Student Portfolios

Inservice Presentation, Portland Community College
George Knox, April 14, 2000

What Is a Portfolio?

A portfolio is a tool that collects and presents student skills and accomplishments, documents tools and training, and demonstrates academic and/or professional growth over time. Content and format is dependent on how and where the portfolio will be used. However, portfolios are always customized to best represent the individual student.

Click for an Example:

How Is a Portfolio Used?

Academic/Career Planner - A portfolio can be used by students, parents and advisors as a career path planner. This approach is currently being used in the Oregon Education System (K-12) to both demonstrate competency in career education and assist with career and college planning.

Academic Assessment Tool - A portfolio can be used to demonstrate skills and accomplishment of required tasks specific to a curriculum. A portfolio can also show success in transferable skills such as communication and planning. It provides an alternative to standardized tests or subjective evaluation by an instructor. Also, assessment may be made "over time" by providing an ongoing record of academic progress. Some colleges and universities require an academic portfolio for graduation.

Professional Employment Tool - A portfolio can present samples of work, certifications, references, tool lists and other job search materials that demonstrate skills and competencies to the employer. The portfolio also serves as a professional sample of work quality. Some career fields require a professional portfolio for entry into the field and/or presentation to potential clients.

What Are Some Common Elements?

All portfolios are reflective, competency based and demonstrative. The student must consider his/her individual accomplishments relevant to his/her academic and career goals. In most cases, a clear set of criteria relating to goals and accomplishments is required to develop a portfolio. These criteria may come from academic outcomes or from the demands of the work place or both. To be effective, the portfolio must show the viewer how skills and tools were used to meet these criteria. Finally, the portfolio represents skills and accomplishments over a period of time.

What Is the Instructor’s Role?

The portfolio is primarily the work of the student; the student collects and amends items to be added to the portfolio. However, instructors can aid students by clarifying criteria: what items should be included, what skills/tools should be emphasized, what formats are expected. Periodic review and feedback of the portfolio will help the student upgrade his/her work.


Arter, Judith A., Ruth Culham, and Vicki Spandel. "Portfolios for Assessment and Instruction." ERIC Digest ED388890 95. Washington: Educational Resources Information Center, USDOE, 1995.

Jones, Carolee G. "The Portfolio as a Course Assessment Tool." Assessment in Practice. Eds. Banta, Trudy, Jon P. Lund, Karen E. Black, and Frances E. Black. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1996. 285 - 288.

Student Portfolio Planner. University of Richmond. 13 April 2000.

"Technology-Supported Portfolios." Oregon Content Standards and Technology. 15 June 1999. Eisenhower Professional Development Fund for Higher Education, the Oregon Education Association, and the Oregon US West/NEA Teacher Network. 13 April 2000.

Written By: George Knox © 2000