Sunday, 10 June 2012

What is a Portfolio?

I am currently about to start work on a "virtual portfolio" system that will be used for students to develop a sound design portfolio.  Before beginning work on the detail of this project I think it is worth clearly defining "What is a Portfolio?"  The normal academic reply to this question is something along the lines of...
"A portfolio is a purposeful collection of student work that exhibits the student's efforts,progress, and achievements in one or more areas. The collection must include student participation in selecting contents, the criteria for selection, the criteria for judging merit, and evidence of student self-reflection." (Paulson 1991) 
Although this gives a very vigorous interpretation of the academic requirements, it does not consider the wider ramifications from creating a portfolio.  Therefore, it is worth asking the question "What is the purpose of a Portfolio?"  There are two main academic goals for a portfolio: one is as a "workspace" where students can develop their content and the other is a "showcase" where the students can present their work (Barrett 2011).  When considered from the students perspective the workspace is very much about the process, whereas the showcase is the presentation of the product.  However, from an academic point of view the portfolio offers a mechanism for assessment of the student's efforts.  When considering the process this will be about formative assessment, while the product can be used for summative assessment.  This means that the audience for the portfolio as a workspace is largely internal and the audience for the showcase will mainly be external.  It is this external view that carries wider ramifications for the portfolio, beyond just being an academic exercise and it is hoped that the portfolio will become a life-long exercise.

So what are the key elements of a portfolio?  First, it is a repository for holding work. This is a given, based on where the very word comes from (french for page carrier).  Next, it should contain elements of the following to meet the definition above and the academic requirements (Becta 2007, JISC 2008).
  • Planning and setting goals
  • Capturing and storing evidence
  • Collaboration
  • Giving and receiving feedback (formative)
  • Reflections
  • Presenting to an audience
  • Networking and building a reputation
It is also important when planning portfolio work to have a clear target output for the portfolio.  This means identify a specific target audience for the portfolio and tailor the presentation specifically for them.

Next I shall consider exactly what is required for a portfolio in Sound Design.

Paulson, F.L. Paulson, P.R. and Meyer, CA. (1991, February). What Makes a Portfolio a Portfolio? Educational Leadership, pp. 60-63.

Barrett, H. (2010). Balancing the Two Faces of ePortfolios. Educação, Formação & Tecnologias, 3(1), 6-14.

Becta (2007), Impact study of e-portfolios on learning,

JISC (2008), Effective Practice with e-Portfolios: Supporting 21st century learning,