"A purposeful collection of student work that exhibits the student’s efforts, progress and achievements in one or more areas. The collection must include student participation in selecting contents, the criteria for selection, the criteria for judging merit and evidence of student self-reflection." 

                                                                       (Paulson, Paulson, Meyer 1991)  


In this way a portfolio is a living, growing collection of a student’s work - each addition is carefully selected by the student for a specific reason which s/he will explain. The overall purpose of the portfolio is to enable the student to demonstrate to others learning and progress. The greatest value of portfolios is that, in building them, students become active participants in the learning process and its assessment.


  • A portfolio is a form of assessment that students do together with their teachers.
  • A portfolio is not just a collection of student work, but a selection - the student must be involved in choosing and justifying the pieces to be included.
  • A portfolio provides samples of the student’s work which show growth over time. By reflecting on their own learning (self-assessment), students begin to identify the strengths and weaknesses in their work. These weaknesses then become improvement goals.
  • The criteria for selecting and assessing the portfolio contents must be clear to the teacher and the students at the outset of the process.
  • The entries in an EFL portfolio can demonstrate learning and growth in all language domains/skills, or can focus on a specific skill such as appreciation of literature, or writing.


  •     matches assessment to teaching.
    The products that are assessed are mainly products of classwork, and are not divorced from class activities like test items.
  •     has clear goals.
    They are decided on at the beginning of instruction and are clear to teacher and students alike.
  •     gives a profile of learner abilities.
  • Depth:
    It enables students to show quality work, which is done without pressure and time constraints, and with the help of resources, reference materials and collaboration with others.
  • Breadth:
    A wide range of skills can be demonstrated.
  • Growth:
    It shows efforts to improve and develop, and demonstrates progress over time.
  •     is a tool for assessing a variety of skills.
    Written as well as oral and graphic products can easily be included.
  •     develops awareness of own learning.
    Students have to reflect on their own progress and the quality of their work in relation to
    known goals.
  •     caters to individuals in the heterogeneous class.
    Since it is open-ended, students can show work on their own level. Since there is choice, it
    caters to different learning styles and allows expression of different strengths.
  •     develops social skills.
    Students are also assessed on work done together, in pairs or groups, on projects and assignments.
  •     develops independent and active learners.
    Students must select and justify portfolio choices; monitor progress and set learning goals.
  •     can improve motivation for learning and thus achievement.
    Empowerment of students to prove achievement has been found to be motivating.
  •     is an efficient tool for demonstrating learning.
    Different kinds of products and records of progress fit conveniently into one package;
    changes over time are clearly shown.
  •   provides opportunity for student-teacher dialogue.
    Enables the teacher to get to know each and every student. Promotes joint goal-setting and negotiation of grades.


It is important to include all of the following:

1.     Cover Letter “About the author” and “What my portfolio shows about my progress as a learner” (written at the end, but put at the beginning). The cover letter summarizes the evidence of a student’s learning and progress.

2.     Table of Contents with numbered pages.

3.     Entries - both core (items students have to include) and optional (items of student’s choice). The core elements will be required for each student and will provide a common base from which to make decisions on assessment. The optional items will allow the folder to represent the uniqueness of each student.
Students can choose to include “best” pieces of work, but also a piece of work which gave trouble or one that was less successful, and give reasons why.

4.     Dates on all entries, to facilitate proof of growth over time.

5.     Drafts of aural/oral and written products and revised versions;
         i.e., first drafts and corrected/revised versions.

6.     Reflections can appear at different stages in the learning process (for formative and/or summative purposes.) and can be written in the mother tongue at the lower levels or by students who find it difficult to express themselves in English.
a. For each item - a brief rationale for choosing the item should be included.
This can relate to students’ performance, to their feelings regarding their progress and/or themselves as learners.
Students can choose to reflect upon some or all of the following:

  • What did I learn from it?
  • What did I do well?
  • Why (based on the agreed teacher-student assessment criteria) did I choose this item?
  • What do I want to improve in the item? 
  •  How do I feel about my performance?
  • What were the problem areas?


The very first and most important part of organizing portfolio assessment is to decide on the teaching goals. These goals will guide the selection and assessment of students’ work for the portfolio. To do this, ask yourself “What do I want the students to learn?” and choose several goals to focus on; for example, general goals such as improvement in fluency of speech or independent reading, and specific goals such as scanning a text or telling a story. The New Curriculum (Standards for Pupils of English) contains many examples of goals (called “benchmarks”) that show progress towards the overall standards of English to be learned.

      This stage is so important because teachers have to know what their goals are in terms of what the students will be able to do. Moreover, students have to know what they need to show evidence of in their portfolios.

      It is even better if you do this fixing of goals together with the students, asking them, for example, what they need and want to achieve in the different language domains and skills. They will usually show good understanding of goals (“We need to understand the news.” “We should be able to correct our written mistakes.”) And hopefully these will then become common goals for teacher and class. Or you can give a list of goals for the students to rank, and use the results for establishing the criteria for assessment. For examples of goals for a Reading Portfolio.


You will need to present the idea of a portfolio to your class. You can start by explaining the word from portare (carry) and foglio (sheet of paper). If possible, ask an artist or a student of art, architecture or design to bring in their portfolio; this will help convey the principle of a portfolio as a selection of a student’s work, showing progress in different areas or skills.

      It is also a good idea to show the students examples of English portfolios prepared by other classes, and, ideally, even a portfolio of your own (showing, for example, the development of your work with the class).

      It is worth directing students’ attention at this stage to the main aspect of portfolios, which is their use as an assessment tool. Try asking your students how they feel about tests; whether they always feel the test truly represents what they know and can do with the language (they invariably bring up plenty of problems with traditional tests). Then tell them you are going to assess them in a fairer way, which will show the many different skills, knowledge and ideas they have acquired.


      Inform the students how much weight the portfolio will have in their final grade and what it is going to replace (one or more of their tests, quizzes and/or projects). Other demands should be reduced accordingly.


      Don’t take on more than you can handle - start with one class, or even a few students in the class, then expand when you feel ready. (But be careful - portfolio assessment is addictive!)


      Don’t encourage the students to put extra items into the portfolio - it is quality that counts, not quantity, and the main point of portfolio assessment is the thoughtful selection of evidence of learning.


Specify what, and how much, has to be included in the portfolio - both core and options (it is important to include options as these enable self-expression and independence).


      Specify for each entry how it will be assessed. The students should be acquainted with the scoring guides/rating scales that will be used before performing the task.


      Portfolio entries can take many forms - written, audio and video-recorded items, artifacts (e.g., a T-shirt, an annotated drawing, a model), dialogue journals, etc.


       It is recommended to request a limited number of portfolio entries.

Give clear and detailed guidelines for portfolio presentation

Explain the need for:

§  clear and attractive presentation

§  dated drafts

§  attached reflections or comment cards  

        Explain how the portfolio will be graded 1.8) and when it needs to be Remember - unfamiliar ways of teaching and assessment are potentially threatening and confusing to students. It is important to present the portfolio guidelines clearly, and to go over the guidelines periodically. Although all the guidelines - goals, content, timetable, etc. should be presented to the class orally, so that they can discuss the procedure and ask questions, there should also be written guidelines to back-up the points discussed and for reference while preparing the portfolio. It is helpful to prepare these guidelines in question-and-answer. These can be written in the student’s mother tongue if necessary.

Portfolio Development Competencies


These competencies are presented as an addition to accepted teaching standards or content standards for students.

Below are the competencies

Teacher Competencies


  • Model all of student competencies PLUS:
  • Articulate the difference between assessment OF learning and assessment FOR learning
  • Implement classroom-based assessment FOR learning strategies
  • Provide specific and detailed feedback to learners about their learning
  • Support student reflection through modeling and research-based practices
  • Create an environment that facilitates students' deep learning

Student Competencies


  • Collect evidence of learning
  • Select specific evidence the demonstrates a particular outcome, goal or standard
  • Reflect metacognitively on learning represented in evidence, making a case that the artifacts constitute evidence of achievement
  • Make connections in their learning
  • Set goals for future learning


Deep Learning versus Surface Learning*

Attributes of Deep Learning

Attributes of Surface Learning

Learners relate ideas to previous knowledge and experience.

Learners treat the course as untelated bits of knowledge.

Learners look for patterns and unrelated principles.

Learners memorize facts and carry out procedures routinely.

Learners check evidence and relate it to conclusions.

Learners find difficulty in making sense of new ideas presented.

Learners examine logic and argument cautiously and critically.

Learners see little value or meaning in either courses or tasks.

Learners are aware of the understanding that develops while learning.

Learners study without reflecting on either purpose of strategy.

Learners become interested in the course content.

Learners feel undue pressure and worry about work.


Notify other interested parties

  Make sure that the school principal is aware of your new assessment procedures. It is also a good idea to inform parents about the portfolio assessment and allow them to comment on the work.