Don't Start from Scratch: Guidelines & Resources for Developing E-Portfolios (post 3 of 4 in our e-portfolio series)

So let’s say you’re convinced that e-portfolios are in your future. Now what?! How do you begin? Think big, start small, and if you are alone in your efforts to implement e-portfolios, find others to support you such as a partner or an administrator. Research shows that it takes a team or strong leadership to effectively implement a program. Once your team is in place the planning can begin.

Guidelines to consider

Begin by asking a lot of questions of yourself and of other stakeholders that may be involved in supporting e-portfolio development over an extended period of time.

  • Step 1: Define or establish the purpose and objectives of the e-portfolio. What issues will they aim to address? What type of support will the learner need? What type of support will the teacher(s) need?
  • Step 2: Understand what kind of learning outcomes will be expected. E-portfolios offer real potential/benefits, but what are the implications for students? Teachers? The school? The district? The technology department? It’s important to make sure that portfolio content matches the assessment needs of stakeholders.
  • Step 3: Prepare for laying the groundwork with students. What will the e-portfolio guidelines include? Be realistic about your expectations; communicate the implementation strategies and timelines clearly and establish an understanding of the value of engaging in life-long learning and reflection. (More about student expectations below.)
  • Step 4: Engage all stakeholders. Identify the most effective strategies for engaging and sustaining the commitment of teachers, learners, and tech staff in supporting the use of e-portfolios.
  • Step 5: Implement the plan by identifying how e-portfolio use will be overseen and monitored for purposeful, ongoing use. What factors will influence the intended outcomes?
  • Step 6: Review how the tool will be used and evaluated over time. What evaluation methods will explore and produce reflective feedback from students? What methods of evaluation will explore and produce feedback from teachers?

What are student responsibilities in e-portfolio development?

In preparation for establishing guidelines with the students, consideration should be given to the following five steps inherent in the development of effective electronic portfolios:

  • Selection: the development of criteria for choosing items to include in the portfolio based on established learning objectives.
  • Collection: the gathering of items based on the portfolio's purpose, audience, future use, and requirements. Over the years, some of the work will need to be weeded out, but the artifacts that continue to show learning that has brought a person to the place they are now should be kept.
  • Reflection: statements reflecting on or explaining the significance of each item and how it illustrates mastery of a learning goal or standard.
  • Direction: looking ahead and setting future goals following a review of the reflections.
  • Connection: opportunities for feedback.

Will the e-portfolio be assessed?

If so, the criteria for assessment should be shared with the students. Many educational theories support the use of the portfolio as an assessment tool. While not required, assessment can be one way for students to receive purposeful and meaningful feedback from teachers, peers, and family members. Assessments that work well with e-portfolios are those that recognize a student’s individual strengths, abilities, experiences, and intelligences.

One of the best techniques for assessing work in a portfolio is the rubric. These assessment tools clarify teacher expectations by offering meaningful scoring criteria. Specific rubrics can be developed to fit individual projects. However, generic rubrics with predetermined criteria can be developed or found online to help students or evaluators in making assessments. Criteria could include such topics as: relevance of artifact, quality of information, reflection, organization, and use of multimedia.

See these two examples of rubrics:

Where else can information be found related to e-portfolio development?

Articles & Resources

There may be no better way to document learning over time than to begin when students are young! Below are several resources related to portfolios that can be adapted for use in an electronic portfolio.

How do you want students to use their e-portfolio? Here are several suggestions:

Other electronic portfolio resources:

Think about it . . .

  • What if schools or districts supported student-centered, e-portfolio implementation that would enable hundreds or thousands of students to examine and reflect on their learning across semesters, school years, courses, and disciplines?
  • How comfortable are you with constructivist teaching, a theory that promotes product-based outcomes in keeping with the e-portfolio format?

About the Author

In addition to being a wife, mother of three, and grandmother of eight, professionally Barbara Pace:

  • Teaches online courses in computers & curriculum for Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis
  • Has a Master's Degree in Curriculum & Design with an Emphasis on Technology from Indiana University
  • Is the Online Design Consultant for the Nursing Department at the University of Indianapolis