Process Before Product

I am absolutely convinced that ePortfolios are an indispensable method for showcasing visible learning by students for so many reasons.

Primarily, working through the process of creating a tangible portfolio product, regardless of what platform it is in, is where and how the learning occurs. As students learn throughout the school year, or an entire program of study, the ePortfolio and can be the end result that shows a progression of learning. Karen Barnstable outlines this idea very effectively in her 2010 blog post, 41 Benefits of an ePortfolio. When students have opportunities to pick and choose, edit and mold the products to fill their portfolio, the learning becomes more authentic. The ePortfolio can exhibit a student’s pride work, where they are able to share the artifacts and ideas that they created. As students develop their portfolios, there will be very clear ownership and voice. I imagine in one classroom, no two portfolios will look exactly alike if teachers are able give students room, time and freedom to create.

An ePortfolio has the potential of telling the story of a student’s journey of learning, which can be far more valuable than a traditional paper pencil or online multiple-choice test. It can give the observer, whether it is the teacher, parent or future employer, a glimpse into the abilities of the student which may be immeasurable by traditional methods. This type of product also lends itself well to supportive and helpful feedback, which can be one of the most powerful influences on learning and achievement, according to John Hattie and his work on visible learning.  Effective feedback can have a powerful impact on students’ perceptions of their abilities and their willingness to take learning risks in the future.

In our Digital Learning and Leading program at Lamar University, we have the benefit of designing our own portfolios in our tool of choice. I am grateful for this opportunity to develop a product where I choose to. That compounds the ownership and authenticity. In my role as an elementary instructional technologist, I am constantly pondering how I can transfer the learning from the Master’s program to benefit students and teachers in my district. Of course, this leads to consideration about how I can propose the idea of digital portfolios in our learning culture while still supporting the teachers’ needs to keep up with all of the other duties and demands on their time. I can think of at least 8 digital tools that would be excellent platforms for digital portfolios. However, I think that choosing a tool before considering the process is putting the cart before the horse. I will continue to consider how to best approach this idea with elementary teachers.


Barnstable, K. (2010, January 8). 41 Benefits of an ePortfolio [web log]. https://kbarnstable.wordpress.com/2010/01/08/41-benefits-of-an-eportfolio/.
Hattie, J., & Clarke, S. (2019). Visible learning: feedback. Routledge.
Teaching, F. D. (2017, June 5). Love this quote! Process over product! Twitter. https://twitter.com/sallyhaughey/status/871700133754408960.
Image from Adobe Spark, Pixabay

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