Portfolios: Deciding a Purpose

Posted on March 19, 2008


I’ve introduced my students to the concept of portfolios: we’ve read a few articles, explored some sample portfolios, and posed questions about the project (see our class wiki page).  I think the next step is to think about the why—what our objective or goal is for creating a portfolio. Helen Barrett, a portfolio guru, agrees that deciding on a purpose for the portfolio is essential. Just as writers must clearly establish their audience and purpose before penning a composition, we too must define our audience and purpose for our portfolios. Barrett defines two basic portfolio purposes: a reflective portfolio and a presentation portfolio. These two serve different purposes. The reflective portfolio allows learners to reflect on their learning and teachers to assess students’ progress. The presentation portfolio allows learners to showcase their work to a particular audience: a teacher, a college, an organization.

Actually, I would like our AP English Language Portfolios to serve a two-fold purpose with two distinct audiences:

  1. Reflective Learning: The portfolio is an opportunity to reflect on our learning over the course of this year. What have we learned? What evidence points to that learning? How/why is this learning important—beyond AP English Language class? What are we supposed to have learned? What are our strengths and weaknesses? What should our learning goals be for the summer, for next year?
  2. Showcase Our Work: The portfolio also enables us to package a snapshot of ourselves to present to key audiences—to colleges for admission, to organizations for scholarships.

Can our portfolios serve both purposes and both audiences?

I think they can. Around 4:00 a.m. this morning, as I lay tossing and turning, watching the lightening splinter the sky, a great idea suddenly materialized: we can modify Barrett’s strategy of using the artifact checklist to produce our own checklist using the Arkansas English Language Arts Standards and the NETS for Students Standards. This would be the reflective part of the portfolio.

  1. The standards define what we’re supposed to have learned.
  2. The artifacts (examples of our work) evidence our learning for each standard.
  3. A written reflection for each, allows us to reflect on our learning and connect the artifact to the standard—that is, explain how that particular piece of evidence addresses that particular standard.

What would this look like on our blogs? How would we organize it? Here’s my idea:

  1. We create a PAGE.
  2. On this page, we include a table (or whatever creative design you envision):





      We list the standards and, for each standard, link to a POST.

  1. We write a POST for each standard. Inside the post, we can link to our artifacts (other blog posts, documents, images, videos…) and reflect on our learning.

We need models; that’s my next task. I’ll be producing some examples. In the meantime, I’d love some feedback. What do you think? Will this work? Is there a better way to organize this mass of information?

We’ll save the showcase part for another stormy morning, hoping an epiphany will strike in the wee hours as the lightning splinters the sky.

Posted in: EdTech, eportfolio