Springer Nature is making SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates

Design and evaluation of a development portfolio: how to improve students’ self-directed learning skills


In on-demand education, students often experience problems with directing their own learning processes. A Structured Task Evaluation and Planning Portfolio (STEPP) was designed to help students develop 3 basic self-directed learning skills: Assessing the quality of own performance, formulating learning needs, and selecting future learning tasks. A case study with 10 first-year students in the domain of hairdressing was conducted to evaluate STEPP’s use, usability, and perceived effectiveness. Results from student interviews show that usability and use are influenced by several factors. Students with low prior hairdressing skills, a weakly developed personal approach to direct their own learning, and an inclination to update STEPP as part of their weekly routine, use STEPP more frequently than students without these characteristics. Both the supervisor and students who frequently used STEPP perceived its use as a positive contribution to the development of self-directed learning skills. Furthermore, this study provides guidelines for the design of development portfolios in on-demand education.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3


  1. Andrade, H., & Boulay, B. (2003). Gender and the role of rubric-referenced self-assessment in learning to write. Journal of Educational Research, 97(1), 21–34.

  2. Andrade, H., & Du, Y. (2007). Student responses to criteria-referenced self-assessment. Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 32(2), 159–181.

  3. Bell, B. S., & Kozlowski, S. W. J. (2002). Adaptive guidance: Enhancing self-regulation, knowledge, and performance in technology-based training. Personnel Psychology, 55, 267–306.

  4. Biggs, J. B., & Moore, P. J. (1993). The process of learning. Sydney, Australia: Prentice-Hall.

  5. Birenbaum, M., & Dochy, F. J. R. C. (Eds.). (1996). Alternatives in assessment of achievements, learning processes and prior knowledge. Boston, MA: Kluwer Academic Publishers.

  6. Bjork, R. A. (1999). Assessing our own competence: Heuristics and illusions. In D. Gopher & A. Koriat (Eds.), Attention and performance XVII. Cognitive regulation of performance: Interaction of theory and application (pp. 435–459). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

  7. Black, P., & Wiliam, D. (1998). Assessment and classroom learning. Assessment in Education, 5(1), 7–74.

  8. Boud, D. (1995). Enhancing learning through self assessment. London: Kogan Page.

  9. Brookfield, S. (1986). Understanding and facilitating adult learning. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

  10. Driessen, E. W., van Tartwijk, J., Overeem, K., Vermunt, J. D., & van der Vleuten, C. P. M. (2005). Conditions for successful reflective use of portfolios. Medical Education, 39(12), 1230–1235.

  11. Falchikov, N., & Boud, D. (1989). Student self-assessment in higher education: A meta-analysis. Review of Educational Research, 59(4), 395–430.

  12. Gordon, M. J. (1992). Self-assessment programs and their implications for health professions training. Academic Medicine, 67, 672–679.

  13. Hanrahan, S. J., & Isaacs, G. (2001). Assessing self- and peer-assessment: The students’ views. Higher Educational Research and Development, 20(1), 53–70.

  14. Herman, J. L., & Winters, L. (1994). Portfolio research: A slim collection. Educational Leadership, 52(2), 48–55.

  15. Holme, R., & Chalauisaeng, B. (2006). The learner as needs analyst: The use of participatory appraisal in the EAP reading classroom. English for Specific Purposes, 25, 403–419.

  16. Järvinen, A., & Kohonen, V. (1995). Promoting professional development in higher education through portfolio assessment. Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 20(1), 25–36.

  17. Jossberger, H., Brand-Gruwel, S., & Boshuizen, H. P. A. (2008). An interpretative and analytical framework of learning in workplace simulations: What makes a student a successful learner? Manuscript submitted for publication.

  18. Klenowski, V. (2002). Developing portfolios for learning and assessment: Processes and principles. London: Routledge Falmer.

  19. Knowles, M. (1975). Self-directed learning: A guide for learners and teachers. Chicago, IL: Follet.

  20. Knowles, M. (1998). The adult learner: A neglected species (5th ed.). Houston, TX: Gulf.

  21. Langenbach, M. (1993). Curriculum models in adult education. Malabar, FL: Krieger.

  22. Levett-Jones, T. (2005). Self-directed learning: Implications and limitations for undergraduate nursing education. Nurse Education Today, 25(5), 363–368.

  23. Long, H. B. (1990). Psychological control in self-directed learning. International Journal of Lifelong Education, 9(4), 331–338.

  24. Mager, R. F. (1962). Preparing instructional objectives. Belmont, CA: Fearon Publishers.

  25. Mansvelder-Longayroux, D. D., Beijaard, D., & Verloop, N. (2007). The portfolio as a tool for stimulating reflection by student teachers. Teacher and Teacher Education, 23(1), 47–62.

  26. Nolan, J., & Nolan, M. (1997a). Self-directed and student-centred learning in nurse education: 1. British Journal of Nursing, 6(1), 51–55.

  27. Nolan, J., & Nolan, M. (1997b). Self-directed and student-centred learning in nurse education: 2. British Journal of Nursing, 6(2), 103–107.

  28. Paris, S. G., & Cunningham, A. (1996). Children becoming students. In D. Berliner & R. Calfee (Eds.), Handbook of educational psychology (pp. 117–147). New York: Macmillan.

  29. Paris, S. G., & Paris, A. H. (2001). Classroom applications of research on self-regulated learning. Educational Psychologist, 36(2), 89–101.

  30. Pressley, M. (1995). More about the development of self-regulation: Complex, long-term, and thoroughly social. Educational Psychologist, 30(4), 207–212.

  31. Rosenholtz, S. J., & Simpson, C. (1984). The formation of ability conceptions: Developmental trend or social construction? Review of Educational Research, 54, 31–63.

  32. Schunk, D. H., & Zimmerman, B. J. (Eds.). (1994). Self-regulation of learning and performance: Issues and educational applications. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

  33. Seidel, S., Walters, J., Kirby, E., Olff, N., Powell, K., & Veenema, S. (1997). Portfolio practices: Thinking through the assessment of children’s work. Washington, DC: NEA Professional Library.

  34. Slevin, O., & Lavery, M. (1991). Self-directed learning and student supervision. Nurse Education Today, 11, 368–377.

  35. Sluijsmans, D. M. A., Dochy, F., & Moerkerke, G. (1999). Creating a learning environment by using self- peer- and co-assessment. Learning Environments Research, 1, 293–319.

  36. Stefani, A. J. (1992). Comparison of collaborative, self, peer and tutor assessment in a biochemistry practical. Biochemical Education, 20(3), 148–151.

  37. Stefani, A. J. (1994). Peer, self and tutor assessment: Relative reliabilities. Studies in Higher Education, 19(1), 69–75.

  38. Steinberg, E. R. (1989). Cognition and learner control: A literature review. Journal of Computer-Based Instruction, 16(4), 117–124.

  39. Stiggins, R. J. (2001). Student-involved classroom assessment (3rd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill/Prentice-Hall.

  40. Tillema, H. H., & Smith, K. (2000). Learning from portfolios: Differential use of feedback in portfolio construction. Studies in Educational Evaluation, 26(3), 193–210.

  41. Tough, A. (1979). The adults learning project: A fresh approach to theory and practice in adult learning. Toronto, Canada: OISE Press.

  42. Van Merriënboer, J. J. G. (1997). Training complex cognitive skills: A four-component instructional design model for technical training. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Educational Technology Publications.

  43. Van Merriënboer, J. J. G., & Kirschner, P. A. (2007). Ten steps to complex learning. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

  44. Van Tartwijk, J., Driessen, E., van der Vleuten, C., & Stokking, K. (2007). Factors influencing the successful introduction of portfolios. Quality in Higher Education, 13(1), 69–79.

  45. Wade, R. C., & Yarbrough, D. B. (1996). Portfolios: A tool for reflective thinking in teacher education. Teaching & Teacher Education, 12(1), 63–79.

  46. Wiggins, G. (1998). Educative assessment: Designing assessments to inform and improve student performance. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

  47. Williams, M. D. (1996). Learner-control and instructional technologies. In D. H. Jonassen (Ed.), Handbook of research for educational communications and technology (pp. 957–982). New York: Simon & Schuster Macmillan.

  48. Wolf, D. P. (1989). Portfolio assessment: Sampling students’ work. Educational Leadership, 46(7), 35–39.

Download references


This research project is funded by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO, The Hague, project no. 411-03-202).

Author information

Correspondence to Wendy Kicken.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Kicken, W., Brand-Gruwel, S., van Merriënboer, J. et al. Design and evaluation of a development portfolio: how to improve students’ self-directed learning skills. Instr Sci 37, 453–473 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11251-008-9058-5

Download citation


  • Development portfolio
  • On-demand education
  • Self-directed learning
  • Secondary vocational education