Design Thinking

What is a Portfolio for Students?

With another unpredictable school year underway, I know we’re all pondering the future of education. How can we truly prepare students for a world that’s changing so rapidly?

Artificial intelligence and the transition towards a skills-based economy are reshaping not only the job market but also the very foundation of our educational priorities. LinkedIn shares, “As we navigate through these changes, the way we measure and cultivate skills is evolving.

Traditional indicators of success, such as test scores and letter grades, only tell part of the story.

But as teachers, you understand there’s so much more to your student than scores! Their creativity, passions, struggles–those don’t always make it onto report cards…

That’s why, today, I want to talk about an underrated but powerful tool in the ever-changing world of education: student portfolios. When done right, portfolios give your students a chance to share their own learning journey beyond grades. They reveal talents and growth that traditional assessments can’t capture.

In this post, let’s explore what a portfolio is for students, how valuable it is for the future of education, and how to make portfolios a staple in our classrooms with the help of Canva.

Let’s do this!

What is a Portfolio for Students

Portfolios are like peek-behind-the-scenes documentaries of a student’s developing talents. In the simplest terms, a student portfolio is a collection of student work. These carefully curated collections capture progress over time not just the final projects that scratch the surface. We’re talking about drafts, worksheets, journal reflections, and videos of that eureka moment! 

Both digital portfolios and their traditional physical counterparts showcase all the grit, growth, and greatness along the learning journey. As opposed to boring report cards that reduce students to letter grades once a semester. While parents and educators can see how well their wards are doing, students have a treasure trove of evidence proving their strengths, skills, and achievements!

Types of Portfolios for Students

With so many options, let’s break down the main portfolio types so you can pick the perfect fit!

  • Digital/Online Portfolios: This portfolio type is very useful for “Preparing Students in Higher Education with Digital Literacy Skills.” Educators assist students in creating digital portfolios using my favorite platform Canva, where portfolios are then shareable and allow teachers to track student progress. In this era of artificial intelligence, it’s now easier than ever before to assist students in the creation of a digital portfolio hence why “AI Roundtables in Schools” are needed.
  • Physical Portfolios: like binders and folders store hard copies of assignments or projects, essential for science fairs and such. It may be old school but it’s still useful!
  • Project-based Portfolios: zoom in on a single task to showcase students’ process from A to Z. It’s ideal for honing specific skills.
  • Subject-specific Portfolios: organize writing samples by academics like math, science, etc. It helps you as an educator and others review growth in particular areas.
  • Process-oriented Portfolios: showcase a student’s thought journey, work habits, and reflection rather than just the final product.
  • Progress-oriented portfolios: help in tracking student growth over time using pieces of work samples plus external benchmarks like test scores.

Many educators use a combo style, incorporating elements of multiple approaches. The key is picking features aligned with your goals and audience.

Benefits of Portfolio for Students

Beyond storing assignments, student portfolios have some seriously empowering benefits:


This is, perhaps, one of the best benefits of student portfolio creation. When students curate and review their learning process in one place, it sparks metacognition. They gain insight into their progress and can set meaningful goals for growth. It also motivates students to continue to take ownership of their education.

Stand Out in Job Applications

Portfolios give students a major edge in job applications. In competitive markets, portfolios help talents stand out when grades alone don’t tell the whole story. By sharing diverse projects and passions in one impressive portfolio, students show employers their unique capabilities.

Wows College Admissions Teams

For college admissions, portfolios give a holistic view beyond just grades and test scores. Students can showcase their knowledge, talents, and achievements in one place for admissions teams. It brings their application to life!

Win Freelance Gigs

Portfolios also prime students for freelance success. Having a website to instantly send potential clients with work samples is invaluable. Portfolios help student’s land those unexpected gigs in a flash.

Attract Top Collaborators

Portfolios attract awesome collaborators by spotlighting skills and personality. Like-minded pros, influencers, and brands reach out once they see evidence of past experience. Thereafter, student’s can utilize the “3 Tools to Accelerate Innovation, Collaboration and Trust with Teams” to facilitate desired outcomes.

How To Create Portfolio for Students

We know student portfolios are an epic way for your students to share their stories. But how exactly do they craft these power portfolios? Where should students start?

Below are some sections your students must have in their portfolio to stand out:

Learner Profiles

This gives key insights into student’s classroom preferences and work styles, giving educators adequate information to better support their students academically. It also allows future employers to understand and treat students better as part of the company staff.

About Me

Here’s your students’ chance to give visitors the inside scoop on their uniqueness! 

They can share a bit about their background, interests, and academic focus. They get to paint a picture of who they are as students and where they want to go!


This is where students get to wow their audience with their impressive abilities and talents. Educators can suggest a visual skills roundup in the form of pictures, charts, and videos that demonstrate a student’s strongest skill sets. Encourage students to really play up any strengths that are connected to their major or dream career goals.

Work Samples

Students need to curate their best, most shining accomplishments that align with those stand-out skills they just flaunted. We’re talking about papers, presentations, projects, and whatever showcases their skill mastery in action. The skills section is where they “tell,” while this is where they “show.”


This section highlights your students’ big-picture professional goals and everything that fires them up career-wise. It allows employers to see that your wards have put real thought into their post-grad ambitions.


Listing out their various extracurricular commitments, clubs, sports teams, and other activities shows that your students are more than just academics. It spotlights dedication, diverse interests, and willingness to stretch beyond their comfort zones.


This is a perfect spot for students to highlight all relevant experiences in one place. A resume complements the other detailed sections beautifully. While their projects, skills, and such showcase depth…students’ resumes provide that helpful 30,000-foot view!

One quick tip: Always have your students leave out any personal identifiers like their emails, phone numbers, or home addresses before posting online. 


Aside from including all of the above, ensure that your students are ticking the following boxes: 

  • They should be clear on their goals and audience: This helps focus their content and design choices. Students should craft portfolios specifically for whom they want to impress!
  • Strategically organize the pieces that best highlight their abilities: Students should curate work aligned to their objectives, then categorize it to tell their professional stories.
  • They shouldn’t shy away from displaying their growth: Companies get hearty eyes for commitment and trajectories. So, have your wards demonstrate their evolution over time.
  • Include some personal reflections that give context to their work: Even a short paragraph explaining their thought processes or challenges they overcame can be super valuable. It gives readers a window into how your students tackle problems and think creatively, skills that are highly valued per the World Economic Forum.
  • Design consistency goes a long way too: Having a clear font scheme, color palette, layout, etc., creates a polished, professional feel. Plus, it makes your students’ portfolio way easier for the eyes to look through.

In our workshop series, “College and Career Prep in the Age of AI,” we help students build their online portfolios in Canva and a professional network on LinkedIn.

Meet Eme, a high school sophomore with many passions, dreams, and goals for the future. She now has a home where she can share her skills, experiences, and interests with a network of people as she designs her future.

eme williams linkedin

Get Started with Canva

Here is how you can get started using Canva (I made this quick tutorial using Scribe, it created the steps and the document below as well.)

An awesome portfolio is how students take charge of their career path!

As educators, your job guiding students doesn’t end when the bell rings. You have an invaluable opportunity (and responsibility) to encourage their portfolio journey even after they leave your classrooms!

When students pour their talents into portfolios, it becomes a springboard to amazing futures–academically, professionally, and personally. But for many, it can be tough knowing where to start or what to cut. 

Lucky for you, student portfolios are my bread and butter! I’m passionate about teaching educators the necessary skills required to help student’s polish their portfolios to perfection. I’ll show you how to help them do this and “How Students Can Navigate the Future of Work with Design Thinking.”

If you ever feel overwhelmed trying to help your ward sort out all that content yourself, don’t hesitate to reach out and learn about our workshop series, “College and Career Prep in the Age of AI.”

I also provide step-by-step guides tailored toward helping your students organize their achievements in the most compelling ways. My blogs, podcasts, documentaries, and YouTube videos are also loaded with student portfolio project tips and tricks to set them up for success, just like in this post: “How to Turn Assignments into Portfolio-Ready Projects Using AI.”

I’m Sabba.

I believe that the future should be designed. Not left to chance.

Over the past decade, using design thinking practices I've helped schools and businesses create a culture of innovation where everyone is empowered to move from idea to impact, to address complex challenges and discover opportunities. 

stay connected

designing schools

Add a comment
- Hide Comments
share this post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Join the Community

All of my best and life changing relationships began online. Whether it's a simple tweet, a DM or an email. It always begins and ends with the relationships we create. 

Each week I'll send the skills and strategies you need to build your human advantage in an AI world straight to your inbox. 

As Simon Sinek Says:
"Alone is hard. Together is better."