Student portfolios for Language Learning: What They Are and How to Use Them

The use of student portfolios is increasing in education, as asset-based approaches to evaluation and assessment become more popular. When it comes to demonstrations of learning, student portfolios are gaining popularity at a rapid pace. They are collaborative efforts between students and teachers that provide clear demonstrations of students progress and achievements. Students are guided by their teachers to develop their own portfolios over time. Student portfolios contain demonstrations of their knowledge and authentic language use, such as:

  • Written work. These demonstrate the students use of vocabulary, knowledge of grammar and writing structures.
  • Digital and multimedia projects. These demonstrate their oral and listening competencies.
  • Reflections from students and teachers. This feedback replaces traditional grading. The intent is for the teacher and the student to engage in a kind of dialogue about the student’s progress. This also empowers the student to become self aware as a learner.

Whether they are traditional or electronic, portfolios are being used in classrooms across the globe at an increasing rate.  The beauty of the student portfolio is that the student owns it, not the teacher. Students carry their portfolios forward from grade to grade, taking responsibility for their learning as they go.

Here are some resources on the topic of student portfolios you may find useful:

Barrett, Helen.  February 18, 2009. ISTE Webinar.

Barrett, Helen (2004). Professional Development for Implementing Electronic Portfolios. Retrieved from

Barrett, Helen. (n.d.)

Brownell, Wendy. Linguafolio and Portfolios. (n.d.)

Dominguez, Juan. E-portfolios: Del PLN al Aprendizaje Retrieved 26 May, 2011 from

Grace. (1992). The Portfolio and Its Use: Developmentally Appropriate Assessment of Young Children.  Retrieved from

North Carolina Regional Educational Laboratory. (n.d.). Portfolios.   Retrieved from


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Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


One Response to Student portfolios for Language Learning: What They Are and How to Use Them

  1. Great resources, Dr. Eaton! I was just in the process of trying to develop some sort of eportfolio for my dual language classroom, so this was a VERY timely post!

    By the way, I am really looking forward to your upcoming presentation in the Social Media Workshop!

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