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Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition

Portfolio tips

Stages in Portfolio Development: Define, Collect, Reflect, Select, and Assemble


What is the purpose of your portfolio?Do you want academic credit towards your program?Do you want advanced standing to enter into a program?Do you have a goal of career advancement and are wanting academic credit to show that your skills are current and represent skills necessary within your chosen field?


  • Official job descriptions
  • Certificate of completion of work based courses
  • Letters of verification/attestation from employers
  • Newspaper articles which detail your involvement in initiatives
  • Screen shots of websites you’ve created
  • CDs and DVDs which show technical skills that are best animated or otherwise inappropriate to be printed and displayed inside a paper based portfolio

Examples of Evidence of Learning


Things to think about and potentially include in the reflection of your learning:

  • What you find easy and why
  • What you find challenging/difficult and why
  • Steps you took (if any) to improve or succeed against challenges you have encountered
  • Changes in your motivation or attitudes towards learning
  • How your study and continual skills development relate to other areas of your life


Choose evidence that best meets the learning outcomes of specific courses or programs. When selecting evidence, keep in mind that it should be current.


A portfolio should be considered as one “port” within a “folio” of learning. Regardless of the type of portfolio, it should be clear and professionally presented. Candidates most often use a three-ring binder with dividers to organize their portfolios. Other methods of the organization include boxes or electronic means such as websites, DVDs, computer disks or PowerPoint programs.


Global Thoughts on the Finished Portfolio


The overall appearance of the portfolio should be aesthetically pleasing and have professional standards. As a practical matter that means that it should be clean and well organized and (if a paper portfolio) with no loose papers in evidence.


There has to be a coherent argument throughout your portfolio that supports your goal of PLAR credit. The font, layout and organization must be the same to reinforce the evidence that is being shown within it. If there is material or evidence that is out of place or doesn’t match what has been stated previously, the assessor will begin to wonder what else is incorrect within it.


The assessor wants to see and understand the evidence and its accompanying analysis when first reviewing the portfolio.  Although you may be tempted to add “bells and whistles”, it is more important to make the portfolio’s organization, analysis and evidence easy to find and follow.


The evidence and documentation of knowledge, skills and abilities accrued in your prior learning must be related to the skills expected on completion of a post-secondary academic course.  If the skill were initially learned many years ago they must be current and there must be verifiable evidence of their currency.


Evidence must be accurate and verifiable.


Before You Submit Your Portfolio:

Decide what you are going to use as a portfolio holder.  You can create an electronic portfolio or a paper-based portfolio. If you choose a paper-based portfolio:

  • Most people arrange it in a three-ring binder
  • Use clearly marked dividers that correspond with your Table of Contents
  • Number pages consecutively from the beginning to the end of your portfolio
  • Page numbers should correspond with your Table of Contents
  • Products such as cd and DVDs should be clearly marked with your name and should also be referenced in your list of evidence (ask your advisor for specific advice about limitations on submitting video tapes for assessment purposes)
  • Use a USB drive for electronic documents
  • When validation letters or other documents are used to support several outcomes or outcome clusters, they should be placed in an Appendix at the end of your portfolio.
  • Explain which documents you are using as evidence in your learning statements/narrative connected to course or program learning outcomes (You should indicate which appendix, which letter, and which paragraph are to be referenced by the PLAR assessor)
  • Protect evidence and important documentation by using clear plastic covers.
  • Do not automatically include original documents.  Photocopies are acceptable but the Assessor my request submission of the original document.

Adapted from Douglas College manual Prior Learning Assessment & Recognition (PLAR)Service Credit & Recognition for Life-Long Learning