Showcase portfolios add authenticity to assessment

Students write every day for the Penn News Network, and they know that their work is collected in an automatic portfolio at  But in this upcoming semester, we will be striving to build our own portfolios where we do more than collect the stories we’ve told.

With Lucien’s blog, I offered the first glimpse at student publishing model (after a glance at Ethan’s

Read Lucien Fischer's blog at
Read Lucien Fischer’s blog at

blog) and a good look at Ashley’s. Lucien is a foreign exchange student writing in his blog to keep his family updated on his year in America. Ethan is a former student of mine who is now a student at Columbia College in Chicago, and he uses his blog to showcase his work as a cinematographer. Ashley, Brandon, and Tyler are current executive producers at PNN and some of our more prolific producers of content.

For a few years now, my end-of-course assessment has come in the form of a portfolio review (based on writing by Donald Graves), but it has lacked the meta-writing component. That is, it has lacked the ‘writing about my writing’ element that every engineered portfolio should have.  The PNN website merely compiles, and I get students to write about it in the comments of the submission in our LMS, Canvas…pretty basic.

CTE offers portfolio guidance at:
CTE offers portfolio guidance at:

In this new semester, however, students will write about their writing all semester long.

Earlier in the semester, I began working with Engineering students at Penn to craft work-based Portfolios as they are called by CTE, the Association for Career and Technical Education. In its guiding document, CTE lists the nature of the portfolio and the rules it should follow for creation, maintenance, and assessment.

We began by creating a template of what a showcase portfolio should include. We based it on the guidance document, and then we looked at how to organize that information. The template should guide students in the creation of their own statement about their work. However, we did not want to create a cookie-cutter document that students merely cloned.

“Student portfolios are a collection of personal documents, which showcase an individual’s learning experiences, goals and achievements. Student portfolios are created and controlled by the student, facilitated by the instructor, and evaluated by outside entities.”  -CTE Portfolio Technical Assessment – Guidance Document

Though PNN does not reside in the STEM Academy, the students who take that class produce more work for public consumption than any other class in the school, maybe in northern Indiana.DSC_6712

Students who are exploring this new road include Amara, Corbin, & Abbie. As you will see by a couple of dead-end links, students can keep their portfolios private until they are ready to go public with their work. Some never do, and that is okay.

The work that students do becomes the story of their career, and when they reach the next stage of their career, we are hoping to provide them with a portable look at what they can do.

In this picture to the right, Penn graduatue and former PNN producer, Lauren Nowakowski has moved on to Western Michigan University, and there, she keeps her portfolio through

Hopefully, by helping students compile and reflect on the work they do for class, we are teaching them skills that will serve them down the road.

Published by: Kevin McNulty

Kevin McNulty is a language and media teacher at the secondary level. He also makes films and presentations. Some of his topics include: writing instruction, teaching multilingual learners, project-based learning, showcase portfolios, and educational technology. He manages his school’s television studio and helps students and fellow teachers craft mass media messages. Kevin holds a BA in English from Indiana University and an MA in English from Middlebury College. Find out more at or follow him @ktmcnulty.

Categories mass media studies, PNN-Penn News NetworkTags, , ,