Blog Post

TALECS: Everything You Need to Know About Portfolios


Lessons Learned from the TALECS Initiative: Part Four


Teacher sitting next to a student helping her with an assignment

In our last post, we discussed how to get started with a teacher journal. In this post we'll discuss portfolios as another type of formative assessment. 

Formative Assessment: Portfolios
Many CS teachers want to find out in greater depth what their students are learning. They want to know how their students are learning in addition to measuring how much they are learning. Portfolios can be a great way to capture rich portraits of student growth. Essential to students making good portfolios is a plan that you create.

What Makes a Portfolio Good for Formative Assessment?
A portfolio may simply be a collection of a student’s work. We heard from teachers that with all the different digital tools and media students use over the course of a CS course, it’s a must to have a system for helping students keep track of all their work. Even a Google folder or individual web page for each student can be effective. 

But a portfolio should be more than a folder full of projects: it should be a purposeful collection to use formatively to capture students’ growth over time, portray the range of students’ accomplishments, and/or get students to reflect on their own learning and accomplishments. 

How to Create a Portfolio Plan
In order to make a portfolio for these purposes, it’s helpful to start by making a plan that includes the following:  

  1. The learning goals you want the portfolio to address. You might write one overarching learning goal and then break it down into subgoals. 

  2. A targeted list of assignments and products. The list should include the name of the assignment and also the learning goal/s it addresses. This is where your portfolio plan differentiates this portofolio from a mere collection. Once you make this list, you should backwards map to make sure the assignments cover all the learning goals you’ve selected. 

  3. Rubrics. Rubrics might provide scores that can be used for grades, but they are also a place to set expectations for students’ work and record your insights and theirs on what they have learned. 

What Teachers Say 
One teacher built in portfolio-style reflections into her everyday instruction, which makes a lot of sense in an inquiry oriented classroom: “Inquiry is embedded in the task of creating a webpage and answering reflection questions. By having students explain how they created their webpage and how they would find the code they needed. There is an opportunity for inquiry in essentially every classroom task, even if the students are not being asked to produce original material. Inquiry is a key habit of mind that should not be reserved for formal assessment. It's easy to infuse inquiry throughout the daily lessons with the journal entries or just pausing and asking students to think about their learning.”

Try it Out!
Take a look at the sample portfolio plan here. Try writing one of your own for a unit or concept you will be teaching soon. 

TALECS, SRI Education and CS for All Teachers Logos


NOTE: SRI Education, in partnership with the American Institutes for Research and our CS for All Teachers community, implemented the TALECS virtual professional development (PD) project from 2017-19 with funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) under contract number CNS-1640237. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.