This week Yan Huo talks about sustainable assessment, and encourages the use of e-portfolios

Further Reading

"Students are increasingly engaged in a broad range of activities that make up the wider student experience: engaging in activities, volunteering, …Graduates want and need the ability to communicate these skills and experiences to their future employers." Wes Streeting (2007)

“A fundamental change is needed in the way we think about education’s role in global development, because it has a catalytic impact on the well-being of individuals and the future of our planet. … Now, more than ever, education has a responsibility to be in gear with 21st century challenges and aspirations, and foster the right types of values and skills that will lead to sustainable and inclusive growth, and peaceful living together." Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO

“Education can, and must, contribute to a new vision of sustainable global development.” (UNESCO, 2015)

What are the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)?

  • The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)  are the set of 17 agreed goals which all 193 UN member states have committed to that will guide policy and funding for the next 15 years.
  • According to the World Bank, around 1 billion people still live in extreme poverty and more than 800 million people do not have enough food to eat.
  • From 2016, all UN member states will mobilise efforts to end all forms of poverty, fight inequalities and tackle climate change, while ensuring that no one is left behind.

What are e-portfolios?

They are digital presentations of a student’s experiences, achievements and aspirations for a particular audience – the digital equivalent of a paper portfolio – but the term often refers also to the underlying tools and systems.

However, it is the learning that really matters. Creating an e-portfolio involves skills essential for 21st century learning – organising and planning material, giving and receiving feedback, reflecting, selecting and arranging content to communicate with a particular audience in the most effective way.

It is these rich and complex processes that are of most interest and value to educators.

What are e-portfolios used for?

Different sectors, disciplines and professional bodies have their own approaches, but our research shows that e-portfolios are valuable at all stages in the learning lifecycle.

A well-managed approach to e-portfolios offers students, staff and employers ways of:

  • Evidencing employability skills and graduate attributes
  • Assessing learning in a more authentic way
  • Making sense of learning and achievements across disparate parts of the curriculum
  • Engaging with personal and continuing professional development
  • Making coherent links between different stages of learning
  • Achieving deeper learning through reflection and dialogue
  • Developing lifelong learning skills


David Boud (2000) Sustainable Assessment: Rethinking assessment for the learning society, Studies in Continuing Education, 22:2, 151-167, DOI: 10.1080/713695728

JISC (2008) Effective practice with e-portfolios, JISC, UK.

UNESCO (2017) Education for Sustainable Development Goals: Learning Objectives, available at: