Learner Portfolios: The Key To Demonstrable Evidence of Learning

by | Mar 30, 2021 | Learning Design

​No matter their major, there is one consistent for all college students: projects. They might come in the form of a 15-page research paper, a 50-slide analysis, or a recorded presentation. These projects often showcase weeks of work, not to mention several sleepless nights. But after final grades are posted, these important learning artifacts often accumulate digital dust in a forgotten corner of a cloud storage folder.

This is unfortunate because these projects are the demonstrable evidence of learning that prove to future employers and graduate programs that students have learned what their transcript says they should have learned. By creating a place to store these projects and review them periodically, students can curate their learning history and find examples for those experience-based interview questions.

As part of the Student Learning Dashboard, TEL is launching learner portfolios, a space for students to collect the work that showcases their skills and competencies while also giving them an opportunity to build connections across courses.

What is a Learner Portfolio?

A student’s academic career is littered with a variety of papers, presentations, and other significant projects required in order to pass one course or another. But outside of a thesis, rarely do students revisit these learning artifacts after the course is complete. This is a missed opportunity for students to make connections and reflect on their academic growth.

That’s why students need a learner portfolio.

A learner portfolio is a digital space to house the work that students create throughout their learning journey. Students can curate this digital collection by adding new pieces that best reflect the student’s skill development. By having it in a digital format, students can also share their portfolio with others by including a link on an internship application or when applying for graduate school.

The Value of a Digital Learner Portfolio

Outside of providing a digital gallery to showcase students’ work, learner portfolios help students with three important skills: reflection, connection, and curation.

Reflection

A student’s college career involves 40 different classes over the course of four years. That’s 40 midterms, 40 finals, and hundreds of opportunities to hone skills. When those projects are added to a digital learner portfolio, students can identify patterns and growth. Comparing a freshman composition essay to a senior thesis, the student can clearly see how they’ve changed as a writer. They might also see topics and formats that they tend to gravitate towards. These observations give students the language to communicate how they have progressed through their learning journey.

Connection:

It’s easy to see how the information in Principles of Psychology can be applied to Abnormal Psychology. But it’s not as clear how what a student learns in Principles of Psychology can also impact the skills they learn in American Government. With a digital learner portfolio, students get a high-level view across all their projects and can make connections across the department silos. Students can see skills they honed across courses, such as creating analytical arguments and creative thinking. With the added layer of badging, digital learner portfolios help students make connections across their learning journey.

Curation:

For the learner portfolio to provide the most value, students must think about the learning story they want to tell. Is it a story about perseverance? Is it a story about passion? Is it a story about growth? With hundreds of projects across 40 courses, there are bound to be a few that don’t further that story. By curating the projects in the learner portfolio, students can use it to tell their learning stories to potential employers or as part of an application process.

Making Learning Visible (and Shareable)

Learner portfolios are a key part of TEL’s Student Learning Dashboard. Through the Student Learning Dashboard, students can more clearly understand their progress, both in the courses they take and in the skills they acquire. The learner portfolio makes these connections and the student’s learning journey shareable so others can see the evidence of that learning.

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