About portfolios

What is a portfolio?

A portfolio is a collection of products or results to illustrate a persons capabilities. For example  artists and architects present a portfolio with work, photographs of products and recommendations of clients to convince the new client or customer, that he or she is the right person to get a job or assignment.

Many companies use portfolios to show the kind of projects or business they are good in to obtain new orders.

In education the portfolio is a collection products and evidences to give an impression of what the student has learnt and is able to do.

A definition: “The term portfolio as used in the UK generally describes a collection (or archive) of reflective writing and associated evidence, which documents learning and which a learner may draw upon to present her/his learning and achievements. A portfolio therefore encompasses the concept of personal development records (PDRs) ...() ."

Portfolio contents

Portfolios can include all kinds of information:

  • Personal information:
    • Personal details.
    • "Personal homepage" with links to hobbies, sports etc.
  • Work experience, volunteer work, education history and courses.
  • Acquired competences with evidence, arranged by sector, branch or category:
    • Direct proof: awards, certificates.
    • Indirect proof: results, tests, letters of recommendation, assessment reports.
    • Physical evidence: photographs or products.
  • Conclusion or analytical part containing self evaluation, reflection, career policy or personal education plan

(From: Bom, W., Klarus, R. en Nieskens, M. ,2001, blz. 21)

Types of portfolios

In the literature on portfolios four different types of portfolio are usually distinguished (Wolf (1997) in Ritzen en Kösters 2002):

  • Assessment portfolio to address evaluation requirements
    The products in the portfolio will be used to judge in which way a person owns  certain competences. With the help of the portfolio will be made a decision are allowed to start an education or is a profession (for example as a teacher without a  teachers certificate.
    In (professional) education institutes or universities may the portfolio be used to decide if a student is able to do special (quick) programs.
  • Professional growth portfolio to advance professional growth
    An important function of this portfolio is to make the learning process and the professional growth of the owner visible. In this way the growth and development can be stimulated purposive.
  • Showcase portfolio to aid in employment searches
    The composer selects appropriate materials en organizes this in an adequate way to impress employers or customers.  o
  • Portfolio as a tool to 'share knowledge'  in a learning community
    The owner  places materials at for instance colleague's  disposal. I for myself hope to inspire others with the design of education and training with the help of my portfolio and its products.

The different types and functions of the portfolio may very often overlap. 



A portfolio may consist of a  ile with data, descriptions en evidence on paper. If necessary, one can make copies for assessors.
Nowadays you find more and more electronic or digital portfolios: the e-portfolios. These portfolios will be placed on the intranet of the school or institutions. Sometimes they are even accessible on internet. Electronic portfolios have a lot of advantages:

  • Electronic stored data and evidence don't take much physical storage room.
  • It is easy to select and copy material from the portfolio and to use it for different goals (presentations, assessments).
  • It is possible to add multimedia information in the portfolio such as clips of (test-)lessons, simulations of practical exercises, music performances etc.
  • There exists software with special portfolio functions, such as descriptions of competences linked to tasks, assignments, products and evidence. The software has special search tools, agendas, rosters or protected areas and may be linked to virtual learning environments.

Some suppliers of  E-Learning products deliver portfolio systems, which may linked to a virtual learning environment.


Portfolios can be used for all kinds of purposes and in different fields:

  • Employment finding
    The portfolio supports the mediator with finding a job.
  • HRM policy and personal development
    The portfolio is a help to make use of the available competences for career policy, personal development, internal and external mobility and in-service training.
  • Acquired competences or qualifications
    The portfolio may be used for the selection of persons for new jobs or education. There will be assessed if a person owes the appropriate competences or skills to do the job or education.
  • Education
    The portfolio may have an important role at the start of the study (access to the school), during the study (assessing the progress), and at the end of the study (final assessment).


Bom, W., Klarus, R. en Nieskens, M. (2001). Portfolio in opleiding en bedrijf: Hertogenbosch: CINOP.

Ritzen, M. en Kösters, J.M.P. (2002). ‘ Mogelijke functies van een portfolio binnen een competentiegericht curriculum'. Onderzoek Van Onderwijs, jrg.31, nr.1, pp. 3-7.

Wolf, K., Lichtenstein, G., Stevenson, C., (1997). Portfolios in teacher education. In: Strange, J.H. (Ed.), Evaluating teaching: a guide to current thinking and best practice (193-214). Thousands Oaks, CA: Corwin Press Inc )