Student portfolios: An empowering resource for your students

Discover how to get the most out of student portfolios and the keys to creating your own. Find inspiration in these free templates!
6 minutes

Teachers of the world: do you know the benefits of student portfolios as an educational tool? 

In this post, we’ll talk about how useful they are as a teaching resource, we’ll share key info to help you create a spectacular portfolio, and we’ll also show you some examples of student portfolios for inspiration. Let’s get into it!

What is a portfolio?

A portfolio is a tool anyone can use to document their process in the projects they are working on. It is an instrument of training, self-improvement, and personal development. 

And it’s nothing new. Portfolios have long been used in the business and art worlds, or by photography and architecture professionals, to present examples of their best work. 

Here’s how portfolios are used in education

From an educational standpoint, a portfolio acts as a support for documenting the academic and professional process of teachers, but it is much more than that. It is also a great ally within the classroom, an additional learning resource for students to use. 

It can be a very useful tool to support assessment, and also as a way of working on self-assessment, because it serves to allow students to reflect on their own learning process.

According to Burke, Fogarty, and Belgrade, portfolios are a combination of two components, the process and the product. C. Danielson and L. Abrutyn, in their book An Introduction to Portfolio Use in the Classroom, tell us that:

To derive the greatest benefit from portfolio use, it is imperative to fully understand the relationship between the manufacturing process and the product. 

This appreciation for the process fits perfectly with the concept of authentic assessment, which emphasizes the process and not only the final results. 

Portfolio work can be radically new for students. Therefore, in the beginning you’ll need to devote time to actively guiding your students in order to create them. This time will be spent transforming the way they are assessed and the teaching-learning process.

4 steps to creating student portfolios 

The process of creating a portfolio involves four actions: collection, selection, reflection, and projection. Let’s look at them one by one:

1. Collection of material to be included

The type of work to be included in the portfolio will depend on the intention and objectives of the portfolio, as not all the work they do needs to be included. This collection will depend on the working style of the classroom as it will be different if you work in an interdisciplinary way through projects, cooperatively, or using a timetabled structure with a slot for each subject.  

2. Selection 

This is the phase in which students select, from the work they’ve collected in the previous phase, the most relevant bits that best represent the progress they’ve made. They should make this selection themselves, exercising their autonomy, taking into account the intention of the portfolio, and following the teachers’ instructions.

3. Reflection 

In this phase, each student will describe their learning process, noting what they have learned and how they have improved over time. Their description will indicate why they decided to include these pieces of work in their portfolio and why they like them. 

It may be a good idea for them to include an introduction to describe their portfolio, and to organize it for ease of reference. This is a good way to get them thinking critically and foster the higher-level competencies required for classifying, organizing, and connecting ideas. 

4. Projection 

At this stage, students make an overall evaluation of their portfolio. This will help them to be conscious of the work they’ve done, their progress, and what they need to do to achieve the goals set by the teacher.


When creating a student portfolio, a series of questions arise that are part of the dynamic process: What should I include? How much do I keep? How often do I add or evaluate? How do I store or save it? Who selects the work to be included? Will it include work that’s completed, work in progress, drafts…? Will there be one for each subject, or per project, is it an overall portfolio for the year or is it one per semester?

Each school and classroom should adapt the portfolio to suit its own style and dynamics. It is essential that students know the answers to these questions in order to work on creating their portfolios.

10 key considerations for an A+ portfolio

  1. Create an attractive design for the portfolio, whether it be analog or digital. 
  2. Include pieces of work of different kinds and choose the ones that illustrate the student journey. There should be a variety of materials, both analog and digital.
  3. Review and update the portfolio regularly with new work and personal reflections.
  4. Be clear about timing, both for deliveries and for each of the portfolio phases.
  5. Choose an appropriate storage system to fit the work, either in a physical folder or digitally.
  6. Provide spaces in the classroom where there are different materials to allow students to write, draw, express themselves, and document processes.
  7. Adapt  the classroom schedule to include time to work on portfolios. Schedule and design spaces and times.
  8. Guide students in the four phases of the construction of the portfolio. This may sometimes consist of conducting interviews in which you actively listen to their reflections and sometimes providing guidelines that help them along. 
  9. Celebrate learning. Students make the portfolio not only for the classroom, but also to show their families, and it is an important recognition of their effort and motivation in the teaching-learning process.  
  10. The attraction of portfolios lies in the process that is carried out in creating them, resulting in a product that documents the journey. 

Digital portfolio or e-portfolio

To create an e-portfolio it’s a good idea not to stick to a single application or digital tool but instead combine platforms and virtual spaces, taking advantage of the best of each one. 

That is why it is essential to decide which digital formats will be used within the wide range of technological possibilities available nowadays. Audios, podcasts, videos, photographs, rich text documents with links and images, interactive presentations and infographics, mind maps or the expression of ideas and thoughts through visual thinking can all be part of a digital portfolio. 

Examples of digital portfolios or e-portfolios

If you want to create a digital portfolio or help your students make their own e-portfolios, we recommend taking a look at these portfolios by Lara Romero and Charo Fernández, and using one of these templates, which are designed to make your portfolio shine.

Create your free education e-portfolio

Isidro Vidal Uraga
Isidro Vidal Uraga
If you want to innovate in your classroom, stop doing the same old things. Change the questions you're asking and get out of your comfort zone.

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