8 Expert Tips for Introducing Portfolios in the Classroom

How can you introduce the eportfolio to your classroom? And what can students do with an eportfolio? We’ll answer all your eportfolio questions here.

Photo by Roberto Nickson on Pexels. Edited.

Are you considering incorporating portfolios into your classroom this year? ePortfolios are the most recent addition to the list of high-impact practices (HIPs). In fact, the ePortfolio has been referred to as a ‘meta high impact practice’ because of the multiplying effect of an ePortfolio when used in conjunction with other HIPS. High Impact Practices are active learning practices that promote deep learning by promoting student engagement. HIPs represent enriching educational opportunities that can be transformative to students.

Now you understand the transformative effect portfolios can have on student engagement and learning. Here are 8 expert tips to help you successfully start using portfolios in your classroom.

1. Start with the purpose and benefits

Students need to understand and believe in the purpose and benefits of a portfolio.

A digital portfolio is a personal place to create, document and reflect on your learning experiences.

At its core, a portfolio is about intentionally creating a positive professional digital presence. It is deeper than social media, allowing you to share your unique interests and stories without the noise of others’ comments and irrelevant content. You can also use it as an archive – think LinkedIn, but with a focus on the person rather than professional connections. A digital portfolio helps students make their experience, accomplishments, and skills visible to any audience they choose, including family, employers, schools, peers, and teachers.

An ePortfolio is more than just a placeholder for all student assignments. It is a purposeful place to help you tell your story.

Digital portfolios…
  • Help you develop a better sense of yourself as a student and individual.
  • Deepen learning by helping you connect coursework with life, community, and goals which results in higher grades.
  • Showcase your achievements and soft skills.
  • Can be private or shared with friends, family, and professional networks and employers.
  • Should be taken with you for your next class, experience, and for life.
Quick conversation starters
  • What words come to mind when you think about the word portfolio?
  • What do you put in a portfolio?
  • How do you currently make connections between your school work and life outside of school?
  • How is a portfolio different from your social media accounts?
  • Where do you currently showcase your favorite work?
  • How do you think we should use portfolios for this class?

Explore some ready-made student introduction to portfolio bulb lessons here.

2. Provide examples created by students

Students will be inspired and better understand what they are trying to accomplish by exploring other students’ portfolios.

This collection houses student portfolios from all levels and subject areas.

3. Set expectations

Set specific and regular times for students to work on their portfolios. A regular pattern of working on a portfolio (after a project, monthly, at the end of a unit or term) can help students build reflective habits and feel comfortable with a new platform. Creating a template is a great way to help students understand how they should be building their portfolios and what content to include. At first, learners may have difficulty understanding how to reflect on their work and how to make connections. This is why portfolios are great to start at younger ages, so they can practice reflection. Guiding reflective questions can also help. Check out the bulb library for great templates to help you get started.

4. Lead by example

“My number one tip for any educator trying to get their students on board with a digital portfolio is if you want kids to buy into the concept of portfolios, you’ve got to keep one yourself.” Whitney Turner, Teacher of the Year, Magnolia ISD.

Create your own portfolio based on your teaching practice and experiences and share it with your students, colleagues, and supervisors. This will encourage you to incorporate portfolios throughout the year and better understand the challenges and benefits of maintaining a portfolio. It will also convince students that it is not just a tool for class, but a lifelong tool. 

Hear more from Teacher of the Year, Whitney Turner, on how to introduce portfolios into your classroom.

5. Build a digital resume

At the end of the day, you are more than just what’s on your resume. That’s why bulb has built an innovative digital resume + portfolio solution, giving our users a platform that finally allows them to show who they are, their way. 

Use bulb’s resume builder to create your resume that you can easily edit and share at a moment’s notice. You can also attach evidence from your portfolio to showcase your skills and unique story.

6. Encourage feedback

Feedback helps us all grow. Students can share parts of their portfolio with a bulb group and get peer feedback and new ideas, just like a digital gallery walk. Create a gallery of student portfolio works to share with parents or the community. Or use the portfolio during student-led conferences. Feedback loops create accountability and motivate students to put in more effort.

7. To assess or not assess

Creating a portfolio requires significant time and can be very personal. Instructors can struggle with knowing how to create motivation and accountability if there is not an assessment component to the portfolio work. It is important to carefully consider the evaluation process. If the purpose of the portfolio work is to provide an authentic way to demonstrate the mastery of a skill or standard, the use of a rubric to assess the learning can be very beneficial. If the purpose of the portfolio is more student-centered, then the practice of adding artifacts to the portfolio should provide opportunities for learning to occur during the process (such as incorporating reflective questions or receiving feedback). This is considered more of an assessment for learning. Another purpose may be a career-ready portfolio where the goal is to provide students with the skills and platform to showcase achievements and their uniqueness to future employers or other pursuits.

Explore this rubric developed by the University of Wisconsin.

Or learn more with our reflective templates.

8. Give students choice & voice

We are ending with the most important tip in driving student ownership in their work. Look for ways to help learners take ownership of their portfolio by balancing the requirements with giving them choices and opportunities to be creative and make this portfolio truly tell their unique story. Ask students to choose an artifact that shows growth or they are most proud of and explain why. When appropriate, allow them to organize their pages in a structure that they choose. Encourage them to create a theme and personalize their space. Give them time to add artifacts and experiences that happen outside of school. If the students believe this is their portfolio, not just another school assignment, they will put more effort into it and ultimately keep using it for more classes and into their next experience.

Allow students to showcase their growth and highlight experiences through their portfolio and telling their unique story
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