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Productive portfolio discussions

Ideas to help get students reviewing, discussing and refining their digital portfolios.

2 min read


Productive portfolio discussions


Are your students putting a lot of time and energy into building beautiful portfolios but then only sharing it with you? If so, they are missing out on an important benefit of the process, which is reflection and feedback from their peers. Teacher feedback is helpful but it is typically summative in nature. Peer feedback, though, encourages rich conversation among students and gets them to think more deeply about their process, products and possibilities.

So how do you foster these discussions? Here are some questions to get you started:

  • Artifacts: Share one learning artifact that best exemplifies what you learned this year/term/semester? Explain.
  • Learned: Think about one thing you will STOP doing, KEEP doing, and START doing (in reference to your learning or your portfolio).
  • Obstacles/Challenges: What obstacles/challenges did you encounter through this portfolio or individual projects/lessons? What are your strategies for solving these obstacles?
  • Successes: What was your most successful project? What strategies contributed to that learning or success?
  • Timelines: How did you manage your time?
  • People: Who were the people – maybe teachers, parents, staff, peers — who helped support your learning or the work in your portfolio?

Another way to kick-start discussions: the Conversation Catcher, a spin on the cootie catcher. This image is also available online.


The first go-around of these discussions might be bumpy as students work their way through the process. That’s okay—continue doing it. The more students engage in these conversations, they more comfortable they get providing this information about themselves. They will also learn different strategies and glean new ideas for navigating portfolios and documenting their learning.

Lisa Johnson is the author of  Cultivating Communication in the Classroom: Future-Ready Skills for Secondary Students. Johnson has more than 14 years of education experience and holds a master’s degree in Curriculum, Instruction, and Technology. She works at a K-12 one-to-one iPad school district in Austin, Texas and uses bulb’s portfolio platform in her classroom.

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