Incorporating Portfolio Assessment
An assessment portfolio is a purposeful collection of student work designed to showcase a student¬'s progress toward, and achievement of, course-specific learning objectives. Portfolios are considered authentic assessment as they provide evidence of what a student can actually DO. Like many authentic assessments, portfolios contain information from a range of sources, through multiple methods, and over various points in time. Typically, a portfolio includes evidence of learning selected by the student, self-reflections on the learning process, and criteria for selecting portfolio entries. Portfolios have the advantage over traditional assessments and tests in that they allow instructors to monitor the growth and development of student understanding. In addition, they encourage students¬' active participation in the assessment process as students¬' self-assessments and reflections are documented as part of the portfolio. With the emphasis on student involvement, a portfolio is a collaborative process between the student and instructor.
Like all quality assessments, portfolios are guided by the instructional goals and learning objectives of a specific course. While portfolios are typically seen as assessment devices, they are also effective instructional tools. The reiterative process of creating a portfolio creates a range of instructional opportunities for teachers and students to work in individualized settings. Just as portfolios provide information to the instructor on student progress, the feedback received from portfolio reviews provides valuable information to guide student development.
Portfolios promote the assessment of complex, higher-order learning outcomes and encourage the assessment of programs that have flexible or individualized goals. Thus, portfolios are particularly effective for examining the integration of knowledge, enlarging the scope of understanding, and fostering metacognitive reflection. In contrast to assessments that provide a snapshot of student understanding at a single point in time, portfolio assessment provides a reliable, valid source of information concerning students ability to master course-specific learning objectives.
Provides structure for involving students in developing standards for
Require additional time for planning instructional activities
Improves students' metacognitive ability to understand their own learning
Demands considerable time for assessment
Promotes integration of various learning activities and assessments
Time-intensive for instructors to implement since students lack familiarity
Enhances awareness of strategies for thinking and producing work
Requires considerable storage space to maintain portfolios
Promotes an integrated assessment process
May require special equipment
Allows assessment of process and progress
Often does not meet requirements for state or national standards
Documents time, effort, and improvement in student understanding
Subjective nature of grading may be less reliable
Creates documentation to submit to authentic audiences and/or reviewers
May have limited acceptance by parents or administrators
Increases student accountability for their own learning
Does not provide standardized numerical scores that are often needed
for institutional reports or accreditation
Promotes assessment of a wider range of learning styles
Students may need traditional scores or evidence of learning for admission
criteria, job placement, or similar events
Encourages students' active involvement in the assessment process
Development of grading rubrics or criteria takes a considerable amount
Enhances motivation due to the visibility of the final portfolio
Performance data from portfolios is difficult to analyze or aggregate
Encourages the effective use of formative assessment
Promotes creativity, individuality, and uniqueness in the assessment
Shifts instructors' focus from comparative ranking to improving understanding
Promotes authentic assessment of valued knowledge and skills
Types of Assessment Portfolios:
Portfolios can take on many forms depending on the purpose and goal of the
assessment. Typically, portfolios can be divided into three types: documentation,
process, and product.
Documentation - The goal of documentation portfolios (also known as
working portfolios) is to highlight development and improvement over time. Documentation
portfolios showcase the process of learning by including the full progression
of project development. Often, documentation portfolios will contain a range
of artifacts from brainstormed lists to rough drafts to finished products.
Process - The purpose of process portfolios is to document all stages
of the learning process. Like documentation portfolios, process portfolios include
samples of student work from throughout the entire educational progression.
The difference is that process portfolios expand on the information in a documentation
portfolio by integrating reflections and higher-order cognitive activities.
In addition to showcasing the students¬' work, process portfolios emphasize
metacognitive functioning and encourage students to become active participants
in understanding their own learning. As such, process portfolios include documentation
of reflection such as learning logs, journals, or documented discussions.
Product - The goal of product portfolios (also called showcase portfolios)
is to highlight a student¬'s best work by showcasing the quality and range of
student accomplishments. Typically, product portfolios are utilized as a means
of summative assessment to evaluate mastery of learning objectives. Since the
focus is on final product, there is no reflection on the learning process, but
students may want to include a justification explaining criteria for artifact
Stages of Portfolio Development:
1. Planning - Initially, instructors need to determine the function,
type and design of the portfolio. During the planning stage, instructors communicate
to the students the purpose of the portfolio and the assessment criteria. Generally,
the planning phase should also include attention to details such as the organization
and presentation of materials as well as portfolio maintenance and storage.
2. Collection - In the collection stage, students are responsible for
assembling meaningful artifacts that reflect their own educational progress.
While it is not possible for students to collect and/or document ALL their course
work, collection can be facilitating by remembering the purpose of the portfolio,
students¬' personal goals, content of the course, and evaluation criteria. Generally,
students will need assistance in documenting their work and generating appropriate
3. Selection - The selection stage is a decision-making process in which
collected artifacts are sorted and selected for inclusion in the portfolio.
The purpose of the assessment and the kind of portfolio being developed guide
selection decisions. While students are typically responsible for selecting
their own work, instructor or peer reviewers may assist them. The selection
process is facilitating by ensuring that course requirements produce a wide
variety of learning artifacts.
4. Reflection - The reflection stage is often considered the most important
step in portfolio development; the metacognitive process of students reflecting
on their own learning differentiates a portfolio from a simple collection. During
the reflection process, students justify their selections, highlight important
learning gains, explain relevant skills and knowledge, and identify areas for
improvement. To be most effective, students should be responsible for their
own reflections. Reflections may be communicated via learning logs, journals,
or documented discussions.
5. Connection - In the connection stage, students expand on their reflections
to connect acquired knowledge and skills with course goals and learning objectives.
The purpose of the connection stage is to gain an understanding of the value
of learning within the broader curriculum and the real world. A key aspect of
portfolio assessment is the presentation of portfolios to outside reviewers.
This type of external evaluation promotes the integration of classroom-based
knowledge with valuable life skills.
Elements of a Portfolio:
While the specific goals and objectives of the assessment will dictate the
contents of the portfolio, the following components are viewed as central to
most portfolio assessments:
Personal Statement (or Cover Letter) - The personal statement should
include one or two paragraphs highlighting relevant personal goals and experiences
of the student in relationship to the goals and purposes of the portfolio. The
personal statement should also summarize evidence of a students' learning and
progress in understanding.
Table of Contents - To ensure the portfolio is functional and readable,
include a table of contents with numbered pages.
Entries - The type and purpose of the portfolio will provide guidance
in determining the entries to be included. Core or required entries should be
selected based on portfolio guidelines and assessment criteria. Core items provide
a common base for the comparison of various portfolios. If appropriate, optional
entries may also be included to highlight students¬' uniqueness and creativity.
Since selection is a key factor in the development of a portfolio, optional
entries should only be included if portfolio guidelines specifically request
them. Each entry should include dates and related feedback.
Reflections - Reflections may either appear with each entry or following
all entries. Depending on the type of portfolio, reflections can highlight students'
thoughts in relation to their own learning, identify strengths/weaknesses, examine
progress, provide self-assessment, or explain a rationale for including each
Characteristics of an Effective Portfolio:
- Effective portfolios are continuous and ongoing, providing both formative
and summative opportunities for monitoring students' progress toward achieving
learning objectives. Quality portfolios will highlight growth and development
over time. In addition, portfolios should reflect the interactive nature of
learning that occurs through feedback and revision.
- Portfolios should be multidimensional and reflect a wide variety of artifacts.
The range of entries should highlight various learning processes, skills,
and abilities. Essentially, a good portfolio will provide a comprehensive
profile of the students' abilities.
- Reflections are an essential part of an effective portfolio. Quality reflections
include insight on individual thinking processes, metacognitive introspection,
thoughts on problem-solving, decision-making skills, and observations on intellectual
strengths and weaknesses.
- Portfolios should clearly reflect learning objectives as identified in the
course curriculum. In addition, portfolios should provide a match between
instructional activities, student experiences, and assessment.
- Effective portfolios provide evidence of performance-based learning experiences
as well as students' understanding of course-specific knowledge and skills.
- Portfolios are a targeted selection of student work; avoid haphazard collections
without purpose, rationale, or justification. The selection process is as
important as the quality of the selected entries.
- Quality portfolios must contain an element of self-assessment. By reflecting
on their own learning experiences, students can identify their personal strengths
and weaknesses. The self-assessment process can be used as a basis for forming
personal improvement goals.
- Evaluation criteria for selecting and assessing the portfolio contents,
as well as the overall portfolio goal, must be clear to both the instructor
and students prior to developing the portfolio.
- Portfolios should highlight the depth of a student¬'s knowledge and skills.
In contrast to a traditional test, portfolios showcase the quality of work
that can be accomplished with adequate resources, and without pressure or
- While portfolios should be structured to ensure they meet the goals and
purposes of the assessment, it is important to allow a degree of freedom for
students to express their own individuality and personal strengths.
Tips for Utilizing Portfolios as a Means of Classroom Assessment:
- While instructors provide the portfolio guidelines and requirements, the
student should complete the bulk of portfolio development. Essentially, portfolio
development is a collaborative process with instructors serving as consultants
or mentors to assist students in selecting and assembling their portfolio.
- Items for inclusion in the portfolio are limited only by the creativity
and ingenuity of the student. Possible portfolio entries may include examples
of written work, journals, learning logs, standardized tests, videotapes of
student performances or presentations, audiotapes of student presentations,
cognitive maps, group reports, quizzes, charts, graphs, readings list, peer
review, artwork, instructor feedback, self-evaluations, etc.
- The reiterative nature of portfolio development can be facilitated through
peer-reviews, self-assessment, or instructor-student dialogues. Feedback is
essential to the development of a quality portfolio.
- Encourage students to actively reflect on their own work by providing structured
guidelines for self-evaluation. Once students are comfortable with the process
of reflecting on their own learning, they can be given more freedom in the
form of self-assessments.
- Keep portfolios in a location that is easily accessible to both instructor
and students. Recent advances in technology are allowing the efficient use
of electronic portfolios that can be accessed via the Internet.
- Since most students are not familiar with portfolio assessment, provide
clear guidelines as well as ongoing assistance in portfolio development. Be
prepared to modify portfolio requirements to match the demands of both learning
objectives and student preferences.
||Do portfolio requirements reflect learning objectives and instructional
||Are portfolio entries selected by the student?
||Does the portfolio include student reflections and self-assessment?
||Is a range of student work represented in the portfolio?
||Does the portfolio document the process of learning over time?
||Is the portfolio organized and structured to meet learning objectives?
||Do portfolio requirements allow for some freedom in students¬' selection
of learning evidence?
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