Portfolios: Collecting to Cull

The central feature of every portfolio are the artifacts which are those examples and fragments of work that illustrate the learners’ skills, knowledge, and habits. It is important to note that with some exceptions, artifacts are fragments of work. Rather than including the entire paper, one will include only the abstract or the conclusion, or select paragraphs that illustrate the expectations.

Advice that is frequently given to those who will be preparing a portfolio is “collect to cull.” This refers to the practice of amassing a wide range of work and then pairing down the collection to include only the most meaningful work in the portfolio. While this may seem unnecessary, many find that this practice reduces the potential for incomplete portfolios, reliance on non-authentic artifacts, or using artifacts that are not representative of the level of skill or the nature of the knowledge the portfolio creator seeks to demonstrate. 

Strategies for collecting to cull include:

  • Using tools in a learning management system to add work to the portfolio provided in the system;
  • Maintaining a folder (either physical one, one on a computer hard drive, or an online folder) and adding potential artifacts to it;
  • Tagging digital files so they are easier to search;
  • Create an online repository using Blogger or a similar tool to collect artifacts.

Choosing the method that will work best for an individual depends on factors such as:

  • The recommendations of the mentors;
  • The limits of the systems available;
  • The nature of the artifacts one seeks to digitize;
  • The individual’s skill level with technology.