Kimeldorf Library Portfolio Library Martin Kimeldorf
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Planning and Design Guide

Using Portfolios to Celebrate Learning and Talents  


I wish to recognize the contribution of the following people who provided invaluable editorial assistance and consultation in the development of this manuscript:
  • Dr. Bernie Josefsberg
    (principal Pascack Hills High School Montvale, NJ)

  • Laura Horvath
    (Graduate Assistant at George Washington University)

  • Pam Mortillaro
    (high school teacher in Washington)

  • Judy Kimeldorf
    (middle school teacher in Washington)



  1. PREFACE  


    END PIECES   (Bibliography & Author Note)


This document is adapted from my Portfolio Design WORKSHOP. The workshop attempts to provide three valuable experiences. First, participants are given an opportunity to acquire a new confidence and expertise in portfolio instruction by conceptualizing how their own sample portfolio might look (learning by doing). The second major task involves thinking about specific skills which must be taught to students to help them develop successful portfolio habits and quality end products. The third part addresses planning programs and coursework which supports the production of portfolios.

While this document is not a substitute for taking the class or attending my workshop, people have reported that the exercises are very helpful. However, I need to point out that the workshop and several parts of this document are referenced to my workbook and teacher guide entitled Creating Portfolios For Success in School, Work, and Life. You may find that you will get more out of this document if you have a copy of these small volumes handy.

Creating Portfolios - Free Spirit Press
Amazon - Order Creating Portfolios
Teacher's Guide to Creating Portfolios - Order NOW from Amazon.
Amazon - Order the Teacher's Guide to Creating Portfolios

Some of the questions in this document deal with classroom planning and others explore school-wide or district-wide planning issues. Typical questions which we'll explore in this document include:

  • What should or could portfolios contain?
  • What do you want final portfolios to look like?
  • Do you want to grade individual portfolio samples, the entire portfolio? If so, who should be involved in the evaluation?
  • Who might you invite to become the audience for your student's portfolios?
  • How will portfolios be stored and accessed?
  • Will you choose to organize a portfolio celebration or presentation by students?
In this document, I will illustrate MY way of teaching portfolio skills. At times I'll present you with a list of options, and other times a suggested sequence of steps or skills. In fact, I'll end this document with suggestions for your very first lesson. I hope that by the end of this process, you'll be ready to begin a program.

You probably have some specific questions or you may be looking to find the "best" way to start a portfolio program. However, let me caution you before going on. While this document (and my books) include some fairly prescriptive methods, please realize that there is no "correct method" no "right answers" because there is no single way to make portfolios, no single way to use them for either instruction or evaluation. Please, consider my advice within the limits and possibilities of your situation.

Let me conclude with a few excerpts from one of my favorite books about portfolios, Portfolio Portraits by Donald H. Graves and Bonnie S. Sunstein:

In a few short years, states and school systems have moved from reading about portfolios to mandating them as evaluation instruments for large school populations...Early data show their use as a medium for instruction is more promising. We need to explore the many uses of portfolios (p.1)...Portfolios mean more than evaluation or assessment...Portfolios ought to be personal documents of our personal histories....As Jane Hansen likes to say, a portfolio ought to show who we are and who we want to be.   (p. xii)
If you do use this document, please write to me and let me know. I'm always interested where my works end up. Let me know if you found this document useful or if you have any suggestions. Be sure to let me know the URL of this document. And, if you have any questions, e-mail me at or send me a regular surface letter:

Martin Kimeldorf
6705 Gold Creek Drive SW
Tumwater, WA 98512
If you want a reply to surface mail, please include a self-addressed, stamped envelope.



I created my first portfolio in the mid 1970s for use in seeking employment as a technology instructor (Industrial Arts teacher). In those days, using a portfolio in a job hunt was a bit unique for people outside of the traditional portfolio-fields of arts and finance. During this same time, I also kept portfolios related to my wood sculpture and painting interests. In the early 1990s I assembled my third formal portfolio for painting exhibits in Oregon and Washington.

I now picture portfolios as members of an extended family of "personal documents" which includes journals, scrapbooks, resumes, and various types of portfolios. Over the years these types of personal documents have changed. There are new audiences and new formats and new ways of sharing information. This evolution is summarized in the following chart:

CHART:  Continuum Of Personal Documents

When I first started teaching English to special needs learners, I found that my favorite lesson was journal writing. This shocked some of my peers. I believe that my success in this endeavor was due to the fact that I had kept journals for over 25 years and in the first introductory lesson I brought in my own journals. I showed them pages with unsent letters, drawings, poetry, scribbles, doodles, scrawls of anger, pages with a single word in the center. My authentic interest in journals energized my class, and students responded very well to the assignments.

The principle of authenticity carries over into portfolio instruction. Donald Graves notes how surprised he was to find that administrators and teachers have never kept a portfolio. Perhaps this is why so many people believe that a portfolio is nothing more than a folder of graded work which is reviewed at the end of a grading period.

If on the other hand you create a portfolio about your own profession, leisure interests, or entire life you'll find that making a portfolio is very satisfying. You'll also come to realize that portfolio production involves much more than putting artifacts in a binder; it also requires, in the words of Don Graves, "tough thinking." For these reasons, I feel very strongly that teachers need to have produced a portfolio before they truly guide students in the task.

In preparation for a portfolio workshop, I recently updated three portfolios. Each one represented a different type. One portfolio was about my wood carving interests and it belongs to a genre I call "Personal Portfolios." The second used artifacts from my own 1960s high school experiences to illustrate a "School Portfolio" product. The last was an updated version of the original "Professional Portfolio" which I used in my first search for teaching jobs, almost 20 years ago.

I wrote away to a friend of mine who was writing some new books about careers and job finding. I described what a fly on the wall would have seen the night I went through my final assembly of the professional portfolios:

If you looked in, you would have seen me sitting at a hardwood dining table, my memorabilia spread before me--each sample tucked into plastic sheet protectors.

I'm sitting there gazing over the artifacts of my life, smoking a cigar, listening to Vivaldi's classic The Four Seasons, and sipping a glass of wine...

I am trying different ways to group my samples... arranging and re-arranging my personal history. A sense of the journey is stretched out before me, a feeling of satisfaction percolates through the task.

I concluded that portfolio production was a lot like preparing a resume, but lots more fun.... In fact, I hadn't experienced this much enjoyment in a project for some time. I went on to suggest to my colleague that the portfolio-making experience may prove very beneficial in the career assessment process. Heaven knows that we need to find ways of injecting the word "fun" into the lives of those looking for work in today's tough labor market.

In my workshops, we generally spend the morning discussing issues and this is followed by a period where people plan and assemble sample or actual portfolios. At the conclusion of the process we discuss how one might go about planning a portfolio program in the classroom or at any other level such as department or district-wide.

I think you will find your efforts and time well spent. To help you get started on making your own portfolio, do Exercise #1.



I must confess my bias right here. I feel that if we limit portfolios to large-scale assessment, then we may be verging on trivializing the entire portfolio experience. Evaluators will want to standardize portfolios in order to make comparisons easier between different classes or schools. As a result, the content will be standardized and the portfolio will tell a story more about schools and less about the individual students.

Instead, I wish to advocate for student-centered portfolios where the choice of what goes into the portfolio is the student's, or at the very least, it becomes a shared decision between teacher and student. Portfolios offer their greatest promise when they are used to help students engage in a meaningful self-assessment of their own talents, learning, goals, and accomplishments.

In the end, it is worth noting that the word "portfolio" simply refers to a portable book or holding device. In other words, let us continue to explore the different uses of portfolios and not limit the concept to assessment, or employability or any other singular dimension.

I think everyone has a story to tell, and a portfolio is an excellent way to package the story. For over two decades, I have enjoyed chronicling, celebrating, and summarizing my learning and talents in portfolios, resumes, and journals. I know kids will too. And, I believe that portfolios can greatly enhance the learning and evaluation experience embedded in the schooling process.



The first step is to review your preconceived notions of portfolios. This process begins with three lists wherein you outline possible samples you might include in a professional, personal, and high school portfolio. Then, you are asked to choose one of the three lists to guide you in making your own portfolio. As you review the process, you'll have a better sense of what it takes to make one, the skills you might use or teach, and the content that could prove meaningful.


This kind of portfolios is done "just for you." It's like a scrapbook of things that interest you... Perhaps a graduating student would want to create a "yearbook" type of portfolio to sum up the years of public school, an aspiring painter might like to collect photographs of favorite paintings and paint chips that show you which colors to mix. What do you think I included in my Personal Portfolio about wood carving?

I included guide sheets for sharpening various chisels, sketches of designs used by old masters, lists of wood stains and wood types, project sheets showing how to carve different items like anatomy or flowers, abstract designs, and personal notes about carving with mixed media. In other words, some things were models, others instructions, still others were simply ideas for future work. It became like another tool, sitting amidst the wood chips on my carving bench.

Think about an area of personal interest which you would enjoy chronicling in a scrapbook or portfolio. List seven to ten items or artifacts you might include in a portfolio.

  1.   ________________________________________________
  2.   ________________________________________________
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  10.   ________________________________________________


A professional or expert portfolio might be used in the search for a new employer or customers. Professional portfolios need to be well designed, carefully planned, and presented in an organized and aesthetically pleasing fashion.

Suppose the principal or your supervisor called you in and asked that you bring a portfolio of your current work. What would you include? What would a professional portfolio for your job look like? Assume it would be reviewed by peers and supervisors. What would you want to include?

Do any of the following experiences suggest themselves to you:

  1. Your most successful lessons, as measured by student grades.
  2. Your most satisfying lessons as measured by either your gut feeling, or lessons that went smoothly as planned.
  3. Your best lesson based on its popularity with students.
  4. Lessons you liked, but didn't work, and you want to revise. Or your most difficult lesson.
  5. A lesson that might lead to a product for a portfolio.
  6. What about your professional contributions beyond your normal work hours or duties? Do you participate in organizations, volunteer time, sit on advisory boards, attend conferences, train or mentor others, belong to professional organizations?
  7. Could you find samples related to classroom discipline and expectations or working with families and community agencies.
  8. Finally, do you have examples which illustrate how you remain in touch with current teaching practices or new trends? Could you include samples which show your commitment to your own life long learning?
List seven to ten things you might include in a professional portfolio.
  1.   ________________________________________________
  2.   ________________________________________________
  3.   ________________________________________________
  4.   ________________________________________________
  5.   ________________________________________________
  6.   ________________________________________________
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  8.   ________________________________________________
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  10.   ________________________________________________


The primary purpose of a student portfolio is to demonstrate what has been learned in a given class or across a certain part of your school career. Your portfolio might include samples of a process or procedure you have mastered, an effort you have made, or specific knowledge or skills you have acquired. Consider the following examples.

Think back to when you were the age of your students. What examples might you be able to include? Visualize what you have stashed away in old scrapbooks, yearbooks, or attics.

Think next about students in your school. Consider what students do in your class and in the school in general. What kinds of general learning experiences should be documented. For instance, do you want examples of cooperative behavior, critical thinking, goal setting, study skills? What about unfinished or rough samples which show how a student improved a product by re-working or revising it? Will you want portfolios to include examples of contributions to the school or community and demonstrations of citizenship or leadership?

Many kids do their most energetic learning outside of school. It might include independent-study about a sport, music, hobby, computers, animals, you name it. Likewise, some of their finest examples of applying knowledge might come from participating in church, scouts, art or music groups. Will there be an opportunity to demonstrate responsibility through work inside or outside the home. Some students regularly demonstrate responsibility at home, pitching in or even playing the role of a surrogate parent, while others hold down part-time jobs.

List seven to ten things you might want to include in a student portfolio today at your school. Alternately, you could list samples from your past, when you were the same age as your students.

  1.   ________________________________________________
  2.   ________________________________________________
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Choose from one of the three previous lists (Personal, Professional, or Student Portfolios) the kind of portfolio you might try next. As an alternative, you can create a portfolio for a symbolic student who represents the kinds of kids you teach today. The resulting portfolio could be used as a sample in your first portfolio lesson. The sample will heighten the credibility of the lesson.

Spend a weekend reviewing your old clippings, report cards, photos, year books, college papers, certificates, awards, and other historical doo-dads. Look through old folders, range through the attic or basement, and don't forget boxes in the garage. Then, assemble your momentoes in a portfolio-type-scrapbook. This process will also help you appreciate the complexity of the challenge. You'll gain a new confidence in teaching portfolio making skills.

Your portfolio should include the following three elements:

  1. Front Matter includes an introduction and table, acknowledgment, and a table of contents. The table of contents must reflect some kind of organizational scheme. Many people simply organize items chronologically. Others will prefer to group the samples by type of skill or experience. Still others will organize items by common threads of experience or themes in their life. The introduction tells the reader something about the author and gives a brief overview highlighting for the reader the most important things to be found in the portfolio.

  2. Middle Part contains from 5 to 15 samples or artifacts. Each page should include a title, the actual sample or artifact, and some commentary or caption which gives additional detail. If you don't have room on each page for all of this, just put a title by each sample. Then place a title page and background or introductory material before each group of similar samples.

  3. Back matter summarizes the portfolio experience. It often tells what you learned about yourself in the process of creating the portfolio. This piece is optional in Professional Portfolios.


We ask students to reflect upon their experiences, to tell us why they have chosen to include certain samples in their portfolio. At this point, you are asked to consider what portfolio-making has meant to you. Answer any or all of the following questions briefly.
  1. What aspect of making a portfolio did you enjoy? How did you feel when you were done? If you did not enjoy it, tell why. If your attitude about portfolios changed, tell how.
  2. Who might you share your portfolio with; who might be interested in seeing it?
  3. What skills did you use to make the product? For example, did you use skills related to desktop publishing or design, archiving and sorting, analyzing, writing, goal setting, etc.?
  4. What do you think is the value of making a portfolio?
  5. What do you think might be the benefits of using a portfolio in your class or school?
  6. What skills might you want to teach students who are being asked to prepare a quality portfolio?


We have defined a Personal, Professional, and School based Portfolio. What is your definition? (To help you think broadly about the topic, additional information is provided from the dictionary, an NEA portfolio book, and my own book.)
  1. TRADITIONAL, DICTIONARY-based definition (MacMillan and Webster)
    Port- to move   Folio- papers  
    A portable case for holding loose papers, drawings, documents and similar materials.

  2. SCHOOL BASED Portfolios (Taken from the NEA book Student Portfolios) A record of learning that focuses on a student's work and often on his or her reflection on that work. Materials may be collected by the student or in collaboration with teachers, parents, and others.
    1. Literacy portfolio--focuses on literacy or language progress
    2. Descriptive portfolio--demonstrates various skills a student can do, but does not attempt to evaluate the work according to set criteria.
    3. Showcase portfolio--record of learning that shows or celebrates the work a student has completed. The student selects what goes into the portfolio. No evaluation takes place.
    4. Evaluative Portfolio--Every sample (and the entire portfolio) is subject to evaluation.

  3. KIMELDORF LIFE-STORY--The emphasis is on creating a portfolio which highlights your achievements, contributions, passions, and interests.

    A portfolio is a collection of samples that communicate your interests and give evidence of your talents. You use your portfolio to show others what you have learned, accomplished, or produced. You can think of your portfolio as a special-purpose autobiography.

    There is no one "right" way to build a portfolio. In the past, most portfolios came in binders, leather carrying cases, or scrapbooks. They might have been accompanied by boxes to hold objects. Today you might include computer disks, multimedia CD-ROMs, videos, and audio recordings.

On the following lines, write your definition, as you understand the word "portfolio" at this time.



I have seen two general results in classroom portfolio projects as represented in the stories of Clyde and Matilda.

Clyde never made it to the portfolio in-service, but he did pick up the hand-outs. He told his class that they needed to collect their work and make a portfolio at the end of the term. Every so often he'd write on a returned paper "put in your portfolio." As midterm approached many students had fewer than ten samples, and they asked for examples of things they might include. Clyde suggested that they look for examples that represented their best work, critical thinking, and a learning goal. At the end of the term, three days before the parent conferences, students began to assemble their final portfolios. Most kids had collected material from Clyde's class. Several folders appeared skimpy, or simply contained returned, graded papers. During a typical conference, when asked why a paper was included, they usually replied, "I got my best grade on this paper."

Clyde's approach is not the recommended one because his students were not challenged to think creatively nor critically about their learning, their lives, or their accomplishments. They simply performed a clerical task of storing and retrieving documents. Clyde employed what I call the folder-mentality portfolio.

Matilda began differently. She brought in a sample of her own portfolio. She asked kids to guess what was in it. She got across the idea that a portfolio is like an autobiography or resume. She asked her students to collect the following samples: an example of a challenge you had to face, a paper you had to revise or re-work to get a good grade, proof that you help others, and three samples of work from her class which represent learning a new skill, and at least one example of learning or achievement outside of school.

She found that even these initial directions were not enough. Students wanted examples of what they could collect to show a challenge they had faced. The class talked and then created lists of typical problems or challenges students faced in the social sphere (friends, peers, and family), academic (grades, deadlines, competition, testing), and the physical arena (sports, dieting, acne, fitness, addiction). Eventually, they made the connection to personal challenges they had faced (like illness, bravery, being lost, rejecting peer pressure, handling tough assignments, physical labor or jobs, etc.).

Students had to turn in two samples each week to earn points towards the total portfolio grade. In the fifth week students were shown how to analyze their samples. They were asked to put them into groups according to type of skill shown. Students would analyze if a given sample showed they had demonstrated a skill working mostly with people, information, or things. In the sixth week each student selected final samples and wrote an outline. From here they practiced writing descriptions of the sample, drafted introductions, and wrote in their journal about each sample. Finally, everything came together. The teacher let each student type captions and titles on a computer which were laser printed and pasted onto plastic sheet protectors. Decorated covers came next. During the conferences students spoke with enthusiasm about their efforts to construct a portfolio. They explained how each sample demonstrated a skill, challenge or contribution. They told what each sample had meant to them personally and they ended by stating goals for either careers or learning. Students found they could re-use their outlines to guide their oral presentations during the parent-school conference week.

Matilda recognized that she had to model certain behaviors, teach skills, edit, and interact with students. Her story is my way of briefly illustrating the sequence of skills which I have put into my student workbook Creating Portfolios For Success in School, Work, and Life. This sequence will now be reviewed, with each step referenced to a specific set of pages. If you have a copy of the book, you will be able to find each step illustrated in greater detail. The teacher guide also includes additional examples and suggestions.


To set the stage for the learner, you need to plant the seed of possibilities. I suggest reviewing the different kinds of people who would benefit from or enjoy making a portfolio. For instance, why would an athlete want to make a portfolio? Then I ask the class what the athlete might put in one.

Next, it is critical to help students begin assessing their own interests and accomplishments. This is like resume writing and as you might recall, it is not an easy step, but it is crucial. Again, my student workbook contains several prompts or questions which help students identify their proudest moments or their passions.

With a sense of purpose and a sense of self established, you can then add the specific items you would like to have included from your course. It is at this point where you need to inject specific requirements for your student's portfolio. Please try to balance your requirements against the opportunity of letting the student select what is important to him or her. Keep in mind that the most powerful portfolio includes examples from both inside and outside of school.

Examples of the types of things that could be included in a portfolio can be found in the workbook on pages 20-21.

Questions which help students examine their own talents can be found on pages 23-29.

The opportunity to spell out specific class requirements is found on pages 14-17.

In addition, it will be helpful to cover the expectations of their potential audience. Teachers are advised to think this out in advance.


The habit of collecting and archiving samples needs to be modeled and practiced. I recommend asking students to turn in a weekly log (as shown on pages 30-34).


With the samples collected in a working folder, students next select their final samples for inclusion in their final portfolio. This is a good time to ask kids to think about criteria which will be used in judging the final product. First, examine your potential audience and their expectations (see pages 37-38). Second, consider the grading criteria (pages 38-39) and finally consider the common skills or traits in your samples (pages 40-42).


With samples analyzed and selected, the task turns to sequencing or ordering the samples. This is an organizational activity. Writing an outline serves this purpose (and is illustrated on pages 45 to 50).


The most common form of publishing is a printed or hard-copy document, though portfolios can be organized as displays or embedded in electronic media. Regardless of the final form or medium, some kind of written outline or plan forms the foundation for the final portfolio product. One must decide upon supporting information such as titles and descriptions of samples which often take the form of captions. (This process is illustrated on pages 51 to 60.)

The last step in publishing results in producing front and back matter. Front matter includes a title, introduction, acknowledgment, table of contents. Back matter includes concluding materials which engage the student in self-evaluation and/or goal setting and reflection. (Pages 61 to 67 cover these skills.)


If you want students to orally present their portfolio they'll need to think about the skills or preparation that goes into a presentation. (This is covered a bit on pages 69 to 71.) Alternately, one could simply display portfolios or add a celebration into the agenda.



Now we'll examine a set of questions which will help you define exactly what you want your portfolio program to look like. These questions can help you summarize your current thoughts about establishing or refining a portfolio program where you teach or work. After each question you'll find some examples or prompts, but please don't feel limited to these options.


Where do you think student portfolio samples should come from? Look over the following examples for ideas.
  1. Your classroom and curriculum.
  2. Your discipline, department or block program.
  3. School wide.
  4. Outside of school.
  5. Other _______________________________________


Are there any outside boundaries defining the limits of an acceptable sample? Do you want only samples which show the student's best work, proudest moments, or highest performance? Alternately, can you consider rough drafts, "works in progress," beginning attempts, corrected work, experimental work? Will you allow self-graded work or ungraded work from school? (Obviously if you allow items outside of school, grades are not a question).


Can you think of the general types of samples you would like students to include in their portfolios? (You need not be specific here because the next question will ask you to list any specific lessons or learning samples you want included.) In this question think of the general traits you hope students will include in their portfolios. This might include traits related to work habits, citizenship, community, life-long learning, critical thinking, computing, etc.


Do you have a specific sample or item you want to see in each student's portfolio? This is the time to prescribe specific assignments or types of work.


Who should design the portfolio program? First make a list of all the people you could invite. Then reduce this list to manageable number (typically less than ten people). People to consider include:

  1. Classroom teacher
  2. Team of practitioners (department, committee, block group) school wide
  3. Team of practitioners district wide
  4. Administrators
  5. Students
  6. Families
  7. Community representatives
  8. Employers
  9. College and post-secondary training staff
  10. State education agency


Will you ask your students to share or present their portfolios? If you answer "yes," who would you like to invite to see the student portfolios? A list of suggestions is found next.

  1. Student creator and teacher.
  2. Peers.
  3. Guardians.
  4. Other teachers in your discipline.
  5. Other teachers outside your discipline.
  6. Future or next year's teachers (high school, college, training programs).
  7. Administrators.
  8. Employers.
  9. Community representatives (ad hoc or from agencies and enterprises).
  10. People invited by the student.


How do you want to involve your audience in the process? What do you want them to do?

  1. Listen to students
  2. Advise students
  3. Grade and evaluate portfolios or the presentations
  4. Ask questions and offer praise
  5. Other _________________________________


How will you grade the portfolio effort? Some options to consider include:

  1. The entire product will be graded using a rubric spelling out criteria for appearance and completeness.
  2. Selected samples will be graded individually
  3. Specific skills will be graded using a rubric or other pre-determined standard
  4. It will not be graded
  5. The student's self-evaluation will be graded for accuracy by comparing it to a second evaluator's score for a matching validity.
  6. Other _________________________________


Do you want to give one all-or-nothing grade at the end, or use Matilda's process of grading in progressive steps towards completion (e.g., earning points along the way for turning in 10 working samples, completing an outline, creating the entire package, making a presentation, etc.)


Publishers establish aesthetic standards for their books, and as a result, their products are recognized or associated with a certain "look and feel." Similarly, a portfolio may appear more aesthetically pleasing if the product has a consistent or unified look. Otherwise, it may appear as a hodge-podge collection. You must address the question of appearance early on. Just like a publisher, you might want your school's portfolios to share a similar style or "look and feel." Alternately, you must weigh this against the point of view states that all portfolios should be unique both in content and appearance. Begin by establishing a minimum set of elements for each portfolio. Look at the following list and consider which items are minimally needed.
  1. Cover
  2. Title page
  3. Acknowledgments
  4. Table of contents
  5. Introduction or overview
  6. Page number or other navigating system for accessing samples.
  7. Conclusion or reflection statement.


What about individual portfolio samples, should they have a unified style or common look? Are there certain things you want included in each sample? What must minimally accompany each sample?
  1. Title
  2. Captions
  3. Student evaluation of the sample's value or purpose
  4. Other _________________________________


How often should students be expected to archive materials or add to their portfolio?
  1. Weekly.
  2. Monthly.
  3. Quarterly.
  4. Yearly.
  5. Other _________________________________


Who will have access to portfolios?
  1. Students
  2. Teachers
  3. Administrators
  4. Family
  5. Other _________________________________


Who is responsible for storing portfolios? Where will this be done?
  1. Students
  2. Teachers
  3. Administrators
  4. Family
  5. Other _________________________________


When will students work on their portfolios?
  1. In a specific class like __________________________ (e.g., English).
  2. In a block class like __________________________ .
  3. During a special activity or advisory period like _______________________ .
  4. Totally outside of school.


How much time should students be given to work on their portfolio in school?
  1. One period or hour per day.
  2. One period or hour per week.
  3. One period or hour per month.
  4. Other _________________________________


What kind of culminating event would you like to see?
  1. Parent and teacher conference
  2. Peers or class review
  3. Family evaluation
  4. Review committee (chosen by school).
  5. Review committee (chosen by student).
  6. Review committee (chosen by ______________________)
  7. Presentation and celebration.


When could portfolios be shared, evaluated, and presented?
  1. After school.
  2. During teacher prep periods?
  3. Special days where school closes down and conferences are scheduled?
  4. Other _________________________________



This is your chance to do some strategic planning, analyzing debits or obstacles and benefits. As a result, you'll be able to develop a rational or proposal for more resources, times, or training to support the planning, design, and coordination of your portfolio program. This is an important step if you are planning anything beyond a single classroom or single discipline such as a school-wide portfolio program.


Every new undertaking has obstacles or challenges. List issues or problems which you feel might come up, or which need to be addressed. A sample list of thorny issues follows (see items labeled a to d). Look over the list and try to identify 3 to 5 of the most important challenges or issues which must be addressed. After you review the three groups shown next (a to c) underline the three to five most pressing challenges you will face. Put them in order of difficulty. Starting with the least difficult challenge, get input from others or brainstorm alternatives for each problem. This does not mean you have to solve the issue, only that you need to be able to pose the problem and begin investigating your creative options or work-arounds.
  1. Leadership & Time Issues
    • The program needs to have a leader or coordinator who is given some time off from classroom duties to get our portfolio project off the ground.
    • We do not have a clear place in our current curriculum or schedule where portfolio making skills will be taught.
    • We need an alternative schedule or some special non-teaching days which allow community people to participate in portfolio presentations. We need an alternative schedule or some special non-teaching days which allow us to community people participate in portfolio presentations. We can't teach and host presentations at the same time.
    • We need time to evaluate portfolios, especially if we involve a team.
    • We are experiencing resistance or reactions to the "mandating" of portfolios.
    • We are not getting support from _________________.

  2. Assessment issues
    • There is not enough time to assess portfolios. We need time to more clearly define what should go in portfolios as a team/school/department/district.
    • We need to establish criteria if we are going to grade or compare portfolios.
    • Parents, colleges, or the school district want hard data like standardized scores. This limits portfolios as a means of evaluation. Therefore, we need to consider ______________.

  3. Technique, logistics and confidence issues
    • We feel that we need from more training or technical assistance.
    • We would like to team teach portfolios as we build our expertise.
    • We are still feel a bit unsure about the details pertaining to the "how, where, who" of storage.


In the end, what do you hope will be the final benefits of your portfolio program? Some examples are listed next.

  1. Reinforces instruction and learning.
  2. Makes evaluation more meaningful.
  3. Helps students develop school or career goals.
  4. Showcases student talents.
  5. Promotes self-evaluation and self-awareness.
  6. Promotes creativity, self-expression.
  7. Encourages critical thinking.
  8. Recognizes learning outside of school.
  9. Links learning to "real world" activities.
  10. Satisfies a mandate.



If you are a teacher, and if you get this far in this document, then you are probably ready to consider the scope and sequence of future portfolio lessons.


What might be a general sequence of portfolio lessons you'd like to follow? If you work with teaching staffs describe the process you will use to create a portfolio system. (This general list should include about 10 to 15 steps). You might want to review the skills listed in "EXERCISE 2--WHAT GENERAL PORTFOLIO SKILLS DO WE NEED TO TEACH?."

  1.   ________________________________________________
  2.   ________________________________________________
  3.   ________________________________________________
  4.   ________________________________________________
  5.   ________________________________________________
  6.   ________________________________________________
  7.   ________________________________________________
  8.   ________________________________________________
  9.   ________________________________________________
  10.   ________________________________________________
  11.   ________________________________________________
  12.   ________________________________________________


What would you do for your first lesson or sessions? How will you introduce the topic? (Will you use your own portfolio? What will you tell students? What activity might you use?) Three recommended activities are included.

  1. Discuss the different reasons why people keep portfolios.
    (See pages 10 to 11 in the student workbook)
  2. Demonstrate what a portfolio could look like.
    Show your samples or those of other students.
    Just show the title or cover and ask people to guess what is inside.
  3. Spell out any specific samples you will want included in the portfolio.
  4.   ______________________________________________________
  5.   ______________________________________________________
  6.   ______________________________________________________
  7.   ______________________________________________________
  8.   ______________________________________________________


END PIECES (Bibliography & Author Note)  

Articles and monographs by Judith A. Arter: "Using Portfolios of Student Work in Instruction and Assessment," Educational Measurement: Issues and Practice, Spring 1992, pp. 36-44. "Portfolio Resources" (an annotated bibliography of information about portfolios), Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory, 101 S.W. Main, Suite 500, Portland, OR 97204.

Career-Technical Assessment Project (C-TAP) Portfolio Guidebooks (San Francisco: Far West Laboratory for Educational Research and Development. 1994). Together this student-and-teacher guidebook and teacher's guide form a comprehensive program which can be used by teachers and schools to help develop a portfolio-assessment system which demonstrates how student's talents translate into career and work world realities. Copies are available at a nominal price. Write to: Far West Laboratory for Educational Research and Development, California Department of Education, 730 Harrison St., San Francisco, CA 94107.

How To Prepare Your Portfolio by Ed Marquand (New York: Art Direction Book Company, 1981). Originally written for students and artists. Although it emphasizes pre-desktop technology, it includes many good tips about organization and assembly.

Portfolio News. A quarterly publication that includes articles about portfolios in various disciplines (Elementary through University), book reviews, resources, and listings of portfolio projects around the country. For subscription information, write to: Editor, Portfolio News, Teacher Ed-UC at San Diego, 9500 Gilman Dr, La Jolla, CA 92093-0070

Portfolio Portraits by Donald H. Graves and Bonnie S. Sunstein (Portsmouth, NH. Heinemann Educational Books Inc., 1992). Covers a wide range of portfolio issues and topics; examines classroom practices from elementary school through college; includes individual case studies and an interesting chapter about definitions of the word "portfolio." The opening essay by Donald H. Graves is must reading.

Process and Portfolios in Writing Instruction, edited by Kent Gill, and Portfolios in the Classroom, edited by Kathleen Yancy (Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English, 1993). Compilations of ideas from various teachers about using portfolios in the classroom; different models; types of assessments; and the connection between portfolios and good writing.

Creating Portfolios For Success in School, Work, and LifeOrder from Amazon; Teacher's Guide to Creating PortfoliosOrder from Amazon. Martin Kimeldorf. Free Spirit Publishing Inc., 400 First Avenue North, Suite 616, Minneapolis, MN 55401-1730, or call 1-800-735-7323.

Portfolio Power : The New Way to Showcase All Your Job Skills and ExperiencesOrder from Amazon. Petersons. This book is intended for an adult audience serving new graduates to professionals with much work experience. Petersons, Princeton, NJ. 1-800-225-0261.

The ScrapBook Curriculum ToolKit by Emery Roth II. A carefully indexed, 70-page reference book describing the online "ScrapBook Writing Project" The work is richly illustrated with numerous examples of students' writings and teacher observations. This book is now being transformed into a new format on the Web. For information about this project and the latest creative meanderings of Emery Roth contact him at

Student Portfolios by Laura Grosvenor, et al. (Washington, DC: National Education Association, 1993). The first in a new series of NEA Teacher-to-Teacher Books, published by the NEA Professional Library, presents six first-person stories of classroom teachers using portfolios for both presentation and alternative assessment.

The Walkabout Papers: Challenging Students to Challenge Themselves by Dr. Maurice Gibbons (Vancouver, BC: EduServe Inc., 1990). Describes the "challenge" method of education wherein students develop expertise and confidence in the pursuit of a personally chosen challenge.

What Color Is Your Parachute? by Richard Bolles (Berkeley, CA: Ten Speed Press, revised yearly). The best selling (and best) book on the topic of "parachuting" onto your best career path. Must reading if you want students to include occupational or career samples in their portfolios.

Write Into a Job by Martin Kimeldorf (Bloomington, IL: Meridian Education Corp., 1990). This book on resume writing is a natural follow-up to portfolio production.



Community Service Learning Packet is a 30-page booklet designed to help students identify the benefits of volunteering, assess their community service interests, and develop a personal vision of how they can make a difference. The material is based on the author's research about youth service in Washington State as reported in Imagine...Youth Service. For more information, write to the author c/o Free Spirit Publishing Inc., 400 First Avenue North, Suite 616, Minneapolis, MN 55401-1730.

Educator's Job Search is a quick-and-easy, step-by-step method for job-hunting teachers. The steps and examples illustrate how to identify marketable skills, network for leads, write effective rsums and letters, prepare for interviews, plan effective follow-up, and more. Write to: National Education Association. 1201 16th St. N.W., Washington, DC 20036.

Expanding Work Opportunities is a series of three mini-workbooks which helps young people explore and identify their talents in three different areas: finding neighborhood employment (grades 6-9), introduction to volunteer service (grades 7-12), and an exploration of entrepreneurship (grades 9-12). Write to: Educational Design, 345 Hudson St, NYC, NY 10014.

Job Search Education effectively translates the self-directed job club model into a classroom-tested curriculum. Includes detailed instructions about all phases of job finding: self-assessment, networking, writing letters, collecting important documents, telephoning for job leads, interviewing, etc. Write to: Educational Design, 47 W. 13th, New York, NY 10011.

Looking for Leisure in All the Right Places is a workbook about expanding leisure opportunities. It helps students focus on healthy choices in a world plagued by drug abuse, unsafe sex, gang affiliation, teen suicide and alienation. After teaching students about the dangers of poor choices, we need to help them discover what they can say "yes" to.

Work Journal helps students sharpen their critical observation and reflective-thinking habits about the success factors needed on a job. Students analyze employers' personalities and evaluation roles, coworker relationships, stress and humor on the job, and various job survival tactics. Write to: EBSCO Curriculum Materials, Box 1943, Birmingham, AL 35201.

Exciting Writing, Successful Speaking: Activities to Make Language Come Alive and A Teacher's Guide to Exciting Writing, Successful Speaking (both Free Spirit Publishing, 1994) explores various applications of writing and speaking including cooperative learning projects, creative visualizations, poetry games, theater games, script writing, journal writing, short report writing, designing surveys, advertising, speechmaking, newsletter publishing, and student-oriented composition topics. Available from Kids In Between 1-800-481-2799.



Martin Kimeldorf is the author of over 15 books and reports on the topics of job finding, leisure finding, community service, journal writing, and recreational drama, and portfolios. He holds Bachelor of Science degrees in technology education and in liberal arts from Oregon State University and a Master's Degree in special education from Portland State University. He has taught in public schools, prisons, and colleges. He received the Literati Award from the International Journal of Career Management for Best Paper of the Year and has won other awards for teaching and playwriting. His hobbies include wood carving, painting, and magic. Martin lives with his wife, Judy, and their dog, Mitzi, in Tumwater, Washington.



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