From CUNY Academic Commons

 ** Maaike notes** This list needs some refinement, but I wanted to get something in here as a start. I hope others will edit and add to this page since definitions are often fluid in this rapidly evolving portfolio space.

General definitions of Portfolios

  • “An e-portfolio is a digitized collection of artifacts including demonstrations, resources, and accomplishments that represent an individual, group, or institution. This collection can be comprised of text-based, graphic, or multimedia elements archived on a Web site or on other electronic media such as a CD-ROM or DVD. An e-portfolio is more than a simple collection – it can also serve as an administrative tool to manage and organize work created with different applications and to control who can see the work. E-portfolios encourage personal reflection and often involve the exchange of ideas and feedback.” (Lorenzo and Ittelson, 2005)
  • “ The electronic portfolio (e- portfolio) can be understood as a “a collection of authentic and diverse evidence, drawn from a larger archive representing what a person or organization has learned over time on which the person or organization has reflected, and designed for presentation to one or more audiences for a particular rhetorical purpose” (Educause Learning Initiative 2003). Although research into electronic portfolios has a short history, there are already two development directions for the e-portfolio-concept: “The ‘e-portfolio’ used for final assessment/ job seeking where the emphasis is on the product(s) and then the ‘e-portfolio’ used for reflection, deep learning, knowledge growth and social interaction where the emphasis lies on the process” (Tosh/Werdmuller 2004, 2). They call the second kind of e-portfolio a “personal learning landscape”. ” (Kalz, 2005: 164).
  • ” a representative collection of one’s work. As the word’s roots suggest (and as is still the case in the arts), the sample of work is fashioned for a particular objective and carried from place to place for inspection or exhibition.” (Wiggins, 2000)
  • A portfolio is a purposeful collection of student work that exhibits the student’s efforts, progress and achievements in one or more areas. The collection must include student participation in selecting contents, the criteria for selection; the criteria for judging merit, and evidence of student self-reflection (Educators in the Pacific Northwest, through the Northwest Evaluation Association (1990)

Types of portfolios

  • Learning Portfolios (also sometimes referred to as ‘Process portfolio’). Usually involves multiple revisions, student “voice”, demonstrating growth, reflective writing, and formative assessment
  • Summative Assessment Portfolios (also sometimes referred to as Product Portfolio): involves a formal evaluation process of finished products
  • Showcase Portfolios (also sometimes referred to as Presentation portfolio or Best Works portfolio) often used for for employment purposes (Hartnell-Young & Morriss, 1999; Wolf, 1999).
  • Working Portfolio (also sometimes referred to as digital archive) often used for storage and organizing work
  • E-portfolios (also sometimes referred to as “electronic portfolios”, “digital portfolios” and “webfolios”). Electronic and digital portfolios contain any type of computer-readable digital artifacts, and webfolios are also accessible over the web. However, more recently, e-portfolios are often web-enabled as well. 
  • Assessment Portfolio/Profile: (also known as an assessment management system but often conflated with the word portfolio) An institutional portfolio that contains not just a representative sample of a student’s work but also other assesments on student (e.g. test scores, gpa, portfolio assessments of finished work products). Assessment portfolios usually are part of the institutional record for that student..


  • Traditional Assessment – a focus on grades and rankings, knowledge, curriculum, and skills, implemented through classroom assessments (tests, quizzes, homework assignments), and standardized tests (either norm-referenced or criterion-referenced)
  • Performance Assessment-  a focus on observable results and standards, application and transfer, implemented through standards, tasks, criteria and scoring rubrics. “Performance assessment focuses on the direct observation of a student’s performance” (Fogarty, 1998, p.10)
  • Portfolio Assessment-  a focus on growth and development over time, implemented through selection, reflection and inspection of classwork, along with goal-setting and self-evaluation