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A portfolio (from Latin portare , “to carry” and folium , “sheet”), rarely a portfolio , is a folder with application documents , especially works of art . In a figurative sense, a portfolio is understood to be a stock of related legal objects , e.g. B. of securities , and more generally a collection of things. z. B. the product portfolio of a manufacturer.


The word portfolio is used today in different contexts, for example in different areas of the economy , in education or in artistic professions . It is part of various word combinations, such as product portfolio , brand portfolio , project portfolio , artist portfolio ( folder ). The legal objects for the content of a portfolio include material goods ( objects or aggregates of all kinds; in particular goods , commodities or securities ) or intangible goods ( claims , rights such as concessions , licenses , patents , trademarks , trademarks, industrial property rights , goodwill and copyrights ) . There are substitution or exchange relationships between the objects in a financial portfolio ; they are correlated with one another .

Word history

The word portfolio initially mainly used art for a folder containing special documents. As early as the Renaissance , architects and artists carried references in such a binder for the purpose of applying for a building contract or academy site .

Harry Markowitz first introduced the term portfolio in 1952 as part of his portfolio theory in order to describe and examine the entire holdings of a securities account. If individual securities are combined with one another in a portfolio, this leads to a lower standard deviation than for each security considered individually, with the same return ; this is the core of risk diversification . Later further developments of this theory such as the capital asset pricing model (1964) or the arbitrage price theory (1976) used the term portfolio.

Since other sub-areas of the financial economy also had comparable masses of assets with the applicability of portfolio theory, they adopted the word portfolio for their purposes ( funds , insurance companies , asset management , investment business ). After all, the Boston Consulting Group first used the word in 1970 for a product portfolio.

Portfolio as a physical object

Art and design

For creative professionals, the portfolio is a compilation of the best and most important work and projects that you have been involved in. It is used for application or self- marketing purposes . A portfolio is usually in the form of a folder , as an analog or digital data carrier ( VHS tape , CD-ROM , DVD , etc.), or as a website on the Internet. Models or actors use a selection of their most important work for the sedcard , which is a combination of portfolio and business card for the purpose of handing over to potential customers. Showreels are used in the field of film and animated design .

“Even in the Renaissance, artists and architects carried a portfolio with them when they applied for places at academies or for building contracts. With the help of the documents it contained, they were not only able to show the quality of their work, but also how they had further developed their skills over time. In addition, using sketches and drafts, it was possible to show personal working techniques and one's own working style. "

- Häcker , 2006, p. 27f.

In the United States , a portfolio in the arts and architecture institutes of many colleges is one of the application requirements. There value is placed above all on a wide range of the presented topics and techniques. Some American high schools offer special portfolio preparation courses in which grade 12 students can create their application portfolios under the guidance and advice of an art teacher.


Portfolio work

In the education sector , the term “portfolio”, and even “portfolio work”, a fashionable term from the 1990s, has been adopted from marketing since around 2001. Since then there has been talk of different types of portfolios:

  • Course portfolio: is used to collect products and performance records from a single course (e.g. politics, biology etc.).
  • Portfolio in the sense of a performance folder: collects and arranges certain products that characterize a learning biography of the learner or make the development of the learner visible or document his work on a project. It can be used as a showcase portfolio, exam portfolio or as an application portfolio.
  • A portfolio can also systematically record references, job descriptions, awards, certificates, attestations of attendance or learning experiences and successes; plan personal learning strategies; optimize your own job search, etc. (see also e-portfolio ).

Special feature of a portfolio: it enables a systematic learning strategy to be developed. The reflection and evaluation of oneself, of the learning content and of the learning experiences characterize a portfolio (see work journal ).

Educational portfolios have their origins in the alternative assessment movement. When the concept of the portfolio was adopted in the education sector, it was intended that the content should be close to portfolios in the artistic and economic sectors. The portfolio in the school area shows the ability, the working method and the development of the learner in a similar way to the portfolio in the artistic area. On the one hand, it is linked to the presentation and assessment of competencies. On the other hand, the focus is on the further development of these competencies. The already mentioned portability of the portfolio also had a reinforcing effect on the choice of term. From the economic use, analogies can be drawn with regard to risk minimization in the assessment. Here, the portfolio authors themselves select performance records that are inserted into the portfolio and subjected to an assessment procedure. This gives the authors the opportunity to select their best services and minimize the risk of not meeting the requirements. You get the opportunity to use these best services according to your goals. In relation to the performance appraisal, they move the learners from a reactive role of the “person to be examined” to an active role of the “competency performing”.

Portfolio work is carried out on the basis of several process steps, starting with the definition of the context, the collecting of documents (learning process descriptions and learning products), the selection of these documents in the portfolio, the reflection (as a core element of the portfolio work) and portfolio advice and the resulting projections onto new ones Learning objectives extend to the final presentation of the completed portfolio.

Portfolio work is characterized by the following aspects:

  • Aspect of the connection between the learning process and the learning products
  • Aspect of subject and action orientation
  • Aspect of self-reflexivity in learning
  • Aspect of a competence instead of a deficit orientation

In 1991 the European Language Portfolio was initiated as a project of the Council of Europe. The aim of the European Language Portfolio is to accompany the language acquisition process of learners, to promote multilingualism and thus to contribute to a greater linguistic and cultural diversity in Europe.

Medical education

Portfolios are also used as a training method in medicine to document and reflect on the level of performance. B. at RWTH Aachen University , in the Netherlands, in Great Britain, the USA), in Iran and in Taiwan). The learner is involved in the collection and selection of the content, the definition of the assessment criteria and the assessment of the quality of their own work. Does the reflection of the learning process serve, above all, to evaluate one's own professional and non-professional competencies and e.g. B. the identification of gaps or particular strengths, the written or electronic (also multimedia) presentation of the results is also relevant for applications or the gathering of feedback. As a survey among students at RWTH Aachen University showed, the ambitious idea of ​​the portfolio is only partially implemented by them and is mainly used for organizational purposes such as collecting performance records.

Portfolio software for the education sector

There are numerous software packages for creating a portfolio with functions such as collecting, checking, reflecting, presenting and sometimes with interfaces to the servers of the university administration. Handling them varies in complexity, but is often too demanding for freshmen. As a simple freemium product z. B. Evernote offered.

Portfolio in the figurative sense


The concept of the portfolio plays a particularly important role in business. Portfolio is the inventory of receivables , investment funds , products , special funds , liabilities , assets , securities or copyrights , the quality of which may change over time . The business portfolio is the composition of the business areas in which a company operates, in particular the core business . All portfolios are part of the portfolio management of risk diversification be subjected to unacceptable risks to all or part of the through hedging hedged.


In banking , the portfolio concerns either the optimal combination of different investment options for an investor or the entirety of all active transactions . The securities portfolio is to be combined in such a way that the total return for the investor can be maximized for a given investment amount and given risk class . On the other hand, a portfolio can achieve a desired return expectation with the lowest possible risk or an accepted risk with the highest possible return expectation. The loan portfolio is the stock of loans in the lending business , which is to be examined primarily for cluster risk (according to borrowers , foreign currencies , rating classes , sectors or regions ) and granularity (according to amount). For funds of all kinds, the fund assets are also called the fund portfolio . In insurance , the insurance portfolio is the insurance portfolio. A real estate portfolio is to be understood as a number of real estate that are connected to one another via various characteristics. The boundaries between inventory management , asset management and portfolio management can hardly be drawn. In any case, portfolios in the financial sector must be managed in such a way that they are balanced, taking into account return , risk and profit . This means that either the risk should be minimized for an expected return or the return should be maximized for a specific risk.

Sales, marketing, production management

In sales and marketing , portfolio refers to a collection of products , services , projects or brands that a company offers. In this respect, one also speaks of a company's product portfolio or brand portfolio. Various analysis techniques are used to build up a corresponding (product) portfolio: BCG analysis , McKinsey portfolio , ADL portfolio , contribution margin analysis , multi-factor analysis and quality function deployment . As a rule, companies try to achieve both diversification and a balanced ratio of offers in their portfolio.

The various products of a company are divided into four categories in the Boston Consulting Group portfolio depending on their relative market share and market growth , depending on the status of the product life cycle : Question Marks, Stars, Cashcows and Poor Dogs. The product portfolio is a subset of the company portfolio that can be defined down to the level of the individual product (share of sales, profit, growth rates, etc.).

The sales programs are developed from the product portfolio, which includes all product variants, since the product range must be adapted to the different sales markets and customer requirements or needs in the case of worldwide sales . Legal, national, climatic and cultural differences play an important role here. The product offers (see also the product catalog ) of a manufacturer therefore differ to a greater or lesser extent from one another in the various countries, which can be seen particularly well in the case of global automobile manufacturers .

IT company

For large industrial companies and banks, the IT portfolio is a complete overview of all IT applications, IT projects and IT employee skills. The term may go back to an essay by FW McFarlan. The IT application portfolio contains existing systems, the IT project portfolio the new and further development of applications or infrastructure components and the IT employee portfolio the employee skills. For the systematic administration and further development of an IT portfolio, a separate work discipline has emerged, IT portfolio management .

In contrast to the contents of the financial portfolio, IT investments cannot easily be converted into cash. Therefore, the assessment criteria are both economic and strategic in nature, for example in the assessment of competitive advantages. For example, they are recorded in the form of a balanced scorecard .


The business of a minister is also in English-speaking countries called portfolio.


Educational area
  • G. Bräuer; M. Keller; F. Winter (Ed.): Portfolio makes school. Seelze: Klett / Kallmeyer 2012. ISBN 978-3780010971 .
  • I. Brunner, T. Häcker, F. Winter (eds.): The portfolio work handbook. Concepts, suggestions, experiences from school and teacher training. Kallmeyer, Seelze 2006.
  • M. Glasses-Zikuda, T. Hascher (Ed.): Documenting, reflecting and assessing learning processes. Learning diary and portfolio in educational research and educational practice. Klinkhardt, Bad Heilbrunn 2007.
  • T. Häcker: Portfolio: a development tool for self-determined learning. An Exploratory Study of Working with Portfolios in Secondary Education 1. 2., revised. Edition. Schneider Verlag Hohengehren, Baltmannsweiler 2007.
  • B. Koch-Priewe, B .; B. Leonhard; A. Pineker; J. Störtländer (Ed.): Portfolio in teacher training. Bad Heilbrunn: Klinkhardt 2013. ISBN 978-3781519312 .
  • U. Lissmann: Assessment and assessment problems with portfolios. In: Reinhold S. Jäger (Ed.): From observation to grading. A textbook. 4th, revised. u. supplementary edition. Verlag Empirische Pädagogik, Landau 2004, pp. 211–241.
  • FL Paulson, PR Paulson, CA Meyer: What Makes a Portfolio a Portfolio? Eight thoughtful guidelines will help educators encourage self-directed learning. In: Educational Leadership. 48 (5), 1991, pp. 60-63.
  • F. Winter .: Performance evaluation. A new learning culture needs a different approach to student performance. Bernd-Schuster Verlag, Baltmannsweiler 2012.
  • S. Ziegelbauer; M. Glasses-Zikuda (Ed.): Portfolio as an innovation in schools, universities and teacher training. Bad Heilbrunn: Klinkhardt 2016. ISBN 978-3781521292 .
  • Herlyn: PPS in the automotive industry - production program planning and control of vehicles and assemblies . Hanser Verlag, Munich 2012, ISBN 978-3-446-41370-2 .

Web links

Wiktionary: Portfolio  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Sabine Wessel, Portfolio in the primary school , 2007, p. 39
  2. Thomas Häcker , Using the Portfolio Method to Change Lessons , 2005, p. 15
  3. ^ Harry Markowitz, Portfolio Selection , in: Journal of Finance vol. 7, 1952, p. 77 ff.
  4. ^ Harry Markowitz, Portfolio Selection , in: Journal of Finance vol. 7, 1952, p. 79
  5. Bruce Henderson: The Product Portfolio . In: www.bcgperspectives.com . ( bcgperspectives.com [accessed January 4, 2018]).
  6. ^ Daniel Grant: Portfolio Prep. Retrieved September 23, 2017 .
  7. ^ E.g. Central High School, East Syracuse, NY. Retrieved September 23, 2017 .
  8. Thomas Gesterkamp: The Crisis of Guys: Male Lifestyle and the Change in the Working Society. Münster 2004, 57f.
  9. T. Häcker: Portfolio: a development tool for self-determined learning. 2007, p. 86.
  10. T. Häcker: Portfolio: a development tool for self-determined learning. 2007, pp. 245ff.
  11. Audio contribution by Thomas Häcker: “Portfolio makes learning visible”. In: The German School Portal. February 6, 2020, accessed February 14, 2020 .
  12. cf. Brunner / Schmiedinger [2000], p. 17.
  13. cf. Reich, K. [2006], p. 19.
  14. T. Häcker: Portfolio: a development tool for self-determined learning. 2007, p. 109.
  15. Brunner, I. [2007], p. 73.
  16. [1]
  17. Erik Driessen, Jan van Tartwijk, Jan Vermunt, Cees van der Vleuten: Use of portfolios in early undergraduate medical training. In: Medical Teacher. 25, 2003, pp. 18-23, doi: 10.1080 / 0142159021000061378 .
  18. Charlotte Rees, Charlotte Sheard: Undergraduate medical students' views about a reflective portfolio assessment of their communication skills learning. In: Medical Education. 38, 2004, pp. 125-128, doi: 10.1111 / j.1365-2923.2004.01750.x .
  19. Elaine F. Dannefer, S. Beth Bierer, Sophia P. Gladding: Evidence within a portfolio-based assessment program: What do medical students select to document their performance? In: Medical Teacher. 34, 2012, pp. 215-220, doi: 10.3109 / 0142159X.2012.652241 .
  20. F. Haghani, A. Sadeghizadeh: intervention in the learning process of second year medical students. In: Journal of Research in Medical Science. 16 (3), 2011, pp. 346-352. PMC 3214345 (free full text).
  21. Shih-Li Tsai, Ming-Jung Ho, David Hirsh, David E. Kern: Defiance, compliance, or alliance? How we developed a medical professionalism curriculum that deliberately connects to cultural context. In: Medical Teacher. 34, 2012, pp. 614-617, doi: 10.3109 / 0142159X.2012.684913 .
  22. Alfred Kyrer : Business from A to Z , 2010, p 91
  23. Dietger Hahn / Bernhard Taylor (eds.), Strategic Business Planning - Strategic Business Management , 1990, p. 221
  24. ^ Jörg Freiherr Frank von Fürstenwerth / Alfons Weiß, Versicherungs-Alphabet (VA) , 2001, p. 488
  25. Wilmjakob Herlyn: PPS in the automotive industry. Hanser Verlag, Munich 2012, p. 122 ff.
  26. ^ FW McFarlan: Portfolio approach to information systems. In: Harvard Business Review . 1, September-October 1981, pp. 42-150.