February 21, 2017

Physical Education Student Portfolios

For the last few years, I have been maintaining student portfolios for the classes I teach in physical education to keep track of my students’ progress and stay on top of my assessment.

In this blog post, I’m going to show you how I create/maintain my student portfolios. However, before I do, here’s a quick disclaimer:

Student portfolios are, by no means, a new concept. Physical educators have been creating them for years now. Even the way in which I create portfolios isn’t, by any standard, unique. I’m not some kind of G Suite for Education guru and really don’t pretend to be (you’d be better off checking out Adam Llevo’s website if you’re looking for amazing ideas related to GAFE in physical education).

Over the years, I’ve been influenced and inspired by fellow members of the online #physed community. So many elements of my teaching originated from me inspired by colleagues on Twitter.

Here are some of the people/posts that have had the biggest impact on my thoughts/methods surrounding student portfolios:

Andy Vasily (@andyvasily)The Sportfolio

Nathan Horne (@PENathan)Google Apps for #PhysEd: Combining Drive & Sites for Portfolios

Matt Pomeroy (@PhysEd_Pomeroy)Google Forms + autoCrat = Educational Gold

The PHYSEDagogy Team (@PHYSEDaogy)An introduction to gClassFolders

That being said, I still wanted to share my approach to student portfolios in physical education. Why? Well, I’m hoping that maybe there are some things about the way I go about portfolios that might be new to the conversation. Also, and this is super selfish, but I’m hoping that maybe some of you will know of more efficient/effective ways I could be managing/organizing my portfolios. If that’s the case, please feel free to respond to this blog post with one of your own or by leaving your methods in the comments below.

I’m always trying my best to offer a window into my teaching to both (hopefully) inspire others or to invite others to give me feedback. With that being said, let’s get into it:

Why Student Portfolios in Physical Education?

The whole idea of starting to create/maintain student portfolios from my students came from a situation I experienced early on in my career. Although I’ve blogged about the full story before (see “Collect & Defend”), the TL;DR version of it is that I got called out on my grades by my principal and I could have been in hot, hot water… if it wasn’t for the fact that I had collected all of the evidence of my students learning and had it ready to go in order to defend the grades I submitted.

From that moment on, I saw the value of collecting evidence of student learning. However, over time, I started to see more reasons why it was important for me to do so.

For one, having evidence of my students’ learning and progress collected and organized into portfolios helps me a) make better decisions as to how I should be adapting my teaching to meet their needs, and b) make more accurate decisions when assessing where my students are at in their learning. Hard evidence doesn’t lie, and having it gives me a clear picture of how my student is doing instead of making decisions based on how I feel they are doing in physical education

Collecting enough evidence over time also allows me to show my students just how much they have progressed within a unit/term/year. As I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts, my professional development goal for the year is to develop a culture of thinking and learning within my classes. Being able to make it easy for students to see just how much they have learned goes a long way in terms of helping them value learning in physical education class

Finally, having organized student portfolios allows me to better communicate to all outside stakeholders (e.g. parents, administrators, homeroom teachers, occupational therapists) how a student is doing in physical education and how they are doing in regards to their overall physical literacy development. I can’t tell you how great it is to go into a parent/teacher interview with a portfolio ready to go or to be able to send examples of a student’s work home to their parents in order to celebrate their efforts and learning in class!

All in all, there are a lot of different reasons why maintaining student portfolios is a valuable process. Really, the only argument against it is time. However, with all of the advances in technology, apps, platforms and resources, even time is becoming a difficult argument to maintain. Apps like Seesaw along with platforms like Google Classroom are making is easier and easier for teachers to keep up-to-date portfolios even in the organized chaos of a universe that is physical education. That being said, I’m no expert on either of those platforms, but please feel free to use the comments section to share your opinion of those tools if you have experience with them!

My Student Portfolio Workflow

Alright, let me show you how I go about student portfolios:

Finding Storage

When I first started maintaining student portfolios for my physical education classes, I was storing everything on my computer. Well, that lasted about a week before my computer ran out of storage.

To solve my problem, I went out and bought a 1TB external hard drive on which I would keep everything. The hard drive worked great, except that my life was now lived in fear of anything happening to it. Seriously, I was in full Gollum mode.

Last year, my school officially became a G Suite for Education (formally known as Google Apps for Education) school. Aside from ditching First Class for Gmail (which was amazing), another big benefit was that teachers at St. George’s School of Montreal now have unlimited data storage in their Google Drive.

A few clicks and drags later, and I now have a cloud-based student portfolio system. It’s been amazing!

I use the Google Drive app for macOS which gives me access to my Google Drive folder right on my Mac and has it act like any other regular Finder folder. For the demonstrations that you’ll see in this blog post, I created a new Finder folder from scratch. Due to school policy, I couldn’t show you examples of my students’ work or their portfolio items, so I made up a class list here. That being said, everything you see me do here is exactly how I do it in Google Drive using the macOS app.

UPDATE: I had been having issues with my portfolios taking up too much space on my computer. Although I could select which files synced with Drive, the process was tedious. Google recently released Google Drive File Stream which replaces the old Google Drive app and fixes my issue. Now, files in my Mac’s Google Drive folder are streamed from Google Drive. This means that larger files are not kept on my computer which frees up a ton of space!

Also, just a final note, this post if very GIF-heavy. If you’re having any trouble viewing the GIFs, understanding where their loops start or reading the content in them, just click on any GIF to view a larger version of it.

Creating Student Folders

Before the start of each school year, after I have revised my annual curriculum map, I’ll set up my student portfolio folders.

I first start off by creating a folder for the school year (e.g. “2016-2017”). Inside that folder, I’ll create a folder for each class/grade I teach (e.g. “Grade One”, “Grade Two”, “Grade Three”, “Grade Six”)

Then, I’ll go into the folder of the youngest class/grade I teach and create an “#Example Student” folder (I use the hashtag just so that the folder stays at the top of the list). In that folder, I’ll create a folder for each of the units I’ll teach throughout the school year (I get that information from my curriculum map)

Last year, I was going a step deeper into this process by creating folders for each outcome targeted within each unit. However, I found that doing so just slowed down the process of organizing evidence into a student’s portfolio. I replaced this step by doing a better job at renaming each piece of digital evidence that gets stored into a student’s portfolio (doing so also makes it easier for me to quickly jump to specific pieces of evidence thanks to Google Drive’s Search functionality).

Once I’ve finished creating all of the folders within the “#Example Student” folder, I’ll copy/paste that folder inside that grade’s parent folder until I have as many copies as I have students in that grade/class. I’ll then rename each folder until every student within that grade/class has their own.

I’ll then repeat this process for each class/grade I teach until each student I teach has a portfolio that is ready to go!

Preparing Evidence for Assessment/Organization

Ok, now that my folders are set up, I can start collecting & organizing evidence.

When I collect evidence of my students’ learning in class in class, the evidence usually falls into one of two categories: video-based or paper-based. Both categories get sorted into my portfolios.

Video-based evidence usually starts off being stored on my iPad. Either I filmed it myself or my students filmed it and AirDropped it to me.

Once class is over, I’ll AirDrop the videos to my MacBook into a folder on my desktop (e.g. “G3 Overhand Throwing”). Once all of the videos are into the folder, I’ll use macOS’ Quick Look feature to quickly determine which student is in the video and then rename the file with the student’s name and a description of the evidence in the video. For example, I might name a video of a student named Joey’s kicking at the beginning of our foot skills unit “Joey Overhand Throwing Initial”. I’ll copy the description from the file name (e.g. “Overhand Throwing Initial Initial”) and then continue renaming the evidence files by typing the student’s name and pasting the description (this saves a ton of typing time). For a class of 32 students, this usually takes about 6-8 minutes.

Side note: I know some of you might be thinking “why doesn’t he just upload it directly to Google Drive with the iPad app?” I tried that for a while, but it slowed down my video capture process in class significantly. In other words: tech was getting in the way of my teaching. The process I use now (the now I just described) has, to date, proven to be the most efficient way for me to collect and organize evidence while teaching. Ok, back to the blog post!

Paper-based evidence is a little trickier. I’ll have to collect all of the paper assessment tools we used in class and then use the school’s Xerox machine to scan them (I’ll usually sort the papers in alphabetical order prior to scanning them). Our machine allows us to scan a whole stack of papers into one PDF file and then email that PDF to our school Gmail account.

Once I have the PDF in my Gmail, I’ll open it up in Preview. I’ll create a folder on my desktop (e.g. “G3 Fleeing Tactics”) and then drag each page of the PDF into the folder to create a unique PDF of each student’s work. Once each individual page is in the folder, I’ll go through the renaming process of each file that I described earlier.

Assessing & Organizing Evidence

Ok, now that the evidence is all properly labelled, it’s time to assess it all and organize it into my students’ portfolios.

First off, I’ll need two things with me as I do this: my Learning Roadmap rubric for the current unit being taught and my iOS Numbers Gradebooks to keep track of where my students are at in their learning. My Learning Roadmaps are printed out, so I’ll usually have it posted on the whiteboard above my desk. My Numbers Gradebooks are on my iPad which I’ll have with me on my desk. With these tools in hand, I’m ready to start going through the evidence.

I’ll look at each students piece of evidence and use the Learning Roadmap rubric to decide where I would place that student in terms of their learning. Once I have made a decision, I’ll adjust the level in my Numbers Gradebook and then drag and drop the piece of evidence into the appropriate folder for the student being assessed. I’ll do this until there are no more files in the desktop folder and then I’ll delete that empty folder.

It’s really, really important to note here that the level I enter here is not a final result. It’s just where my student is currently at in their learning. As I go through the process, I’ll take notes on students who I need to follow up with or spend more time with in our next lesson. Also, I still get a lot of assessment done in class through teacher observation and interviews. I’m constantly trying to figure out how students are doing in terms of their learning and communicate that information to them (my Assessment Magnets get a ton of action these days). Really, this portfolio assessment is not, by any means, a one-and-done process. It’s actually just the start of my work in helping each student learn.

As the unit goes on and I collect more and more evidence (and combine it with my in-class observations), I’ll be able to make informed decisions in terms of determining how far a student was able to go in their learning journey throughout the unit.

Having portfolios organized like this helps me customize my teaching to meet my students’ needs by giving me the insight I need to do so. It also, as I mentioned earlier, helps me defend grades and communicate success by having a wealth of evidence to put on the table for parents and administrators to see.

Archiving Evidence

This year, I’ll be archiving my students’s portfolios. I’m doing this by having a “Class of 20XX” folder in a “Archive” folder within my Google Drive for each cohort at St. G’s. For example, my current grade six class has a folder titled “Class of 2017” since they are graduating from the elementary school this year.

To archive a portfolio, I’ll simply grab all of the folders in a student’s current portfolio and drag them into their archive folder. The graphic below better explains the organizational process here:

Although this is the first year I’m formally doing this, in the past I’ve simply kept all of my portfolios in their school year folder. I kept them because I thought it was an incredible opportunity to show student growth year-over-year. For example, at the last parent teacher interviews, I was not only able to show parents how a student had improved their running between the start and the end of our locomotor skills unit, I could also show them how that student had improved their running since the previous year. It’s powerful stuff!

One More Thing…

Last year, I saw my wife, who is a grade 4 classroom teacher, working on something for her portfolios. When I asked her about it, she told me she was making something called an Anchor Portfolio.

Anchor Portfolios are collections of student work that provide examples of what the different levels of mastery can look like for each grade-level outcome.

Now that I am doing a better job at creating my Learning Roadmaps with their four levels of mastery for each unit and have collected a lot of examples of student work/performance, I’m going to start creating Anchor Portfolios for the grade-level outcomes we focus on throughout the school year. Although this is a long-term project, it will help my students have a better understanding of what each level can look like and reflect on the differences between the four levels.

My Anchor Portfolio Setup.

Helping my students have the clearest possible idea of what mastery of an outcome looks like will help them set better goals, stay focused on progress and work towards that mastery in class.

For that reason alone, I’d say that Anchor Portfolios are work worth doing.


Alright! So that is how I create, organize and maintain my student portfolios in physical education. Now that you’ve read all about it, I’d love to hear how you think I could be doing a better job at this! Although I’m very open to trying out new tools and work flows, it’s really important to me that anything I try is aligned with my goal of putting student learning first and that it doesn’t become distracting in my learning. That being said, share away!

Thanks so much for reading and Happy Teaching!

Joey Feith
Joey Feith is a physical education teacher based out of Nova Scotia and the founder of
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