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Using portfolios in education

The portfolio is a cognitive tool considered both a teaching and learning strategy. It can be used as a formal assessment an alternative assessment as well as a self-evaluation. Portfolios can be successfully used in the online classroom as well as the face-to-face educational environment. A portfolio is a window to the mind. It is a collection of required as well as optional material selected by the teacher and a reflection of the interest of the student. It involves important questions, artifacts and evidence that represent growth and on-going learning of the student. The expectation of the portfolio is that it is dynamic and developing as the learner discovers through new activities and experiences.

 A portfolio is a window to the mind.
A portfolio is a window to the mind.
Yancey Media Consultants
 A portfolio is a window to the mind.
Photo by John Sciulli/Getty Images for W Magazine

Mary Dietz suggests that there are four phases for establishing and maintaining the portfolio process in developing a professional development. Phase 1: Defining a purpose for the portfolio and professional development. This section should set the purpose and focus of inquiry. It should include the issues, concerns, interests and identify the main question. Phase 2: Developing a focus for a group portfolio. This is when the participants will meet to discuss possible activities, artifacts, set goals, develop and pose essential questions. This phase should result in a clear focus for further inquiry. Phase 3: Engaging in the professional development process. This is when observations, findings and conclusions are drawn through research. Samples of student work and other evidence and artifacts of learning are included in the portfolio that shows school-wide and personal goals. Phase 4: Outcomes of the professional development process. In this phase artifacts are cycled in and out of the portfolio reflecting growth and learning that have taken place during the process. It should include conclusions and reflections from the participants. The portfolio should be shared with the teaching and learning community. This sharing process will enhance cognitive growth and lead to new questions and further inquiry.
Portfolios require selection, evaluation, and validation criteria, and should be organized according to a diverse range of assignments and activities. The portfolio is evaluated by considering the presentation, sections and methodology applied. In addition, the content, activity compliance, work completion and justification of material and the sections of the presentation are considered. This strategy of assessment and learning is recommended for the kindergarten through grade 12, the traditional college student as well as the adult learner.