Why portfolios and making? Maker-centered learning offers us a prime opportunity to show off the work, thinking, decision-making, and collaboration — the whole process of learning and making — that takes place within any small or big project. And the best way to capture that process is through portfolios. Portfolios can showcase a youth’s abilities, interests, thinking, and voice in a way that test scores and grades cannot. It’s the proof in the badges; it’s the evidence of learning.

Maker Ed has been spent the past 4 years leading the Open Portfolio Project. In close collaboration with our incredible partners, the Creativity Lab at Indiana University, led by Kylie Peppler, the project combines research and practice to develop a common framework for documenting, sharing, and assessing learning through making. With the generous support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, we’ve recently completed Phase 2 of the work and have a full Research Brief Series — which investigates assessment, K-12 sites tackling portfolios, tools and practices, learning outcomes and more — alongside a Practical Guide to Open Portfolios freely available! Learn more here.

Spotlight on Open Portfolios at Monticello High School

Maker Ed published a series of Research Briefs to capture the findings from their work during the second phase of the Open Portfolio Project. Monticello High School (MHS) is a site whose makerspace and portfolio processes are featured. MHS is located in Charlottesville, VA and is a part of the Albemarle County Public School System.

At MHS, students participate in a school-wide portfolio process. The expansion of the portfolio practices has been driven by teachers who are exploring opportunities for collaboration and designing projects to challenge students to create outside of the norm. This has allowed the MHS portfolio system to expand thinking and shift pre-existing ideas about traditional portfolios.

For example, educators created an interdisciplinary and collaborative capstone project which asked students to address local community challenges. The project used Google Drive to share students’ presentation, reports, and illustrations. In this way, the student-created portfolio and project were able to serve multiple teachers and even audiences outside of their school, rather than a traditional single audience. Students have also illustrated how portfolios (which are often thought to be focused heavily on writing) can actually include a wide range of mediums. A portfolio project in the form of a resume challenged students to use different genres and mixed media to develop an audio-visual piece related to a profession of their choice, a cover letter, and other work samples. Both of these examples challenge the idea that there is a one-size-fits-all portfolio practice; instead, there exists a diverse range of processes that are allowing students in many subjects and classrooms to practice documenting their work.

Learn more about Monticello High School and their work with the Open Portfolio Project here. Additional portfolio efforts have been spurred within the Albemarle County Public School system too, reaching Burley Middle School and others!