Learning Portfolio as Course Product

Advice for Teachers …..

This page offers reasons for including Learning Portfolios in your coursework and  suggestions to get you started.

Concept Map

Concept map developed by an accounting student at the University of Waterloo for a Learning Portfolio (Light, T.P., Sproule, B., & Lithgow, K., 2009, p. 72).

“It was very easy to name accounting concepts, but developing relationships between the concepts was a challenge”

Why consider using Learning Portfolios?

Developing  Learning Portfolios helps learners learn more deeply about course concepts and about themselves, while also sharing their mastery of concepts with an audience.  Completed Portfolios can also be useful well beyond a course to diverse audiences, such as faculty reviewing course outcomes, and learners assessing their progress and sharing their results. For more details about how I became interested in Learning Portfolios and why many people are using them, check out my post, “Why Learning Portfolios?”

What are Learning Portfolios?

Learning portfolios are a combination of reflection, evidence, and feedback.  Learners respond to prompts designed to stimulate reflection related to their learning of course concepts, while referencing specific evidence of learning. Ideally, during the Learning Portfolio development process, learners also receive and respond to feedback from faculty and peers that may contribute to further reflection and learning.

How to get started!


Decide what media you want your students to use for Learning Portfolio development. I chose WordPress because it’s readily available, free, and has rich features, including easy to use help resources and built-in commenting capabilities. Some other readily available options include Google Sites and simply asking for collections of related documents. However, neither of these options shares WordPress’ convenient reply features.


Decide how you will integrate a Learning Portfolio into your coursework. For example, you can assign a Learning Portfolio for continuous development throughout a course, submitted at the end, or you can assign a Learning Portfolio as a final product, possibly in place of a final exam. To receive optimal attention from learners, a Learning Portfolio needs to be an integral, graded, part of the course. Examples linked to from this page, from coursework in the School of Business at California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB) (will) include using a Learning Portfolio in place of a final exam for BUS 306: Principles of Marketing and using a Learning Portfolio as an ongoing collection of evidence and reflection over the entire course period for BUS 498: Internship Experience.

Reflection Prompts

Develop engaging prompts for the Learning Portfolio reflection pieces that stimulate reflective thinking with different focuses, such as:

  • describing particular concepts that have been learned, linked to evidence of those concepts as used by the learner in other course work
  • exploring what one has learned about one’s learning style or one’s values, in relation to specific course work and learning
  • examining ways one has changed through the course learning
  • projecting specific ways that course concepts, discoveries, or challenges may influence one’s future actions

To read further discussion on the value of reflection see my post, “Reflection ? !” To read more deeply, I recommend The Learning Portfolio: Reflective Practice for Student Learning (Zubizarreta, 2009) and Developing Reflective Judgment (King and Kitchener, 1994).

Mental Models

Design a requirement for developing a graphical representation of relationships between course elements. Developing graphical models of relationships helps individuals see them in new ways. The concept map that illustrates this page, by a student in the Accounting and Financial Management (AFM) program at the University of Waterloo, provides a great example. The authors quote the map’s designer saying “The biggest challenge I faced when creating my concept map was trying to identify relationships. It was very easy to name accounting concepts, but developing relationships between the concepts was a challenge,” (Light, T.P., Sproule, B., & Lithgow, K., 2009, p 71).


Decide how you will assess the value of the Learning Portfolio before assigning it and supply a rubric with the instructions.

Reflective Thinking Support

Integrate activities to help develop critical reflection thinking skills throughout your course, to provide optimal support for reflection in the Learning Portfolio assignment, as well as ongoing development of reflective judgment abilities.

King and Kitchener, authors of Developing Reflective Judgment, have studied the thinking elements necessary for reflective judgment and developed substantial evidence that individuals move through specific stages of reflective judgment skill based on their epistemic assumptions (assumptions about knowledge, assumptions about how we know things), and they can only reflect (think about why they believe what they believe) comfortably at a stage that is consistent with their epistemic assumptions (p 20-74).  Individuals cannot choose to reflect at a level for which they have not developed sufficient abstract thinking abilities. Activities that stimulate and support reflective thinking help develop reflective thinking skills (King and Kitchener, p 222-257).


These examples are from courses in the School of Business at CSUMB. The content in this section will be modified as new examples become available.

Bus 306: Principles of Marketing

BUS 498: Internship Experience

  • Learning Portfolio assigned for continuous development throughout the course (this will be linked by the end of May 2013)
  • Examples of resulting work (these will be posted by mid August 2013


King, P., & Kitchener, K. (1994). Developing reflective judgment. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Light, T.P., Sproule, B., & Lithgow, K. (2009). Connecting Contexts and Competencies: Using Eportfolios for Integrative Learning. In D. Cambridge, B. Cambridge, & K.B. Yancey (Eds.). Electronic Portfolios 2.0: Emergent Research on Implementation and Impact (p 69-79).  Sterling, VA: Stylus.

Zubizarreta, J. (2009). The Learning Portfolio: Reflective Practice for Improving Student Learning (2nd Ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.


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