TIPS for Portfolio Assessment

A Theory-Integrates-Practice "Sheet" by Andrea Cove

Applying portfolio assessment to the grade 9 English Language Arts classroom.


My first step in applying portfolio assessment is having students collect all of their work (Epstein, n.d). As a result, students practice organization skills and have a resource of work from which they can select different pieces to showcase in their portfolio. This benefits me as a teacher because I can analyze and reflect on the work collected to identify my own areas of strength and growth as an instructor (Gorlewski, 2010).

In Practice: Students will keep their work in one place within the classroom to ensure organization and a complete collection of student work. I would use large, labelled plastic storage containers because they are sturdy, reusable and stack-able; also they can store a variety of products (papers, posters, binders etc.). The completed portfolio could come in many forms, and student choice is important because I want my students to represent their work in the manner they believe will showcase it best. However, a binder would be a simple option; larger or untransportable assignments (e.g. a dramatic presentation) could be represented by a photograph, video and/or written or recorded explanation and reflection. All assignments must show student reflection and revision. Another option would be creating an e-portfolio, given the necessary technology to execute this.

Assessment: When using portfolios I would primarily be assessing the individual works students produce and their reflection process. However, organization skills and completion of assignments is necessary for this system to work. These factors would have less of an impact on the overall portfolio mark because they are in support of program outcomes rather than an outright goal of the curriculum. Assessment of these skills must be ongoing with feedback given to students as needed (e.g. if a student is far off track, or doing an excellent job and is an example to other students).

Criteria for student organization and completeness of work:

  • Sufficient number of assignments completed to provide student with selection choices for their final portfolio
  • Student completes enough work to provide teacher with sufficient evidence to assess student achievement
  • Student keeps work organized in a way that demonstrates respect for their own and others' work, as well as the classroom environment

Rationale/Outcomes: Collection of work is a critical aspect of portfolio assessment for both student and teacher. The student has the opportunity to create original text (2.4) and find expression through multiple forms (2.2.5). As well, they build on organizational skills and learn to value the body of work they produce at school. As a teacher I can benefit from this practice as well because by reflecting on the body of work my students create and collect, I can see ways in which to improve my instruction (Gorlewski, 2010).

"What exists in the portfolio is what you value as a teacher."

(Gorlewski, 2010, p. 101)

Authentic instruction benefits both my teaching practice and my students' learning.


In portfolio assessment, students must select pieces of their work that best reflect their achievement. Students and teachers need to collaborate to determine what would constitute a student's best work. Thus, students are empowered in the classroom and what student and teacher value will become apparent in the portfolio output (Fredrick, 2009; Gorlewski, 2010).

In Practice: I would support students through the process of selecting work to include in their portfolio by providing an outline of what types of work are required and discussing what what constitutes "best work". I want students to know that a portfolio can also be valued for demonstrating struggle and growth. Still, students must be encouraged to explore different means of expression and include work that resonates with them. A mini lesson/ class discussion on appraising and selecting one's work may be necessary (Sask. Professional Development Unit, n.d.). I want students to continuously engage in discussion regarding their successes and struggles, goals, risks taken and effort put forth and how this translates into their selection choices. A sharing circle would be one method I would use to support students' selection processes.

Assessment: I would both formatively and summatively assess my students' choices in regards to the work they include in their portfolio. Through observation and interaction with students as they create, revise, select and share their work, I can assess the consideration students gave to their selection process. This is part of my assessment of the portfolio as a whole. Assessment of individual works would be a formative process. When the completed portfolios are submitted, I would summatively assess the choices students made in terms of form, content and organization (Sask. Professional Development Unit, n.d.).

Criteria for Assessing Student Selection:

  • Student's choices are aligned with assignment expectations and instructions for completing the portfolio
  • Student has identified areas of struggle
  • Student has set goals for their work
  • Student has shown growth
  • Student selections demonstrate an understanding of which of their products was effective and why
  • Portfolio organization and work selections are purposeful and clear

Rationale/ Outcomes: The student's process of exploring, evaluating and selecting their work is relevant to program outcomes regarding setting goals (1.1.3), considering how style affects content and audience impression (2.2.14) and sharing ideas and information (3.4.1). Furthermore, learning is a creative endeavour and students are not merely receptacles of knowledge; when students must own their work and choices we are assessing meaningful learning (Krogness, 1996).


Student self-reflection is critical to portfolio based assessment because it empowers students in their own learning and provides opportunities to practice metacognative skills (Fredrick, 2009).

In Practice: In order to support student reflection I would ensure that students are involved in the creation of criteria for assignments, given opportunities to apply those criteria to their products and time to receive peer feedback to make changes to their work (Linda B. Bruce cited in Gorlewski, 2010). An example of how to execute this can be viewed in the video below.

Assessment: I would both formatively and summatively assess student reflection. Throughout the unit/semester I would be able to observe student participation in the opportunities provided for reflection and revision. I would provide multiple opportunities and means for practicing reflective skills so that all students can find a method that is effective for them (e.g. discussion, journals, q/a response etc). I can also scaffold self-reflection skills by providing examples and asking prompting questions. Over time, I would expect to see growth in my students' skills; however it is most important for the student to create and see that growth for themselves. When students submit a complete portfolio, I would require them to engage in a one-on-one discussion (with me) expressing not only what is being submitted, but what the student experienced in producing the work and their evaluation of its quality (Fredrick, 2009). I would like to film their response so that they can reflect on their reflection.

(Fredrick, 2009)

Rationale/ Outcomes: Metacognative skills are emphasized in the new English Language Arts curriculum; through portfolio assessment, teachers can help students grow in this area, along with and in support of students' literacy capabilities. Additionally, employing these skills aids student understanding (Zeigler, 2012). Portfolios are an authentic task as they are a common method of demonstrating one's work professionally; similarly, setting goals (1.1.3), enhancing and improving on one's work (4.1), and sharing ideas and information (3.4.1) are life-skills. Since portfolios provide students with the opportunity to develop their skills through reflection and revising before producing a final product, it is in keeping with the intention of this experience to formatively assess student self-reflection throughout the creation of the portfolio. Summative assessment could occur with the submission of the completed portfolio, when students are at height of their skills (Fredrick, 2009). Thus, students should meet the outcomes regarding assessing the adequacy, accuracy and appropriateness of their work ( and evaluating its effectiveness (2.3.2). Consequently, students will be able to recognize the effect different text styles can have on their audience


Once students have collected, selected and reflected it is important to establish meaning in all of this activity. Students should consider how this process as a whole has affected them, and what the next steps in their learning and sharing might be (Epstein, n.d.).

In Practice: I want my students to share their work, set new goals for their achievement, give me feedback on the class and help other students to succeed because it will bring meaning to their work and connect it to the "real" world. After completing their portfolios and their one-on-one reflection presentations, students would review the video of their presentation/discussion. Then, I would give a mini lesson about goal setting. In a sharing circle, students would share a goal for their learning. Students would also be given time to submit feedback to me about what they liked, found difficult/frustrating and what was an "Aha!" moment for them. Finally, I would have students put on a "conference" that other students, teachers and parents could attend where students discuss the work they did and their experiences with portfolio assessment. Students would have stations for attendees to visit; students will answer questions and showcase their portfolio (Epstein, n.d.).

Assessment: I would assess student feedback and goal setting formatively as they are more of a process than a product. If students are participating, demonstrating respect for others and are genuinely endeavoring to be reflective and articulate then they are succeeding. Students whose behavior and responses do not meet these criteria would be expected to try again. The portfolio showcase would be the last piece of assessment for the students' portfolios and would be summative.

Criteria to Assess Portfolio Showcase:

  • Creation of an effective and appropriate script
  • Creation of a list of useful questions for visitors to ask
  • Student can answer questions, explain their work and comment on their experiences
  • Student has set up an inviting station for visitors to come ask questions and see student work
  • Student maintains a professional manner

Rationale/Outcomes: The above activities meet program outcomes for setting goals (1.1.3) and sharing ideas and information (3.4.1). Beyond this, the process of reviewing one's work and reflections are steps in making goals for the future, which is a life skill. Likewise, students will use presentation and sharing skills in their future lives and careers. The portfolio showcase is an authentic task that enables students to own their work and learning (Fredrick, 2009; Gorlewski, 2010). Additionally, other students, teacher and parents may be inspired by their work and showcase, and in that way my students will have helped others. Creating these types of connections can help make classroom learning meaningful for students (Krogness, 1996).


Alberta Learning. (2000). Illustrative Examples for English Language Arts Kindergarten to Grade 9 [Program of Studies]. [Edmonton], Canada: Alberta Learning.

Epstein, A. (n.d). Designing and Implementing a Portfolio Program. Retrieved from

Fredrick, T. (2009). Looking in the Mirror: Helping Adolescents Talk More Reflectively during Portfolio Presentations. Teachers College Record, 111(8), 1916-1929.

Gorlewski, D. A. (2010). Research for the Classroom: Overflowing but Underused Portfolios as a Means of Program Evaluation and Student Self-Assessment. English Journal, 99(4), 97-101.

Krogness, M. (1996). Giving Grades: Laying an Arcane Ritual to Rest. Voices From The Middle, 3(4), 23-26.

Saskatchewan Professional Development Unit. (n.d.) Portfolios: More Than Just a File Folder, Connecting the Pieces. Retrieved from:

Ziegler, B., & Montplaisir, L. (2012). Measuring Student Understanding in a Portfolio-Based Course. Journal Of College Science Teaching, 42(1), 16-25.

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