Building a professional portfolio
Whatever your role in school and whatever stage
you’re at in your career, building a professional
portfolio can be a valuable tool to reﬂect on
achievements and set future goals.
Keren Caple, general manager of the Australian Institute
for Teaching and School Leadership, says a growing
number of educators are asking for advice in this area.
‘What is really pleasing is that this isn’t just for accountability,
or those really high stakes processes,’ Caple tells
She says evidence is increasingly being used by
educators to prompt conversations about their work and
professional practices, and how this supports their growth
Deciding what to include in a professional portfolio can
be tricky – but before you dive in and start sifting through a
mountain of documents, it’s worth going back a few steps.
Elizabeth Hartnell-Young is Director of the ACER
Institute and co-author of
Digital Portfolios: Powerful Tools
for Professional Growth and Reﬂection
As the book points out, there are lots of reasons for
compiling an individual portfolio, including recording or
planning professional development, applying for a job,
celebrating your lifelong learning journey, or meeting
certiﬁcation and registration requirements.
Hartnell-Young advises whatever the purpose and
whatever your role, the general ‘rules’ of how to go about
building a portfolio are the same.
‘[First of all] you need a repository. It could be on your
hard drive, in the cloud, or wherever, but you’ve got to have
somewhere to keep your evidence. You’ve got to have a ﬁle
management system of some sort, and metatagging.’
Deciding on the portfolio purpose is the next step. ‘If the
purpose is to present material against [teacher] standards
you would pull some items in as the best evidence for a
particular standard, but if it’s going for a job ... you might
pull some slightly different items to meet selection criteria,’
‘Then you have to select [which artefacts to use] – you
don’t put everything forward. Once you’ve selected, you’d
really be annotating and reﬂecting.
‘Maybe you’d put some reasoning about why you chose
it ... a reﬂection of how well it went, what would you do
Compiling a digital rather than a paper-based portfolio
opens up opportunities to include audio clips, videos and
photos alongside electronic documents and scanned text.
If you are including audio and video, don’t forget to add
information for easy access in the future.
Figuring out how to present your portfolio is the next
step, and that means checking laws on privacy, copyright,
fair use and intellectual property before you publish.
Hartnell-Young, E. & Morriss, M. (2007).
powerful tools for promoting professional growth and
(2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
To access the full article visit:
Compiling a digital
rather than a paper-
opens up additional
Image credit: © Cienpies Design/Shutterstock
Using iPads to collect and track data in real time has helped educators in
western Sydney develop an early intervention program for youngsters
Holy Family Primary School, Granville East, is home to students representing
more than 30 nationalities. Assistant Principal Ben Munday says four years of
Smarter Schools National Partnerships (SSNP) funding has seen the school
make ‘great gains’ in the areas of community engagement, pedagogy for
teaching English as an additional language, and use of information and
In 2013 (the ﬁnal year of SSNP funding) staff worked with a speech
pathologist to better understand language and learning delays in students.
When enrolment interviews for 2014 again raised concerns that many children
entering Kindergarten may be ‘at risk’, Munday started to think about an action
research project to break the cycle.
He teamed up with K–2 Coordinator Natalie Bratby to plan and lead a project
drawing on data collected by class teachers and learning support teachers during
three Kindergarten orientation sessions in mid-Term 4, 2013.
With around 60 children attending each session and six staff carrying out
observations, a system was developed whereby data could be recorded, updated
and viewed simultaneously.
‘It was a simple job for me to set up a spreadsheet with conditional formatting
that colour coded the cells when a numerical value was entered: 1 is green, all
ok; 4 is red, red alert, and so on,’ Munday explains. ‘It allowed us to track in real
time, during sessions, which students had been observed
and who still needed to be seen.
‘Most importantly, it enabled us to debrief and discuss
immediately after each session with everyone’s data
already populating the spreadsheet and the qualitative
observations fresh in mind. It also enabled us to see which
students we needed to target in the next session.’
Educators accessed one spreadsheet on iPads using
Google Drive. ‘During the [data] analysis we found that
applying simple ﬁlters to the spreadsheet enabled us to
identify trends and prioritise needs.’
Students needing further support were invited to three
‘Jump Up’ orientation sessions featuring reading response
and pre-school English and maths activities. Lead Teacher
ICT Tim Butt also worked with the Assistant Principal to
create a ‘Get Your Child Ready for School’ fridge poster
summarising information from the Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne on
The project has had several beneﬁts – including no tears on the ﬁrst day of
‘The children who were socially and emotionally vulnerable at orientation had
already developed a relationship with at least one of their teachers and me,’
Teachers have also reported that their knowledge of students is better than
ever before, enabling them to plan appropriate Term 1 activities.
To access the full article visit:
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Does A to E grading show individual
growth and progress?
‘A student who gets
the same grade year
after year can appear
to be making no
progress at all.’
‘The most advanced
sometimes ﬁve or six
years ahead of the least
You’ve spoken about the limitations of A to E grading. Can you talk
our readers through the alternative?
A to E grades traditionally have been used to judge and
report how well students have learnt what they have been taught. But grades
don’t do a very good job of describing what individuals know, understand and
can do – in other words, the points they have reached in their learning. Grades
also are not very helpful for monitoring the progress that students make over
time. A student who gets the same grade year after year can appear to be
making no progress at all.
The alternative is to ﬁnd ways of showing where students are in their long-
term progress through an area of learning. What point have they reached, what
progress have they made, and what are they ready to learn next? Questions of
these kinds require an understanding of what progress looks like. To establish
where somebody is on a journey and to evaluate the progress they are making,
you need a map of the territory [the learning domain] through which they are
travelling. A map is an alternative to A to E grades.
Monitoring progress against a map is important because students of the
same age and year level can be at very different stages in their learning. The
most advanced students are sometimes ﬁve or six years ahead of the least
advanced students. The kind of map I am talking about is sometimes called a
developmental continuum, a proﬁciency scale or a learning progression. It is
often divided into described levels or proﬁciency ‘bands’.
What does the evidence say about this approach?
We know from research that the way to maximise the probability of a
person learning successfully is to provide them with learning opportunities at an
appropriate level of challenge. People don’t learn if they’re given things they
already know. They also don’t learn if they’re given material that is much too
difﬁcult. The ideal is to provide challenges in what Vygotsky called the Zone of
Proximal Development – stretch challenges that are just beyond a learner’s
comfort zone and at which they can succeed, but often only with assistance.
So, it’s not about letting every student ‘pass’?
No, it’s certainly not about lowering our expectations so that all students
‘pass’. It’s about changing the way we think about what it means to learn
successfully. Rather than deﬁning success only in terms of age-based
expectations, I’m arguing for deﬁning successful learning in terms of the
progress that individuals make, regardless of their starting points. Failure, from
this perspective is failure to make progress. If a child is not making progress in
their learning, then that needs to be recognised and reported.
To access the full article visit:
Professor Geoff Masters, CEO of the Australian Council for Educational Research, says A to E grading doesn’t
tell the whole story when it comes to student achievement.
editor Jo Earp sat down with him to discuss
Image credit: © Gulay Telliler
Professor Geoff Masters considers
assessment and reporting.
Encouraging STEM success
Research has estimated 75 per cent of the fastest growing occupations require a strong background in the
Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics ﬁelds – yet, Australian students are lagging behind the rest
of the world when it comes to STEM learning.
Now academics in Tasmania hope to help change that trend
with the launch of a new framework designed to build the
capacity of STEM teachers and support them in selecting
resources that will bring the subjects to life and inspire students.
Associate Professor Sharon Fraser is one of the lead
researchers on the University of Tasmania’s STEMCrAfT
Project. It is speciﬁcally aimed at regional, rural and remote
STEM teachers and those teaching outside of their subject
An Australian Industry Group report (2013) suggests
skills learned through each STEM discipline are critical for
national productivity and global competitiveness, but warns
‘Australia’s rates of participation in STEM skills at secondary
school and university are unacceptably low’.
Fraser says there is a shortage of students graduating
from STEM subjects in schools and going on to study those
skills in university. ‘[Then] they’re not coming out wanting to
teach in those areas. We’re now getting teachers teaching
out of ﬁeld – we’re getting drama teachers teaching
science, for example,’ she explains.
‘They may well have very little lead-in time in order to get
their heads around the curriculum for one thing, but the
content knowledge, that’s at the heart of the curriculum
and what it means to think like a scientist – which is part of
the whole scientiﬁc literacy, and to be able to understand
evidence-based practice in that domain.’
The academic adds that teachers in rural, remote and
isolated areas also need support. ‘Often, in those areas,
you might have fairly new graduates teaching science or
maths with no-one else at the school who can work with
them and mentor them. So, that in itself is difﬁcult.’
The step-by-step framework is designed to help
educators think about their own practice and decide
whether or not a particular resource will help them in their
teaching. ‘It is a distillation of what expert STEM teachers
do from the moment they’re thinking about teaching a
particular area,’ Fraser explains.
The framework was developed by expert STEM teachers
in Tasmania and tested over the course of a year through a
series of workshops. ‘We felt that we could contribute to a
solution better if we work together than we could if we
work separately, and that the answer lies with all of us, and
that’s deﬁnitely what’s happened.’
Australian Industry Group (2013).
Lifting our science,
technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills
Retrieved from the reports section at www.aigroup.com.au
To ﬁnd out more about the STEMCrAfT Project and access
the framework, visit http://stemcraft.weebly.com
To access the full article visit:
‘Australia’s rates of
participation in STEM
skills at secondary
school and university
are unacceptably low.’
Image credit: © kurhan/Shutterstock
How to get involved
Join our School Learning Community
Research shows that high quality teaching and leadership teams learn from each other – that’s why partnering
with schools and helping them partner with each other is so important to us.
School Learning Community is a new
program to support schools to engage with, share and
adopt high impact, evidence-based teaching practices.
There are two ways to get involved.
School Partnership (Free). Each staff member will
• A free weekly bulletin, featuring
• Unlimited access to live content on
• Unlimited access to archived content on
• The opportunity to network and engage with leading
educators and peers
Education Leadership Partnership ($149). Gain access
to a targeted set of resources focusing on whole-school
engagement that can be used by educators and parents.
• Individual staff access to the weekly digest featuring
• Quarterly PDF professional learning pack, including
the term’s Top 10
content, fast-tracked to your school
• Five resource sheets for use in school newsletters
and parent communications
• Your choice of one of the following PD books
published by ACER Press:
Collaboration in Learning
, Mal Lee and Lorrae Ward
Keys to School Leadership
, Phil Ridden and John
What Teachers Need to Know About Assessment
, Phil Ridden and Sandy Heldsinger
• One listing on
with your school name, website
link and school logo.
For further information, or to register your interest, contact
Supriya Bakshi (details below).
Editor, Jo Earp
Editorial assistant, Danielle Meloney
Documents you may be interested
Documents you may be interested