Five Reasons to Use Portfolios with Elementary and Middle School Students Including Resources
“If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always be where you’ve always been.” — T.D. Jakes
A student portfolio is a compilation of educational evidence that documents academic achievement, progress toward learning goals, and an engine for reflection and goal setting. As students curate their work and reflect on successes and struggles they develop into better learners and human beings.
After using portfolios with my students for over the past 20 years, I can say that it is my favorite form of authentic assessment. Our 8th graders prepare a portfolio presentation as part of their passage from middle school to high school each year. Parents, community and school board members, and other students are in attendance. This has become a valued tradition in our school. We are a K-8 school, and in the near future, there will also be passages at the 2nd and 5th-grade levels.
Read on to learn about why portfolios are beneficial to students and to explore some resources to get started with portfolios in your classroom.
Five Reasons to Use Portfolios with Elementary and Middle School Students
- Promotes self-reflection: Portfolios allow students to reflect on their own learning, progress, and growth over time. This process helps them understand their strengths and areas for improvement, leading to increased self-awareness and motivation. This is a skill that pays off over a lifetime.
- Encourages goal-setting: By reflecting on their progress, students can set goals for themselves and work towards achieving them. Portfolios provide a platform for students to document their goals and track their progress toward achieving them. Many people don’t know what they don’t know. Self-reflection helps students learn how to identify opportunities for growth and set appropriate goals.
- Shows progress over time: Portfolios provide a comprehensive view of a student's growth and development over time. This allows teachers, parents, and students themselves to see progress and identify areas for improvement. 8th graders love to look back over their work from Pre-K to the present. Watching their reactions alone makes the entire process worth it.
- Encourages metacognition: By reflecting on their learning, students develop metacognitive skills, including the ability to think about their own thinking. This skill helps them become better learners and problem-solvers. It becomes harder to repeat the same mistakes.
- Allows for authentic assessment: Portfolios provide a way for students to demonstrate their learning in a way that is more authentic than traditional assessments. Rather than simply regurgitating information, students can showcase their skills and understanding in real-world contexts. Portfolio-building skills are valued in the “real world”
Student Portfolio Resources
- The Student Portfolio: How to Use This Powerful Tool in Your Classroom
- Student Portfolio Apps, Tools, and Resources - There are many benefits to using digital tools in portfolio work, but after years of experimentation, I’ve found that the process works best when a combination of paper and technology resources is used.
- Final Portfolios: Ending the Year with Meaning
- The Power of Portfolios: A Positive Practice
- The Art of Reflection
- Portfolios and the Student-Led Parent Conference
- Building Student Ownership Through Portfolios and Student-Led Conferences
Student portfolios are a powerful tool for promoting self-reflection, goal-setting, and metacognition in elementary and middle school students. They allow students to showcase their skills and understanding in authentic, real-world contexts, and provide a comprehensive view of their growth and development over time.
By using a combination of paper and technology resources, teachers can help students curate their work and reflect on their successes and struggles, leading to increased self-awareness and motivation. With the resources listed above, teachers can get started implementing portfolios in their classrooms today and see the benefits for themselves and their students.