What is a "Portfolio"?
A portfolio can be defined as a collection of work purposefully selected and intentionally assembled by a learner. The one piece of work that is required in all portfolios is an extensive reflective overview, a piece of writing that presents the portfolio contents to readers / evaluators and that explains why particular contents were chosen and what they are meant to show.
The portfolio is the way to evaluate your work on all the assignments and activities that you have engaged in during the portfolio period. The only piece of writing that you will do exclusively for the portfolio is the reflective overview. It is, in a sense, your argument for a particular grade on that portfolio.
What goes in a Portfolio?
An effective portfolio will most likely not include “everything” you do during that part of the course. One of the principles of portfolio assessment is that the learner takes an active role in choosing work to include. In other words, you are responsible for selecting evidence that you think best demonstrates your performance, your learning, your development of specific skills and knowledge; you are responsible for helping portfolio-readers understand your choices.
For many students, portfolios are problematic. There is no prescribed “way” to assemble a portfolio. There will be no checklist of materials to include. Students have no one formula to follow, nor can they wait until the night before it is due to assemble and complete a portfolio that will earn a satisfactory grade. The portfolio process requires you to be an active learner, to value deep learning, to engage in the kinds of intellectual work that you haven’t been asked to do before now. Portfolios require you to understand and practice critical thinking and information literacy skills.
We use portfolio assessment in the First-Year Program because we think it is the most effective way to evaluate the fullest range of work you do. With the portfolio process, you have considerable responsibility (and independence) in helping determine how your performance will be evaluated. Your choice of evidence helps with our evaluation, and your reflective overview helps us understand what you include as evidence and why you include it.
The portfolio gives teachers a broader and deeper view of student performance and learning than is possible with single tests or pieces of writing. Also, the portfolio process supports the First-Year Program's emphasis on metacognition, on "learning how to learn," and on learners being responsible for their own success.
If you have any questions, feel free to bring them up in class or email me!