Back to navigation  | Flash site | About this site
Portfolios: Research and Resources

Portfolios: Research and Resources

Using a purposeful collection of student work and student reflection upon that work to stimulate critical thinking


Portfolio-based Learning and Assessment - UK Center for Legal Education

A ‘teaching resource note’ that organizes a great deal of useful advice about learning portfolios into an easy-to-navigate list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs).  Though written for Law professors, its practical advice is applicable across disciplines.

Portfolio Assessment - Prince George’s County

A collection of pages providing an overview of different kinds of portfolios, how the process of portfolio assessment unfolds and how to get started thinking about portfolios.

Electronic Portfolios - Dr. Helen Barrett

Maintained by a long-time proponent of ePortfolios, this website presents an overview of the many tools one can use for ePortfolios, an extensive reference and resource list, and even copies of powerpoint presentations that Dr. Barrett gives about different aspects of ePortfolios.


Cambridge, D., Cambridge, B. & Yancey, K.B. (Eds.), (2009). Electronic portfolios 2.0: Emerging practices in student, faculty, and institutional learning.  Sterling, VA: Stylus.

Though focused specifically on e-portfolios specifically, this book contains excellent discussion of the portfolio assessment method itself, as well as practical advice for how to implement it in electronic form.

Palomba, C., & Banta, T. (1999). Assessment essentials: Planning, implementing, and improving assessment in higher education. San Francisco:  Jossey-Bass.

An excellent section on portfolio assessment that discusses goals, assessment methods and pragmatics of the portfolio experience (pp. 131-148).


Driessen, E., Muijtjens, A., van Tartwijk, J., & van der Vleuten, C. (2007).  Web- or paper-based portfolios: Is there a difference? Medical Education, 41(11), 1067-1073.

Investigates the differences between traditional paper-and-pencil and web-based portfolios in regards to content quality, user friendliness, and student motivation. The sample utilized 92 portfolios from 1st year medical students. Results indicated that students using web-based portfolios scored significantly higher on motivation when compared to students using traditional paper-and-pencil portfolios. However, no group differences were found in the quality of student portfolios or satisfaction with the portfolio assignment. The authors note that students spent significantly more time in preparing web-based portfolios, when compared to traditional paper-and-pencil portfolios. The additional time spent personalizing content and style within the web-based portfolio condition was interpreted to mean that students took greater ownership of their product, thus increasing motivation.

Kudlas, M.J., Davison, H.C., & Mannelin, L.R. (2003). Portfolios and critical thinking. Radiologic Technology, 74(6),   509-516.

Introductory article on how portfolios promote critical thinking. Although written with examples from a program in Radiology, the article provides the underlying foundation for the use of portfolios to engage students in higher level thinking. The authors posit that portfolios provide instructors insight into students’ mastery of course concepts and the level of effort students put forth. Furthermore, this self-directed manner of teaching helps students internalize the process of mastering material in a way that stays with them into their professional life after graduation. The article provides examples of how portfolios are integrated into course curriculum, including how instructors scored students’ work. The authors suggest that portfolios allow instructors to assess student performance in ways that are not tapped by quizzes and exams, as well as allowing instructors ongoing insight into the progression of learning by each student so as to be able to tailor instruction to student needs.

Liu, E. (2007). Developing a personal and group-based learning portfolio system. British Journal of Educational Technology, 38(6), 1117-1121.

Investigates the use of a system to manage a personal and group-based portfolio within a cooperative learning framework. In a reader friendly manner, the author outlines the 1) necessary technology requirements of this type of system (teacher can manage assignments, teacher can manage student groups, communication is possible between students, etc.) and 2) necessary system functions (accounts, announcements, uploading assignments, etc.). The author then conducted a study of the usability of this system with a sample of 58 sophomore undergraduate students. Results of the usability study indicated that 80% of the students felt the specific functions within the system were user friendly. Instructor feedback indicated that the system helped them effectively and efficiently monitor student learning, as well the ability to easily provide feedback to the student through the system electronically.

Lombardi, J. (2008). To portfolio or not portfolio: Helpful or hyped. College Teaching, 56(1), 7-10.

Explored different models of portfolios, the origins of portfolio assessment and relevant research in this area. Two types of portfolios are discussed: product and process. Product portfolios are designed to showcase a student’s best work, as selected by the student. Process-oriented portfolios are intended to monitor and shape learning across time (e.g., rough draft to final draft). The article describes both the dangers (e.g., is the hard work of portfolios worth it?) and the benefits (e.g., student-directed learning). The article also includes an exploration of the portfolio process for undergraduate education majors at a large university.

Rickabaugh, C.A. (1993). The psychology portfolio: Promoting writing and critical thinking about psychology. Teaching of Psychology, 20(3), 170-172.

The author describes a weekly writing assignment developed to promote critical thinking in their psychology courses. This was accomplished through self-directed projects to be completed outside of class that would require the students to integrate course material and real-world phenomena. These assignments were then assembled in a portfolio format. An example of one assignment required the students to ask a few friends about the last excuse they made and then write about how the answers fit with the attributional theory discussed in class. Each week, students were asked to 1) describe an observation, 2) provide a brief summary of the psychological construct to be applied, and 3) analyze how the theory fit with their observations. A summative evaluation revealed that students enjoyed this approach to instruction, that it increased student engagement, and that it promoted understanding of course material.

Segers, M., Gijbels, D., & Thurlings, M. (2008). The relationship between students' perceptions of portfolio assessment practice and their approaches to learning. Educational Studies, 34(1), 35-44.

This article focuses on students’ approaches to learning in the context of a portfolio as the central evaluation process. Specifically, the authors sought to investigate the relationship between student perception of course assessment practices (e.g., portfolio) and learning approaches. One hundred ten undergraduate applied science students were administered questionnaires regarding perceptions of assessment and study process. Results indicated that students utilizing a deep learning approach 1) use feedback on their portfolios to make changes and improve their performance, 2) perceive the portfolio requirement as stimulating critical thinking, and 3) perceive the portfolio as challenging. The authors stress the crucial role of instructors providing continuous feedback on student portfolios and encouraging students to utilize feedback in order to maximize critical thinking.

Strudler, N., & Wetzel, K. (2005). The diffusion of electronic portfolios in teacher education: Issues of initiation and implementation. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 37(4), 411-433.

Digital technology in higher education has provided the opportunity to utilize portfolios in a new way. Various electronic systems are available for use to implement portfolios such as off-the-shelf web authoring applications or commercially sold web-based systems. This article investigates, through case analysis, how electronic portfolios are being used in teacher education through exploring six programs identified as mature in their implementation of electronic portfolios. Interviews were conducted with the selected higher education programs in order to assess the context in which electronic portfolios were adopted (prior experience with paper portfolios, reason for initiating electronic portfolios, what level of administration promoted this method, allocation of resources, etc.) and what the implemented electronic portfolio process looks like (specific programs used, description of electronic portfolio process, introducing electronic portfolios to students, etc.). The authors noted common themes in their investigation of moving to electronic portfolios as a teaching tool including 1) prior experience with paper portfolios, 2) substantial resources available to implement system, and 3) and pressure from accrediting bodies.

Van Tartwijk, J., van Rijswijk, M., Tuithof, H., & Driessen, E.W. (2008). Using an analogy in the introduction of a portfolio. Teaching and Teacher Education, 24, 927-938.

The purpose of this study was to determine whether using an analogy to introduce a portfolio assignment led to an increased understanding of the purpose of portfolios and the process through which they are constructed. This study utilized students in a teacher education program and provided the metaphor of the portfolio as a compilation of evaluative material similar to what students would submit to a potential employer (e.g., cover letter, curriculum vitae, etc.). Results of the study indicated that providing a metaphor increased student understanding of portfolios. In addition, a strong positive correlation existed between students’ understanding of the purpose of portfolios and student appreciation of this activity. Thus, it appears that helping students understand the underlying purpose of portfolios increases the likelihood that students will utilize this method of learning.