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Why Portfolios in Science and Mathematics?

The use of portfolios is one of the educational innovations that can help round out traditional assessment techniques. A portfolio (or a work folio) is an organized collection of a student's work that features the very best that he or she can do. It "documents conceptual understanding, problem solving, reasoning, and communication abilities" (Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory, 1997, p. 19). Most teachers who use portfolios have students organize and display work in language arts, mathematics, and art for inclusion in their portfolios. More and more teachers also are considering the use of portfolios in science as one way to get a fuller picture of students' progress, interests, and attitudes.

While each piece placed in a portfolio can be assessed with respect to the degree to which the student achieved specific unit objectives, the portfolio as a whole will illustrate the student's progress and specific interests. In the discipline of science, specific examples of a student's science work should go in his or her science portfolio, including the following:

As an assessment tool, portfolios—either electronic or paper—can allow students to fully feature their learning over time. Mahood (n.d.) outlines several benefits of requesting and encouraging students to keep a portfolio. He states that portfolios do the following:

An example of an assessment portfolio can be found at



Mahood, J. (n.d.). An introduction to science portfolios. Retrieved September 6, 2020 , from

Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory. (1997). Assessment strategies to inform science and mathematics instruction. It's Just Good Teaching series. Retrieved September 6, 2020 , from


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