This section provides information around the use of portfolios including examples of good practice and resources for staff.


There are two main types of portfolio: the first, commonly associated with artists, contains individual pieces of work collected together to demonstrate the individual’s range of skills and key works, while the second is a developmental portfolio that contains evidence of skills and knowledge acquisition, reflection on how these integrate with existing skills and knowledge, and consideration of the individual’s personal objectives and their progress toward them. In both cases, portfolios are typically collections of evidence in a range of forms and different media which often include a reflective commentary provided by the student demonstrating how they have met the learning outcomes.

Portfolio types - more information

Developmental Portfolios

A developmental portfolio can be used to record actions, thinking and reflection. The use of portfolios promote reflective thinking and personal and professional development planning (PPDP). Developmental portfolios can be used to demonstrate engagement with a topic or course objective and  require students to accept a high degree of responsibility and encourage the student’s deep engagement with the intended learning outcomes.

They can accommodate evidence in a range of forms and different media which makes them suitable for supporting learning and assessment in complex situations, such as authentic assessment based on real world tasks. These portfolios encourage reflective thinking, often requiring students to collate evidence, review, select, order and annotate it and to write a reflective commentary. A portfolio’s structure and content must be clear enough to present the evidence in a systematic and accessible way.

Creating and managing portfolios can be time consuming for students, but can also instil great pride for some. Portfolios often highlight student achievement and so promote student self-efficacy. They can also be used with future employers or for attaining professional recognition. Therefore, the portfolio should be seen as an active document that stems from and develops via a reflective process.

They accommodate diverse situations and different levels of personal engagement in topics. However, this can make marking difficult, inconsistent and time consuming for teachers.

e-Portfolios are increasingly used. These can be constructed, for example, in PebblePad or using blogs. As well as being a record of learning that has taken place a portfolio can also provide a reflective record of professional development enabling the individual to document progress.

Guiding students

Keep in mind what it is for and when presenting the evidence, a number of questions will help to guide you:

  • What are you wanting the evidence to show?
  • Is the evidence relevant?
  • Are you demonstrating competence in your field?
  • What is missing?
  • Identify gaps of knowledge.
  • What is to come?
  • How will you fill those gaps?

Not all these questions are applicable to every situation, but will help order the evidence you collect and keep it appropriate. It should also demonstrate reflective practice with positive and negative outcomes of learning. This balance will help assessors see the development of thinking and allow them to gauge to what extent you have taken an active part in your learning rather than being a passive recipient.

Portfolios of Collected Work

Portfolios of collected work are typically used to showcase work. They will often contain the person’s best work, demonstrate their ability work within different forms and techniques, or draw together a range of individual works thematically. In addition to the works themselves, these portfolios will frequently include a reflection detailing the reasons for the selection of the specific pieces of work and, possibly, how they are linked together.

Examples of this type of portfolio include a creative writing student creating a portfolio containing examples of their prose, poems and non-fiction work, while a fine art student may create a portfolio that shows their interpretation of a theme in a variety of styles or different media.

As students increasingly produce work electronically, e-Portfolios are becoming more common as a method of collecting examples of work and recording reflections about them. The advantage of such tools is that the same pieces of work can be incorporated into multiple collections, structured in different ways for different audiences, and shared simultaneously.

Therefore, a student could create a portfolio containing their best graphic design work when applying for a job as a graphic designer, while another portfolio contains all of their typographic work for consideration for entry onto a Master’s degree,  all while including some of the same works in a general portfolio for an electronic degree showcase. PebblePad and blogs are particularly suited to developing this type of e-Portfolio that is intended to present multiple collections of work to people, potentially including those outside the university.

What type of portfolios are used in my faculty?

For more information on what type of portfolios are being used in your faculty, please contact your Faculty TEL contacts.

Please refer to the range of resources in the ‘How To’ Technical Guides for more details on how to set up portfolios.

PebblePad can be used to supplement and enhance the functionality of required Blackboard module sites where there are sound educational reasons/benefits.

PebblePad should be integrated with Blackboard for the submission of any coursework to ensure marks and feedback are linked with the Blackboard Grade Centre.

Other tools used for online portfolios
While PebblePad is the institutionally supported electronic portfolio system, it may not be the most appropriate tool for some situations. Around the institution, people have also used Blackboard’s Portfolio feature, Google Sites, shared folders on Google Drive, Microsoft OneNote, and blog tools as ways for students to develop and submit portfolios of their work or evidence of their reflective activity.

For more information on what tools are being used for portfolios in your faculty, and to discuss what may be best for your requirements, please contact your Faculty TEL contacts.