A portfolio is a record of students’ involvement in learning which is designed to demonstrate success, growth, higher-order thinking, creativity, assessment strategies and reflection. A portfolio is a celebration of an active mind at work. It provides a picture of each student’s progress and development over a period of time both as individual and group learners. It enables students to reflect with teachers, parents and peers in order to identify their strengths and growth as well as areas for improvement, and then to set individual goals and establish teaching and learning plans.

Evidence of learning in a portfolio should be from a range of experiences and curriculum areas. The portfolio is used to show the development of knowledge, conceptual understanding, transdisciplinary skills, attitudes and the attributes of the learner profile over a period of time. It may also be used to document student action. Portfolio entries should document both the process of learning and the product, including images and evidence of students in the process of constructing meaning. It can be used as a tool for assessment and reporting purposes for students, parents, teachers and administrators.

How does it work?

Things to consider are:
  • the criteria for selecting pieces of work
  • who will select the pieces of work
  • what will accompany the selected pieces of work (for example, self-assessment, reflections, assessment tools, teacher comments)
  • how to establish what is to be included and what will be removed
  • when and how portfolios are to be used (for reporting purposes, student-led conferences, parent–teacher interviews, report writing)
  • the format the portfolios will take (for example, electronic, binder, folder)
  • where the portfolios will be housed
  • who has access to the portfolios
  • who the portfolio ultimately belongs to
  • how the portfolios will move with the students


Student-led conferences involve the student and the parent. The students are responsible for leading the conference, and also take responsibility for their learning by sharing the process with their parents. It may involve students demonstrating their understanding through a variety of different learning situations. There may be several conferences taking place simultaneously. The conference will involve the students discussing and reflecting upon samples of work that they have previously chosen to share with their parents. These samples have been previously selected with guidance and support from the teacher, and could be from the student’s portfolio. The student identifies strengths and areas for improvement. It enables parents to gain a clear insight into the kind of work their child is doing and offers an opportunity for them to discuss it with their child. The conferences must be carefully prepared, and time must be set aside for the students to practise their presentations. The format of this conference will depend on the age of the student and all of the participants must understand the format and their roles prior to the conference.


Three-way conferences involve the student, parents and teacher. Students discuss their learning and understanding with their parents and teacher, who are responsible for supporting the student through this process. Students are responsible for reflecting upon work samples they have chosen to share, that have been previously selected with guidance and support from the teacher and could be from the student’s portfolio. The student, parents and the teacher collaborate to establish and identify the student’s strengths and areas for improvement. This may lead to the setting of new goals, with all determining how they can support the achievement of the goals. The teacher is an integral part of the process and takes notes of the discussion. These notes may then be used in the written report. All of the participants must understand the format and their roles prior to the conference.