Student-Centred Learning Approaches: Portfolios

Last night I read an article by Theresa GIlliard-Cook on the use of portfolios in the classroom as an approach to student-centred learning, Authentic Learning: Developing a Student-Centred Classroom Through Portfolios. 

I am always looking for new ways to present materials to students, and creative ways to evaluate learning. I teach several business communications courses in my department – outcomes of these courses relate to preparing students for employment and includes preparing a resume and preparing for job interviews, but they also learn how to write important business documents. These business documents include things like response letters to guest praise and complaint letters, memos, meeting minutes, proposals and reports, and business presentations. I have observed that many students in my program do not have previous work experience, and have a tendency to say that they “don’t have experience” when preparing for co-op interviews; this is not true as they’ve been studying industry practices in college for at least eight months. Having a portfolio of professional documents can be a major asset for an employer to review when a student lacks *paid* work experience, but may still be capable and excel at any particular job.

What I liked best about the article, was that it was not simply advocating for portfolios but the necessity of the student to evaluate their own work. In the context in which I would like to use portfolios, the students will not only need to evaluate their own work, but they will need to be able to explain the importance of each document type included and what they are doing to continue to develop their skills in that particular area.

The article does an excellent job of putting into perspective for instructors what students need to create and value this  learner-centred approach: purpose, audience, method, content, dispersion, work-plan, & evaluation. This was a “lightbulb” moment for me when reading this. Students really need these things to value what they’re learning. I’m looking forward to employing portfolios in my BCOMM courses.

While the article demonstrates benefits of portfolios, and how to effectively use them, it does not discuss any of the potential challenges of using portfolios. Has anyone come across any challenges when requiring a portfolio for a course requirement?


One thought on “Student-Centred Learning Approaches: Portfolios

  1. I think Portfolios can be a great resource for students especially for those with no practical work experience. They can use the Portfolio including completed work to show their potential employer their capabilities. I just completed a course where a Portfolio was required. Our Portfolio was to be created online which did pose a challenge for some students who were not familiar with technology. Their portfolios were not as “Pretty” as the more technologically experienced students which can also be misleading for potential employers. Just because someone is great with making things look good on the internet it doesn’t necessarily mean they are best at what the job requires. The pros of having one online is that is can be modified as students progress through their career. If paper Portfolios are required information parts can easily be misplaced throughout the year.


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