Portfolios may have different uses, as stated by Mason: developmental, presentation and assessment. Also it may be applied with different scopes: course, programme, transversal. They allow for a holistic approach to education, integrating pedagogy of the course, the learning activities and assessment. Also it allows the development of meta-cognitive knowledge, important for lifelong learning.
Portfolios intend to provide rich information about the students’ learning. Other authors identify four types of evidence that may be collected in portfolios:
- Artefacts, produced during learning activities
- Reproductions, produced outside classroom
- Attestations, documents about progression of the student
- Productions, documents prepared specifically for the portfolio and that may include goal statements, reflective statements and captions. This is basically meta-information about the learning of the student
The first three types of documents may be linked explicitly to the fourth type.
E-portfolios are portfolios that use media to organize information and that allow the inclusion of different file types. There are five stages identified in portfolio production, as defined by Barrett:
- Collection: artefacts that represent the success are saved by the individual or institution
- Selection: artefacts are reviewed and evaluated to identify those that demonstrated achievement of what is intended
- Reflection: students reflect on their learning, the artefacts and the achievements. They will also identify gaps in their learning.
- Projection: they compare their reflections and performance with standards and will define learning goals for the future.
- Presentation: the portfolio is shared with other students.
To implement e-portfolios as an assessment tool it is important to have a structured approach. Based on the Electronic Portfolio Development process proposed by Barrett, it is possible to adapt it to assessment.
- Context: Define the context of the portfolio, including the purpose and LOs to be addressed. It is important to clarify the audience of the portfolio and how it will be presented. At this stage it is important to decide how it will be implemented and what resources will be needed.
- Selection: Based on the previous stage, students may start collecting, selecting and documenting the artefacts that are related with the LOs.
- Reflection: The student should describe the artefacts selected, explain why it was important and what was learned and finally analyse the performance against what was expected.
- Connect evidence: The great advantage of e-portfolios in relation to a traditional assessment is that it allows connecting the evidence to the LOs, reflections and descriptions. One single artefact may be connected with different LOs and reflections. Portfolios are important for self-assessment and for the lifelong learning context.
- Presentation: Presenting the portfolio to the audience is a strategy for implementing self and peer assessment, increasing the formative potential of the portfolio.
Another aspect of using e-portfolios is that may help the development of multimedia skills and communication skills. Concerning assessment, e-portfolios may be used for formative and summative assessment.