Experiential learning resources for the innovative educator
A project-based learning portfolio is an excellent strategy for demonstrating and showcasing evidence of learning, especially when student-led.
Project portfolios are great for evaluating project based learning projects as single experiences as well as on a more grand, comprehensive level. For this reason, I love to start self-directed project-based learning project experiences with the end in mind. I implement and design PBL experiences around these portfolios.
So how do you utilize project portfolios in your classroom or homeschool? In short, students can self-direct the building and management of project based learning portfolios all on their own with a portfolio template and the implementation tips in this blog post.
If you are doing experiential learning activities of any kind with your students, having students build a learning portfolio is essential. Self-directed project-based learning is ONE experiential learning strategy out of many and is my go-to strategy. There are others.
As you proceed with this post, understand that a learning portfolio is simply a compilation of learning experiences. They do not have to be project-based. But this post uses PBL as the main learning activity included in the portfolio.
Project based learning is one learning experience that takes growth, experience, 21st-century skill-building, AND content development into account. So a project based learning project portfolio showcases those learning experiences.
Portfolios demonstrate learning through experience, therefore, they illuminate growth, competencies, and a deep understanding of the content.
There are a lot of benefits of project-based learning project portfolios or learning portfolios of any kind, including the promotion of autonomy, responsibility, project quality, organizational skills, and a sense of pride, among other things.
Before moving on, I want you to grab my free learning portfolio template. It is a digital, Google Slides portfolio that is free and editable! The remainder of this post uses this free portfolio template as an example.
The portfolio has been designed around project based learning projects, but because it is editable, it can be modified to your project strategy and your student's needs.
Let's start with how I use learning portfolios with my own high school students...
Project Based Learning Portfolio Implementation Example:
Students add outcomes from single learning experiences to this portfolio over the course of a session or year. At the end of the portfolio, you'll find a place to add cumulative outcomes or a summary of all PBL experiences.
2. Copies of Portfolios:
I assign a copy of the portfolio to EACH student through Google Classroom. For a step-by-step guide on how to do this, check out this blog post - How to Assign a Digital Resource Link on Google Classroom
3. Managing Portfolios:
I have students add learning outcomes to their portfolios AFTER EACH EXPERIENCE. This has become part of our routine. One thing I discourage is allowing students to wait until the end of the session to start adding positive learning outcomes. Students tend to lose important pieces of evidence, which costs them time.
4. Using Portfolios:
Because the portfolios that my students use are digital, they can be shared digitally. Students can save their portfolios for future needs or share them with prospective employers. They can include the portfolio link in their college applications, use it to get internships, and more.
Step-by-Step: How to Implement and Use a Project Based Learning Portfolio
The following steps highlight how to use the free project based learning portfolio template offered above. This specific portfolio is not required, but it is free, so I highly suggest grabbing that copy to save yourself some time and inspire some ideas. You can manipulate the template however you see fit for YOUR students.
Let's get started!
1. Editing the Project Based Learning Portfolio:
My Google Slides project based learning portfolio template is editable, meaning, you can overlay text, add slides, and delete slides that you do not need. When I say "overlay text" I mean you can insert text over my text to better fit your needs.
For example, there are a couple of slides that have elements specific to project-based learning. If you are doing a STEM activity with students instead and you would like students to document that experience in this portfolio, you could add a text box that is more STEM specific.
2. Navigating the Project Portfolio:
One of my favorite features of this portfolio template is the navigation system. I have linked the learning portfolio cover photo to each slide in order to make movement from section to section quick and easy.
Students and viewers of the portfolio can also move between sections in the "presentation" view by clicking on the table of contents near the bottom of the page.
3. Personalizing the Portfolio:
As I've said, students build and manage their own portfolios. A portfolio is personalized to each student's unique experiences. So the first thing my students do is make it their own. They give it their unique and personal touch by adding a photo of themselves to the cover page of the portfolio.
4. Documenting Learning Experiences in the Portfolio:
Students will add learning outcomes for each project based learning experience. Once they have completed an experience, they will fill in a series of slides provided.
Each slide walks students through exactly what to add. Students will go through these series of slides after every unique PBL experience.
5. Project Based Learning Project Experience Summary:
Students will summarize each project based learning project experience in the spaces provided on the slide. Text boxes are included in my portfolio to streamline the process. You do not have to add any digital elements to this slide unless you would like to change the content.
A project summary is important in order to add context to the outcomes. If a prospective employer is looking at a student's portfolio and they see a rubric and a teacher narrative, but not a project summary, they're not going to understand the experience or the learning outcomes.
6. Evidence of Final Product and Authentic Presentation:
Two key components of project based learning are innovative final products that demonstrate learning and authentic presentations. Authenticity sets PBL apart from other learning experiences.
This portfolio slide offers up evidence of both. Students add photos of their final products and a photo of students sharing their work with an authentic audience. This shows viewers that authentic, deep, community-based learning was had.
7. Adding Goals, Skills, and Targets to the Project Portfolio
Project-based learning is about so much more than grades, and that is the purpose of having a portfolio at all. It is about growth, competence in essential skills, and deep learning experiences that can't be measured with a test. This slide is largely about those positive outcomes.
It is also about standards because let’s be honest, we are tied to them whether we want to be or not. Project-based learning includes standards.
This slide is a good place for students to document benchmarks met after EACH project based learning experience. Again, you can modify this slide to fit your needs.
8. Assessing Project Based Learning Project Experiences in the Portfolio
I try to make self-evaluations a priority in project-based learning, and this portfolio helps keep me and my students accountable for that aspect of the experience.
My students assess their outcomes after each project using a project based learning rubric or their self-generated PBL rubric. and then add those rubric scores to their portfolios.
I, the instructor, do the same using the same rubric as the student. That student can then go back and improve the experience or the final product to earn a better rubric score.
Students often do this because they know that their final evaluation will go into this portfolio. This encourages quality work.
9. Adding a Project Reflection to Portfolios
I think that reflection is one of the most important parts of any learning experience, including project-based learning. My students reflect after every learning experience using a reflection guide.
Students can either add that written reflection as an image to this slide included in the portfolio template or they can write their reflection right into it. They do this upon completion of EACH project.
10. Showcasing the Comprehensive Project Based Learning Experience
The last few slides included in the portfolio template offer a place for students to add cumulative outcomes. This is where they look back over all of the projects that they completed over the course of the session (year, semester, quarter, etc.) and summarize the comprehensive experience.
One of the slides offers a place to list all standards met over the course of the session if that is required for your students. Another slide includes space to add transcripts, a final report, or a teacher narrative that summarizes the entire session.
Again, you can insert criteria that are more suitable for your learning environment or your student's needs. I might add a slide where students list all of the 21st-century skills that they focused on during the session, for example.
Project-based learning is an experience. Yeah, yeah. I've said that 1,000 times. But it's important to note that every aspect of project-based learning ends right here in this portfolio, which is why I mentioned earlier that I like to start with the end in mind.
This portfolio is that end. It helps my students stick to the PBL process and keep their eyes on their ultimate goals.
I use a PBL planner to keep my schedule organized, and the very last step in every PBL experience is to ADD YOUR OUTCOMES TO YOUR PORTFOLIO!
I say this to my students, I suggest this in my resources, and I type this out in my blog posts. It all comes down to this portfolio because PBL is an experience and portfolios showcase experiences. Period.
So here's your next step. Head to my blog posts on self-directed project-based learning. Grab my project-based learning activities tool kit.
Then get a copy of this free portfolio template to all of your students. Done.
You're on your way to deep, fulfilling, and meaningful project-based learning experiences in your classroom.
High School Student-Led Project-Based Learning Resources
Relevant Blog Posts
Join our experiential learning Facebook group!
Did you know there is an experiential learning Facebook group? Check that out - Experiential Learning Community for K12 Teachers - and join in the discussion about experiential learning ideas!
Find us on social media!
Follow Experiential Learning Depot on Pinterest, Facebook, Youtube, and Instagram for more on experiential education, and check out my shop for experiential learning resources.
Observe. Question. Explore. Share.
To provide innovative educational resources for educators, parents, and students, that go beyond lecture and worksheets.
Sara Segar, experiential life-science educator and advisor, curriculum writer, and mother of two.