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Using portfolios to develop integrated skills


Marion Coderch & Laura Lewis are Assistant Professors (Teaching) at the Centre for Foreign Language Study.


A portfolio-based assessment model to develop and assess integrated language and transferable skills in German and Spanish language modules at C1 (advanced level in the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages; CEFR, 2020). These modules are part of the institution-wide language provision at Durham University, aimed at students from various disciplines other than Modern Languages.


The portfolio-based assessment system was first introduced in 2022/23. Students submit a total of five entries (two formative and three summative) over two terms. The final element of the assessment is a 1:1 oral exam in term 3. The task instructions and submission dates are released at the beginning of the academic year and students are able to submit at any point before the deadline.


Allowing students to make decisions about the content of their portfolio and creating their own fictitious identities increases their personal investment in the assessment task and enhances their motivation and autonomy. Additionally, the multi-stage process of designing the portfolio further enables students to develop their language skills in a more meaningful and authentic way.

Infographic explaining the portfolio assessment. Download the PPT file for an accessible version.


Throughout the module, students were supported and guided in the submission of their portfolios. The portfolio was hosted on PebblePad, which acts as a diary, allowing students to progressively build the content of their portfolio. Each summative submission was preceded and prepared by a formative assessment. The combination of formative and summative assessment tasks gave students the opportunity to discuss their progress in relation to the expectations set for them.

How did it go?

Students took to the inventive nature of the portfolio seamlessly: they showed a high level of initiative and imagination, and the high standard of the work they produced reflected their investment in the tasks.

The feedback received from students, both formally and informally, was very positive, with many enjoying the creative freedom the assessment system allowed them and the reduction in anxiety often caused by time-constrained exams.