Portfolios provide information about students that test scores alone cannot show.
A portfolio is a communication device and a collection of student work that shows achievement and growth through student-selected samples of work. Students build portfolios by selecting high-quality work and important pieces, and then reflecting on them in structured ways. When educators, parents, or community members look at students’ portfolios, they get a broad sense of what students know and can do. Portfolios are living documents, regularly revised to accurately document each student’s growth and accomplishments in academics and character.
Portfolios must be student-centered. According to Rick Stiggins of the Assessment Training Institute, “When students assemble and share portfolios, they perform acts of metacognition that deepen their ability to learn, their desire to learn, and the learning itself. … Involving students in this work provides an ideal venue for getting them to take notice of, keep track of, and celebrate their learning. Collecting, organizing, and reflecting on their own work builds an understanding of themselves as learners and nurtures a sense of accomplishment. Becoming reflective learners, developing an internal feedback loop, learning to set goals, and noticing new competencies and new challenges are all habits of thought we can cultivate in students through the use of portfolios.”
Types of Portfolios
At Silverton School, students keep annual portfolios to show achievement in several areas and growth in a specific area. According to Stiggins, achievement portfolios “document the level of student achievement at a point and time. They are comprised of best, most recent work organized by the learning target each represents. … [Growth portfolios] show progress toward competence on one or more learning targets.” They keep working folders in every classroom and select artifacts from those working folders to create their annual portfolios.
Organization of the Portfolio
Every Silverton student portfolio has four components: the cover and spine, a character section, an academic growth section (which, for this year, will focus on writing), and an academic achievement section.
1. Cover and Spine
- I can create a spine and cover that demonstrate craftsmanship. This means they are neat, free of errors, easy to read, and reflect pride in my portfolio.
The portfolio spine includes the student’s first and last names and the school year. The cover includes the same information in addition to a photo or piece of artwork that reflects who the student is and what he or she values.
2. Character Section
- I can write a personal statement that expresses who I am as a student and person.
- I can reflect on how adventure and service contribute to my character development. This means I can explain how I have improved in regard to Silverton’s character traits as a result of participating in adventure and service experiences.
- I can reflect on my character development, and I can set goals as a result of that reflection.
3. Academic Growth Section – Writing
- I can include artifacts related to the creation of a written product that demonstrate my growth as a writer.
- I can reflect on how the artifacts in this section represent my growth as a writer.
In this section, students demonstrate progress toward one or more learning targets related to writing. The student chooses the writing learning targets he or she wishes to address with guidance from the teacher. For each learning target, the student includes at least three artifacts that demonstrate growth. On the cover sheet, the student explains what he or she knows and can do now that he or she couldn’t do earlier in the school year.
4. Academic Achievement Section
- I can provide evidence of having met long-term learning targets.
This section represents the bulk of the portfolio and reflects student achievement throughout the year. Student work is organized by literacy, humanities, science, math, and elective learning targets. With their teachers’ help, students select to show achievement of certain learning targets in each area.
Roles and Responsibilities
- Store all work in working folders.
- Use portfolio support time provided in Crew and in class wisely.
- Choose work thoughtfully.
- Justify the work selected in writing (or through oral presentation, which is scripted).
- Work toward proficiency in meeting learning targets throughout the school year.
- Use the portfolio as a communication tool during student-led conferences and portfolio presentations.
- Communicate to students and parents the purpose and process of portfolios.
- Provide working folders for all students and develop an organization system that supports students in keeping track of all work.
- Identify long-term learning targets that will guide students in selecting work for their portfolio.
- Support students in selecting work for the portfolio and writing reflective cover sheets.
- Provide time (on Crew portfolio workdays as well as during class) to support students in creating, organizing, and practicing communicating with the portfolio.
- Store portfolios in a safe, public place to reflect their value.
- Plan quality learning experiences and lessons that are linked to quality learning targets.
- Attend parent information meetings to understand the purpose and processes related to portfolios.
- Attend student-led conferences and portfolio presentations.
- Support students in maintaining quality portfolios.
- Establish an environment where portfolios are valued and where it is safe to share and nurture each student’s development.
- Support staff in reflecting on the portfolio process, planning quality expeditions, and sharing successes.
- Ensure structures and systems that support portfolio development and use.