Portfolio Development

Process For Learning

The purpose of creating an electronic portfolio is to support:

  • Ongoing learning/professional development.
  • To support summative and formative assessment
  • To support marketing and employment

These are three major purposes for electronic portfolios. They are all different and require different types of technology tools. A learning portfolio can be supported very nicely with a web log environment (blogs). An assessment portfolio ties artifacts to a set of standards with feedback or validation. It is best implemented through a relational database structure. A marketing or employment portfolio only needs an authoring environment that supports formatting and hyper linking on a web based server.

Constrasting Paradigms of Portfolios

Paulson and Paulson (1994) discuss portfolios being developed under two different approaches: Positivism and Constructivism. The two paradigms produce portfolio activities that are entirely different. The positivist approach puts a premium on the selection of items that reflect outside standards and interests. The constructivist approach puts a premium on the selection of items that reflect learning from the student’s perspective.

Summative assessment or commonly known as assessment “of” learning is associated with end of year exams, formal reports of students progress and what they have learned. Summative assessment is teacher centered. While formative assessment commonly known as assessment “for” learning is a process of seeking and interpreting evidence for use by learners and their teachers to decide where the learners are in their learning. Where they need to go and how best to get there. It is primarily student focused and the teacher is a facilitator.

According to Stiggins (2002) when teachers assess for learning they use the classroom assessment process and the continuous flow of information about student achievement that it provides in order to advance and not only check on students learning. This is accomplished by:

  • understanding and articulating in advance of teaching the achievement of targets that their students are to hit;
  • informing their students about those learning goals, in terms that students understand, from the very beginning of the teaching and learning process;
  • becoming assessment literate and thus able to transform their expectations into assessment exercises and scoring procedures that accurately reflect student achievement;
  • using classroom assessments to build students’ confidence in themselves as learners and help them take responsibility for their own learning, so as to lay a foundation for lifelong learning;
  • translating classroom assessment results into frequent descriptive feedback (versus judgmental feedback) for students, providing them with specific insights as to how to improve;
  • continuously adjusting instruction based on the results of classroom assessments;
  • engaging students in regular self-assessment with standards held constant so that students can watch themselves grow over time and thus feel in charge of their own success;
  • actively involving students in communicating with their teacher and their families about their achievement status and improvement;

Portfolios are a record of learning and a tool used by learners for the assessment for learning. Portfolios to be most effective must be orientated to underpin the constructivist paradigm which supports the assessment for learning framework as describe above. The portfolio is a vehicle for each child to grow metacognitively (students learn how to learn) and to demonstrate competence in telling the story of learning. The approach is open for students to eventually take ownership and become intrinsic learners.

The following diagram outlines the link between two dynamic processes of electronic portfolios and digital story telling that supports deep learning.


Portfolio Development


Assessment of learning and assessment for learning are both important and each one serves its particular purposes. Assessment for learning is the methodology that activates deep learning and intrinsically motivates students to become engaged and a self directed learners. The students will obtain the skills necessary in learning how to learn which inherently makes them more confident learners. More students will better prepared for the assessment of learning which entails end of year exams and high stakes testing. Electronic portfolios is one tool that students can  use for assessment for learning.

Barrett, H.(2004). Electronic Portfolios as Digital Stories of Deep Learning. ©2004, Helen C. Barrett, Ph.D.

Paulson, F.L. & Paulson, P. (1994). “Assessing Portfolios Using the Constructivist Paradigm” in Fogarty, R. (ed.) (1996) Student Portfolios. Palatine: IRI Skylight Training & Publishing.

Stiggins, R.J. (2002). “Assessment Crisis: The absence of Assessment FOR Learning.” Phi Delta Kappan, June 2002.


One thought on “Portfolio Development

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