arts and design. These individuals were required to keep a collection of work samples to show potential clients and employers. In recent years, fields outside of the arts have seen the value in building personal portfolios, including education.
There are many types of portfolios; some are used to house a collection of artifacts, much like a scrapbook, that represent an individual. A student’s portfolio may contain examples of their writing, artwork, video-recorded presentations, and photographs. Portfolios, as educational archives, are lovely and, if collected over an extended amount of time, allow the child to see how they have progressed from year to year through the quality of the products they have created.
But a good digital portfolio, or ePortfolio, must be more than just a collection of products. A valuable ePortfolio must be about the process of those products and a reflection that links the product to acquired skills and knowledge. Not only is it a good thing to see how something we produce, such as a short story, improves from year to year, it is also necessary to track our thinking about the story’s development and how we implement writing strategies in more sophisticated ways as we mature.
Not only can ePortfolios allow us to reflect on the learning process, they can help students record their own learner portraits. At the Middle School, students undergo a number of metacognitive exercises and strengths-based assessments. Student ePortfolios are broken down into three pages: My Learning, My Leading, My Serving. Students are encouraged to upload the results of these assessments into their, “My Learning” page in order that they may begin to connect their strengths with their learning and success.
Students not only reflect on their academic endeavours, they reflect on their participation in service opportunities and leadership opportunities so that their ePortfolios reflect the whole child. In years to come, ePortfolios at SMUS may also house learner pathways which is a structured and supported process undertaken by an individual to [not only] reflect on their own learning performance, and/or achievement [but] to plan [and make choices about] their personal and educational development” (Jackson, 2001).
To learn more about digital portfolios, here is a recent article by Edutopia that’s worth the read.