Journey North Assessment
Strategies and Tools

Student Portfolios

A portfolio is a collection of student products and reflections gathered over the course of Journey North studies. It typically features work samples that show the range and progress of student thinking, understanding, and problem-solving abilities. A portfolio can be a powerful instrument for encouraging students to become more independent self-directed learners.

Both you and your students can select items to include in the portfolio; be sure to offer a rationale for why to include each item. Ask yourselves, How can this help show growth and progress toward learning goals (in science math, geography, and so on)?

Possible portfolio items:

  • concept maps or KWL charts
  • initial predictions and revised predictions along with explanations for the revision.
  • self-assessment responses
  • responses to journaling and challenge questions
  • research notes
  • charts, graphs, and analysis of data
  • drawings, migration maps
  • firsthand observations
  • examples of student work/recording sheets
  • summaries of ideas and opinions on issues that have been explored
  • definitions, concepts, and problem-solving processes written in the students' own words

Tip on using portfolios for assessment:

  • Keep portfolios in the classroom and have students note the entry date of each document placed in it. If a document is a product of group work, list the names of all group members.

  • Have students explain what portfolio items reveal. Consider these options:

    1.) each student chooses one portfolio item (or a “before” and “after” item) that shows evidence of his or her progress toward learning goals (e.g., ability to make sense of graphs, understanding of how adaptations help animals survive).

    2.) Students put a sticky note on each portfolio item explaining what it reveals about their thinking, skills, and progress toward learning goals.

    3.) Students write a cover letter or annotated list describing the portfolios contents, why individual items were selected, and what the portfolio reveals about their thinking, skills, and progress toward learning goals.

  • Invite each student to give you a tour through his or her portfolio. Ask questions that prompt thinking and responses about their progress toward learning goals.

  • Use checklists, rubrics, or informal notes as you read portfolios or discuss them with students to assess what the collections reveal about students’ progress toward learning goals.
  • Have students design and create their own portfolios. See Student Portfolios as Visual Organizers for Journey North for guidance on making creative portfolios with your students.