April 29, 2019

A principal said, after watching teachers across early, middle, and senior years share their portfolios with one another, “I have just realized that this is our first time talking about why we have students create portfolios. We launched into ‘the doing’ before we spoke about the why.”

How many times have you moved to action too quickly? Moving forward thoughtfully, intentionally, and mindfully generates momentum and opportunities. If action occurs too quickly, it can waste effort, time, resources and energy – and that energy can perhaps never be regained. The window of opportunity can slam shut. As Ann Sherman wrote, “Portfolios are not just a pile of previously completed assignments. The purpose and audience of the portfolio will determine the kind of story or narrative the portfolio documents” (Davies, Herbst, and Augusta, 2017, pp. 12-13).

April 2019 - quote


Regardless of whether the portfolio is for students to share evidence of their learning or for teachers and leaders to document their own learning journey, here are some questions to pose and talk about before launching into the act of creating the portfolio:

  • What is the purpose of the portfolio and who is the audience?
  • How does the creation of a portfolio support learning, for either students, teachers, or leaders?  
  • In what ways do I want this portfolio to support the identification of next steps in instruction, learning, or leading?

Responding to these questions will take time and energy, but it is worthwhile. Not only will you gain clarity, but the structure and format will become apparent.

And now that you have considered the big ideas of purpose and audience, we have one more question for you:

In what ways might the learners themselves take the lead in the portfolio process – collect, select, reflect, and project?


All our best,

Anne, Sandra, Brenda, and the connect2learning team


P.S. You can extend your learning about portfolios by reading Collecting Evidence and Portfolios: Engaging Students in Pedagogical Documentation or viewing the Professional Learning Community Conversation.