AUTHENTIC and ALTERNATIVE
MA. CHRISTINA W. AZUCENA
VICTORINA A. BAÑAGALE
Conceptualized, formed and compiled by:
MARIA CHRISTINA W. AZUCENA
8.1 AUTHENTIC ASSESSMENT
8.2 CLASSROOM ASSESSMENT
8.3 PORTFOLIO ASSESSMENT
8.4 IMPLICATIONS OF
PORTFOLIOS ON SOME
ELEMENTS OF EDUCATION
8.5 CREATING A PORTFOLIO
INTRODUCING ALTERNATIVE ASSESSMENT
By: Christine W. Azucena
Alternative assessment uses activities that reveal what students can do to emphasize
their strengths instead of their weaknesses. Alternative assessment instruments, aside from
not being designed and structured from traditional tests, are also graded or scored differently.
Because alternative assessment is performance based, it helps instructors emphasize that the
point of learning is communication and action for meaningful purposes.
Alternative assessment methods work well in learner-centered classrooms because of the idea
that students can evaluate their own learning and learn from the evaluation process. These
methods give learners opportunities to reflect on their development and the learning processes
(what helps them learn and what might help them learn better). Alternative assessment thus
gives instructors a way to connect assessment with review of learning strategies.
Features of alternative assessment:
Assessment is based on authentic tasks that demonstrate learners' ability to accomplish
Instructor and learners focus on communication, not on right and wrong answers
Learners help to set the criteria for successful completion of communication tasks
Learners have opportunities to assess themselves and their peers
In the education industry, alternative assessment usually identified as “portfolio
assessment which is in direct contrast to traditional assessment, standardized or summative
assessment and performance evaluation. Also known under various other terms including:
Assessment FOR learning
AUTHENTIC ASSESSMENT, in contrast to more traditional assessment, encourages
the integration of teaching, learning and assessing. In the "traditional assessment" model,
teaching and learning are often separated from assessment, i.e., a test is administered after
knowledge or skills have (hopefully) been acquired. In the authentic assessment model, the
same authentic task used to measure the students' ability to apply the knowledge or skills is a
vehicle for student learning. For example, when presented with a real-world problem to solve,
students are learning in the process of developing a solution, teachers are facilitating the
process, and the students' solutions to the problem become an assessment of how well the
students can meaningfully apply the concepts.
So authentic assessment has to do with students demonstrating that they know a body of
knowledge, have developed a set of skills, and can apply them in a „real life‟ situation and can
solve real life problems. Authentic assessment is performance-based and requires students to
exhibit the extent of their learning through a demonstration of mastery.
INTEGRATED ASSESSMENTSprovide an engaging and creative learning platform that
closely links to the realities graduates will experience in the work force: a process that
combines and blends the learning outcomes from multiple topics into a series of streamlined,
realistic, employment focused activities. These assessments are with numerous formative and
summative components and conducted over time. They demonstrate effective ways to
synthesize topics into a coherent and contextualized framework using complementary skill and
knowledge sets. Assessments no longer take on the feared final exams but instead naturally
occur throughout the program, allowing learners to operate their new knowledge and skill. This
assessment model tips the traditional model of “topic– teach–assess–graduate” on its head. The
normal emphasis on the assessment of declarative knowledge and “synthetic” skills is now by
measures of declarative and procedural knowledge blended into seamless assessment
components that occur naturally. This creates experienced graduates ready for the workplace.
More specifically, the two defining characteristics of an integrated assessment are
1) that it seeks to provide information of use to decision makers rather than merely advancing
understanding for its own sake; and
2) that it brings together a broader set of areas, methods, styles of study, or degrees of
certainty, than would typically characterize a study of the same issue within the bounds
of a single research discipline.
Integrated assessment system would improve the quality of summative exams,
purposefully align formative assessments to these exams, and provide teachers with the
requisite training to use assessments in ways that maximize not just measure student learning.
Used in these ways, assessment can increase student achievement, particularly for low
An integrated assessment system would improve on the current state of affairs and confer the
Enhanced classroom practice. When a broad range of rigorous assessment techniques is put to use,
educators can use data to make instructional adjustments and extend student learning.
Data-driven school improvement. Assessment can yield meaningful data that provide teachers and
administrators with the information they need to drive school improvement efforts. For example,
assessment results can serve as the foundation for conversations in professional learning communities.
Student empowerment. Not only does quality assessment provide teachers with valuable
information about their students' progress so they can adjust their classroom
instruction, but if used appropriately, it can also empower students to take ownership
over their own learning process.
HOLISTIC ASSESSMENT refers to the ongoing gathering of information on different facets
of a child from various sources, with the aim of providing quantitative and qualitative
feedback to support and guide the child's development.
Four key aspects of holistic assessment:
o Focusing on the development of the whole child
o Striking a balance between AoL and AfL practices
o Guiding teachers in the design and delivery of their practices
o Using appropriate methods and modes of assessment
Holistic assessment strike a balance between
Assessment of Learning (AoL)
• to measure pupil achievement and report
evidence of learning
• for accountability purposes – grading,
ranking and certification.
• tends to be summative in nature
• carried out at the end of a unit, semester
Assessment for learning (afl)
• to support classroom learning and teaching
and improve pupil learning.
• to redirect learning in ways that help pupils
master learning goals.
• formativein nature,
• takes place all the time in the classroom, a
process that is embedded in instruction.
Five key messages on holistic assessment
1. Assessment is an integral part of learning and teaching.
2. We need to educate teachers, parents and students on thepurpose of assessment and ensure
balanced use of summativeand formative assessment to provide information on mastery and
attainment as well as information to improve learning and teaching.
3. Holistic assessment is not about removing exams but it is aboutusing a range of assessment
methods and modes for differentpurposes.
4. Holistic assessment extends beyond the lower primary schoolyears into the upper primary
5. It is consistent to have both holistic assessment and PSLE, theformer does not negate the
need for the latter.
Assessment FOR Learning is identifying student‟s learning path and involving them on
every aspects of assessment in order to develop their confidence and optimize their potentials
and achievements. Through this purpose of assessment, students became data-driven and
instructional decision makers wherein students are not only receiving assessment but directly
participate on which assessment suitable for their need, in short, they are stakeholders of
Assessment FOR & ASlearning, thereforeconsidered as effective method in assessing
learning needs and learning outcome. Assessment FOR learning provides detailed information on
prior knowledge and skills through a day-to-day assessment into teaching and learning process
that enhances student learning instead of merely continuous monitoring. It provides both
students and teachers with understandable information in a form they can use immediately to
improve performance. In relation to Assessment AS learning, students become both confident
and competent self-assessor and consumer of assessment information. As they experience and
understand their own improvement over time, learners begin to sense that success is within
reach if they keep trying. Furthermore, Assessment FOR & AS Learning promotes an
environment that safe for every student to take chances on where support is readily available.
The dilemma on its application in most educational institution is the failure to integrate these purposes of
assessment into curriculum and lack of competence among teachers to execute the principles behind Assessment
FOR & AS learning within the context of classroom management and assessment due to lack of training and
shortage of experts on these purpose of assessment.
On the other hand, Assessment OF learning is a traditional strategy of determining
learning outcome of the student. This primarily comprises of summative assessment techniques
that evaluate learning at the end of module or course program. Used as basis for student
promotion and placement however, it does not directly measures true learning outcome such as
better comprehension and competency. Moreover, it does not explicit learning goal and
processes to monitor student progress, thus student involvement and participation in
assessment process is difficult to achieve, since it promotes passive learning and one way of
FORMATIVE ASSESSMENT or diagnostic testing is a range of formal and informal assessment
procedures employed by teachers during the learning process in order to modify teaching and
learning activities to improve student attainment. It typically involves qualitative feedback
(rather than scores) for both student and teacher that focuses on the details of content and
performance. It is commonly contrasted with summative assessment, which seeks to monitor
educational outcomes, often for purposes of external accountability.
Formative assessment aids learning by generating feedback information that is of benefit
to students and to teachers. Feedback on performance, in class or on assignments, enables
students to restructure their understanding/skills and build more powerful ideas and
Formative assessment contrasted typically with summative assessment. The former
supports teachers and students in decision-making during educational and learning processes,
while the latter occurs at the end of a learning unit and determines if the content taught
Formative assessment is not distinguished by the format of assessment but by the
information used. The same test may act as either formative or summative. However, some
methods of assessment are better suited to one or the other purpose.
Practice in a classroom is formative to the extent that evidence about student
achievement is elicited, interpreted, and used by teachers, learners, or their peers, to make
decisions about the next steps in instruction that are likely to be better, or better founded,
than the decisions they would have taken in the absence of the evidence that was elicited.
Rationale and practice
There are several purposes to formative assessment:
to provide feedback for teachers to modify subsequent learning activities and
to identify and remediate group or individual deficiencies;
to move focus away from achieving grades and onto learning processes, in order to
increase self efficacy and reduce the negative impact of extrinsic motivation
to improve students' metacognitive awareness of how they learn
"frequent, ongoing assessment allows both for fine-tuning of instruction and student
focus on progress."
Feedback is the central function of formative assessment. It typically involves a focus on the
detailed content of what is being learnt, rather than simply a test score or other measurement
of how far a student is falling short of the expected standard.
Seven principles of good feedback practice:
1. It clarifies what good performance is (goals, criteria, expected standards);
2. It facilitates the development of self-assessment in learning;
3. It provides high quality information to students about their learning;
4. It encourages teacher and peer dialogue around learning;
5. It encourages positive motivational beliefs and self-esteem;
6. It provides opportunities to close the gap between current and desired performance;
7. It provides information to teachers that can be used to help shape teaching.
With alternative assessment, we expect active participation from students in evaluating
themselves and one another. Learners who are used to traditional teacher-centered classrooms
are not to take responsibility for assessment before, and may need time to adjust to this new
role. They also may be skeptical that peers can provide them with feedback that will enhance
Instructors need to prepare students for the use of alternative assessments and allow
time to teach them how to use them, so that alternative assessment will make an effective
contribution to the learning process.
Introduce alternative assessment gradually while continuing with the necessary traditional forms
of assessment. Begin by using checklists and rubrics, then move to self and peer evaluation later.
Create a supportive classroom environment in which students feel comfortable with one another
(see Teaching Goals and Methods).
Explain the rationale for alternative assessment.
Engage students in a discussion of assessment. Elicit their thoughts on the values and limitations
of traditional forms of assessment and help them see ways that alternative assessment can
enhance evaluation of what learners can do with what they know.
Give students guidance on how to reflect on and evaluate their own performance and that of
others (see specific examples on peer and self-evaluation).
As students find the benefit from evaluating themselves and their peers, the instructor can
expand the amount of alternative assessment used in the classroom.
Keep in mind that “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not
everything that can be counted, counts” (Albert Einstein).
Try to view assessment as a celebration of learning. Through self-assessment, the student identifies his or
her strengths and weaknesses, together with the teacher, sets new goals to improve learning and performance. To
discover where mistakes made, and ways to fix them is as much a celebration as it is an acknowledgment of
strengths for use in further growth.
Give students choice in their assessment, tasks where appropriate, (e.g., writing a letter to a friend, family,
or a fantasy person). When students have choices, they engage more deeply in the assessment activity, and their
results are more likely to provide valid inferences.
Give students the opportunity to make mistakes in their assessment. Mistakes provide feedback that they
can use to adjust on what they are doing. However, if only others identified students' mistakes and limit feedback
to marks or letters, students are less likely to know what to do differently the next time.
View assessment as a way to give descriptive feedbackto improve learning, and to have students think
critically about what they know and can do.
8.1 AUTHENTIC ASSESSMENT
When testing an isolated skill or a retained fact from the students, we are not really
measuring the students‟ capabilities. In order to evaluate exactly what an individual has
learned, it is necessary to develop an assessment method that examines collective abilities.
Such an assessment procedure is an authentic assessment method. In general, AUTHENTIC
ASSESSMENT gives students situations that occur in the real world which require them to
apply their relevant skills and knowledge.
Authentic assessment has become increasingly popular, as a perception has grown that
there is a need for more holistic approaches to evaluating students. Authentic assessment
moves beyond learning by rote and memorization of traditional methods and allows students to
construct responses. Authentic assessment captures aspects of students‟ knowledge, deep
understanding, problem-solving skills, social skills, and attitudes used in a real world, or
simulation of a real-world situation. Authentic assessments set meaningful and engaging tasks,
in a rich context, where the learner applies knowledge and skills, and performs the task in a new
situation. Authentic tasks help students rehearse for the complex ambiguities of adult and
Main characteristics of authentic assessment, which set it apart from
Requires students to develop responses rather than select from predetermined options.
Elicits higher order of thinking in addition to basic skills
Directly evaluates holistic projects.
Synthesizes with classroom instruction
Uses sample of student work (portfolios) collected over an extended time period.
Stems from clear criteria made known to students
Allows for the possibility of multiple human judgments
Relates more closely to classroom learning
Teaches students to evaluate their own work
In the traditional assessment method, tests are standardized and uniform rather than
impersonal and absolute. Precisely because of these characteristics, traditional assessment
methods cannot be “fair”. Even if the test are inappropriate in the context of the students,
they are forced to accept the assessment method used. A test is “fair” when it is appropriate,
that is, when it is personalized, natural and flexible; when modified, it pinpoint specific abilities
and function at the relevant level of difficulty; and when it promotes a rapport between
examiner and student.
Selecting a Response Performing a Task
Indirect Evidence Direct Evidence
Clarifying the attributes by elaborating on each in the context of traditional and authentic
Selecting a Response to Performing a Task:
On traditional assessments, students are typically given several choices (e.g., a,b,c or d; true or
false; which of these match with those) and asked to select the right answer. In contrast,
authentic assessments ask students to demonstrate understanding by performing a more
complex task usually representing a more meaningful application.
Contrived to Real-life:
It is not very often in life outside of school, which we asked to select from four alternatives to
indicate our proficiency at something. Tests offer these contrived means of assessment to
increase the number of times you will be ask to demonstrate proficiency in a short period. More
commonly in life, as in authentic assessments, we demonstrate proficiency by doing something.
Recall/Recognition of Knowledge to Construction/Application of Knowledge:
Well-designed traditional assessments (i.e., tests and quizzes) can effectively determine
whether students have acquired a body of knowledge or not. Thus, as mentioned above, tests
can serve as a nice complement to authentic assessments in a teacher's assessment portfolio.
Furthermore, we ask to recall or recognize facts, ideas, and propositions in life, so tests are
somewhat authentic in that sense. However, the demonstration of recall and recognition on
tests is typically much less revealing about what we really know and can do than when we
construct a product or performance out of facts, ideas and propositions. Authentic assessments
often ask students to analyze then synthesize and apply what they have learned in a substantial
manner, and students create new meaning in the process as well.
Teacher-structured to Student-structured:
When completing a traditional assessment, what a student can and will demonstrate has been
carefully structured by the person(s) who developed the test. A student's attention
understandably focused on and limited to what is on the test. In contrast, authentic
assessments allow more student choice and construction in determining the evidence of
proficiency. Even when students cannot choose their own topics or formats, there are usually
multiple acceptable routes towards constructing a product or performance. Obviously,
assessments more carefully controlled by the teachers offer advantages and disadvantages.
Similarly, more student-structured tasks have strengths and weaknesses to consider when
choosing and designing an assessment.
Indirect Evidence to Direct Evidence:
Even a multiple-choice question asks a student to analyze or apply facts to a new situation
rather than just recall the facts, and the student selects the correct answer, what do you now
know about that student? Did that student get lucky and pick the right answer? What thinking
led the student to pick that answer? We really do not know. At best, we can make some
inferences about what that student might know and might be able to do with that knowledge.
The evidence is very indirect, particularly for claims of meaningful application in complex, real-
world situations. Authentic assessments, on the other hand, offer direct evidence of application
and construction of knowledge. As in golf for example, putting a golf student on the golf course
to play, provides much more direct evidence of proficiency than giving the student a written
test. Can a student effectively comment on the arguments someone else has presented (an
important skill often required in the real world)? Asking a student to write a comment or
reaction should provide more direct evidence of that skill than asking the student a series of
multiple-choice or analytical questions about a passage, although both assessments may be
Generally, authentic assessment is criterion-referenced rather than norm-referenced.
Such evaluation identifies strengths and weaknesses, but does not compare or rank students.
An authentic assessment procedure does not determine in advance the number of students who
will pass or fail a given course, as in the case of norm-referenced system.
Authentic assessment is base on performance. Students will demonstrate their
knowledge, skills, or competencies in whatever way they find appropriate. There are several
challenges in using authentic assessment methods. They include managing its time-intensive
nature, ensuring curricular validity, and minimizing evaluator bias.
Types of Authentic and Alternative Assessments:
Student Displays and Presentations
TYPES OF AUTHENTIC TASKS
Tests usually consist of selected-response items (see below) and, occasionally, some
constructed-response items. In contrast to the traditional assessment, authentic assessments
include tasks such as performances, products and constructed-response items that typically
require direct application of knowledge and skills. Described below are these types of task,
along with common examples of each.
Selected-responseIn response to a prompt, students select an answer from among those given,
from memory or from allowable study aids. Typically, no new knowledge is constructed; students
simply recall or recognize information required to select the appropriate response. Examples
Label a diagram
In response to a prompt, students construct an answer out of old and new knowledge. Since
there is no one exact answer to these prompts, students are constructing new knowledge that
likely differs slightly or significantly from that constructed by other students. Typically,
constructed response prompts conceived narrowly, delivered at or near time where response is
expected and are limited in length. However, the fact that students must construct new
knowledge means revealing some of their thinking. As opposed to selected response items, the
teacher gets to look inside the head a little with constructed response answers. Examples
Short-answer essay questions
"Show your work"
Limericks and rubric
Concept maps; another example / rubric
Writing a topic sentence
Identifying a theme
Brief summaries; another example
Figural representation (e.g., Venn diagram; web / rubric)
Journal response; literary journal reflections
Homework reflections; article reflections / rubric
Evaluating work of others; another example; another
Self-assessment; another example / rubric
Self and group evaluation
Goal setting; another example / reflection
Question generation; another example
Explain your solution
Complete a step of science lab
Conducting bank transactions
Utilizing library services
Computer catalog search
On demand, construct a short musical, dance or
On demand, exhibit an athletic skill
Participation (and self-assessment)
In response to a prompt (assignment) or series of prompts, students construct a substantial,
tangible product that reveals their understanding of certain concepts and skills and/or their
ability to apply, analyze, synthesize or evaluate those concepts and skills. It is similar to a
constructed-response item in that students are required to construct new knowledge and not
just select a response. However, product assessments typically are more substantial in depth
and length, more broadly conceived, and allow more time between the presentation of the
prompt and the student response than constructed-response items. Examples include
Essays, stories, or poems
Research reports; another example
Works cited pages
Reading strategies and rubric
Projects / rubric; another example / rubric; another
Literary analysis; another example; another example
Character analysis; another example
Argument analysis / rubric
Analyzing primary sources
Analysis of painting
Book reviews / rubric
Case study / rubric
Extended journal responses
Identification of goals
Feudal contracts / rubric
Art exhibit or portfolio
Models; another example
Design an advertisement
Design an experiment
Lab reports; another example
Graphing of data
Data analysis; another example; another example
Anaysis of statistical use in media / rubric
Real-world problem solutions; another example /
Planning for a task
Preparing for a discussion
Proposals and criteria
Road trip directions
Map construction / rubric
Road trip budget
Newscasts; another example
Editorials; another example
Peer editing / rubric
Posters; another example; another example / rubric
Pamplets; another example
Brochures; another example / rubric
Videos / rubric
Games; another example; another example
Timelines; another example / rubric
Issue awareness campaigns
Letter writing; persuasive letter writing;complaint
Advice letter; letter to Congress; letter to Emperor
In response to a prompt (assignment) or series of prompts, students construct a performance
that reveals their understanding of certain concepts and skills and/or their ability to apply,
analyze, synthesize or evaluate those concepts and skills. It is similar to a constructed-response
item in that students are required to construct new knowledge and not just select a response.
However, performances typically are more substantial in depth and length, more broadly
conceived, and allow more time between the presentation of the prompt and the student
response than constructed-response items. Examples include
Conducting an experiment
Musical auditions; group auditions
Conducting an ensemble / rubric
Conduct band rehearsal / rubric
Create musical arrangement / rubric
Dance or dramatic performances
Role-plays / handout
Talk show performances; another example
Debates; another example / rubric
Coffee shop conversation
Oral presentations; another example; another
Cooperative group behavior; another example
8.2 CLASSROOM ASSESSMENT TECHNIQUES
Classroom assessment techniques include the class of assessment procedures called
action research. Such authentic assessment procedure determines the quality of teaching and
learning that occur in the classroom. In this technique, the teacher uses a variety of tools and
practices that allow them to access accurate and relevant information about the quality of
student learning and the quality of his teaching as well. The main goal of CAT is not to grade
the student nor evaluate a teacher but rather the information gathered be used for facilitating
interaction and dialogue between students and the teacher on the quality of learning process
and thus, find ways and means to improve the process. CATs provide both teachers and
students with “in process” information on how well students are learning what the curriculum
The three basic questions CATs ask are:
What are the essential skills and knowledge I am trying to teach?
How can I find out whether students are learning them?
How can I help students learn better?
The classroom assessment process assumes that students need to receive feedback early
and often, that they need to evaluate the quality of their own learning, and that they can help
the teacher improve the strength of instruction.
The basic steps in the classroom assessment process are:
Choose a learning goal to assess
Choose an assessment technique
Apply the technique
Analyze the data and share the results with students
Respond to the data
CATs provide teachers with a “menu” of evaluation tools that:
Check for student background knowledge
Identify areas of confusion
Enable students to self-assess their learning level
Determine students learning styles
Target and build specific skills
CAT, when used in a classroom setting, the teacher often finds sharing the result of his
investigation with other teachers who are similarly situated. It therefore becomes necessary
to publish his findings and thus contribute to the field of knowledge and to the list of best
practices in teaching.
In general, CATs are formative evaluation methods that serve two purposes. They can
help you to assess the degree to which your students understand the course content and they
can provide you with information about the effectiveness of your teaching methods. Mostly
designed to be quick and easy to use, each CAT provides different kinds of information.
For students, CATs can:
help develop self-assessment and learning management skills;
reduce feelings of isolation and impotence, especially in large classes;
increase understanding and ability to think critically about the course content;
foster an attitude that values understanding and long-term retention;
show your interest and caring about their success in your classroom.
What kinds of evaluations are CATs designed to perform?
Course-related knowledge and skills (including prior knowledge, recall and understanding;
analysis and critical thinking skills; synthesis and creative thinking skills; problem solving
skills; and application and performance skills)
Student attitudes, values, and self-awareness (including students' awareness of their own
values and attitudes; students' awareness of their own learning processes; and course-
related learning and study skills awareness)
Reactions to instruction methods (including student and peer reactions to teachers and
teaching, class activities, assignments, and materials)
Following is a partial chart of CAT exercises, indicating the kind of evaluation for which each is
intended, what each is called, how each is conducted, what to do with the information you
collect, and an approximation of the relative amount of time each requires.
Name How It's Done How to Use Time
During last few minutes of class period, ask
students to use a half-sheet of paper and
write "Most important thing I learned today
and what I understood least."
Review before next class
meeting and use to
clarify, correct, or
Muddiest Point* Similar to One-Minute Paper but only ask
students to describe what they didn't
understand and what they think might help.
Same as One-Minute
Paper. If many had the
same problem, try
Chain Notes* Pass around a large envelope with a question
about the class content. Each student writes
a short answer, puts it in the envelope, and
passes it on.
Sort answers by type of
answer. At next class
meeting, use to discuss
ways of understanding.
During last 15 minutes of class, ask students
to write a short news article about how a
major point applies to a real-world situation.
An alternative is to have students write a
short article about how the point applies to
Sort articles and pick
several to read at next
class, illustrating range
of applications, depth of
Divide the class into groups and assign each
group a topic on which they are each to write
a question and answer for the next test.
Each student should be assured of getting at
least one question right on the test.
Use as many of the
questions as possible,
combining those that are
Journals Ask students to keep journals that detail
their thoughts about the class. May ask them
to be specific, recording only attitudes,
values, or self-awareness.
Have students turn in
the journals several
times during the
semester so you can
chart changes and
Select a test that you use regularly and add
a few questions at the end which ask
students to evaluate how well the test
measures their knowledge or skills.rnals
Make changes to the
test that are reasonable.
Track student responses
Ask students to volunteer to meet as a small
group with you on a regular basis to discuss
how the course is progressing, what they are
learning, and suggestions for improving the
Some issues will be for
your information, some
to be addressed in class.
Suggestion Box Put a box near the classroom door and ask
students to leave notes about any class issue.
Review and respond at
the next class session.
Peer Review Work with a willing colleague, pick a
representative class session to be observed,
and ask the colleague to take notes about
his/her impression of the class, your
interactions with students, and your teaching
Decide method with the
colleague. Discussion is
best, but a written
report may be more
useful in the long term.
CTE staff will observe a class session you
choose and/or video tape a class session.
CTE staff will meet with
you to review
observations and suggest
ways of improving your
Trained facilitators, such as CTE staff,
spend a class session eliciting responses from
your students about what is effective and
what is not so effective in helping them
learn. You are not present during the session.
Facilitators meet with
you to explain the data
they have collected and
give you a written report.
CAT's Techniques for Assessing Course-Related Knowledge and Skills
Assessing Skills in Analysis and Critical Thinking
1. CATEGORIZING GRID - students are presented with a grid containing 2-3 important
categories from what they have been studying, along with a scrambled list of
terms/images/equations, etc. that belong in one or more categories. Give students limited
time to complete (individual or group), can use as brainstorming technique or for grade.
2. DEFINING FEATURES MATRIX - requires students to categorize information/concepts
according to the presence (+) or absence (-) of important defining features, helps them
identify and make explicit distinctions between concepts.
3. PRO AND CON GRID - quick analysis of by class of the pros/cons, costs/benefits,
advantages/disadvantages of a concept/issue. Forces students to go beyond their first
reaction and search for two sides to an issue. Can be used in class or as homework,
individual or group.
4. CONTENT, FORM, AND FUNCTION OUTLINES - student analyzes the "what"
(content), "how" (form), and "why"(function) of a particular message. Could be journal
article, poem, critical essay, advertisement, etc. Students writes brief notes in the form
of an outline that can be read quickly.
5. ANALYTIC MEMO - students to write a 1-2 page analysis of a specific problem or issue,
generally for a specific audience (employer, client, etc.) that needs the students' analysis
to inform decision making.
Assessing Skills in Application and Performance
1. DIRECTED PARAPHRASING - students are directed to paraphrase part of a lesson for a
specific audience and purpose, using their own words. Can be used as a refresher
technique or as a graded assignment.
2. APPLICATION CARDS - after students have heard/read about an imp principle,
generalization, theory, or procedure, the instructor hands out an index card and asks
them to write down at least one possible, real-world application for what they have just
3. STUDENT-GENERATED TEST QUESTIONS - focus on an exam that is 2-3 weeks
away, have students generate 3 or 4 test questions and answers. Decide before you
assign the questions what type of format, and perhaps certain subjects that you would
like to cover.
4. HUMAN TABLEAU OR CLASS MODELING - have groups of students create "living"
scenes or model processes to show what they know (ex) students pose as figures in a
painting, reenact a Druid ritual, model operation of a fuel system in a car engine, model
how the human visual system works.
5. PAPER OR PROJECT PROSPECTUS - brief, structured first-draft plan for a term paper
or project, can include topic, purpose, intended audience, major questions to be answered,
basic organization, and the time and resources required, etc
8.3 PORTFOLIO ASSESSMENT
Keeping a portfolio is a very old idea. Going back centuries, artisans of any culture
whokept pieces of their work to show, in effect, had the beginnings of a portfolio. Today,you
would not hire an architect, a graphic designer, or a film crew without looking atsome of their
work to determine whether their talent, knowledge, style, product andprofessionalism are in
keeping with your requirements. At our company, we don‟t askfor test scores when we hire
people, but we do want to see their past work because itprovides tangible evidence of their
abilities and accomplishments.
In 1991, when the original GradyProfile TM electronic portfolio waspublished, we
struggled to explainportfolios to a teacher communitythat had not yet metthe concept in the
context ofeducation. That a computeris an ideal place to keep onemeant nothing to people who
thought of a “leather case” orof “stocks and bonds” when theyheard portfolio.In the intervening
years, includinga wealth of web pages andaction research reports, alongwith books and journal
articles.Published notions about portfolios vary widely on every aspect:
• the container (from pillow cases to 3-ring binders to web sites)
• the content (from writing to all domains and disciplines)
• the format (from paper to multi-media)
• the applicability (from elementary only to secondary and now collegiate and career
• purpose (showcase_, learning, employment)
Though opinions differ, and budgets dictate some of these decisions, portfolio is nolonger
new vocabulary for educators. Indeed, there are now varied and contradictorydogmas on
portfolios: the reasons one must keep a portfolio, the artifacts that must bein one, the formats
it must take. The gurus attach many adjectives to portfolios to prescribepurpose: formative,
summative, showcase, presentational, celebratory, working,growth, learning, developmental,
proficiency, mastery, assessment, reflective, connected,standards-based, staff-development,
horizontal, vertical, longitudinal, archival, subjectarea, skill area, checklist, cross-disciplinary,
college admission, employment, credential,multi-media resume, and community-service. Most, if
not all of these, fit into twogeneral portfolio purposes suggested by some educators_, exhibit
expertise and learning. The E-Portfolio is our “take” on portfolios; this paper with our
reflection.Both have the benefit of a decade of considering portfolios from many angles. For
us,it comes down to three key ideas:
1. A portfolio tells one person‟s story.
2. A portfolio is as much a process as a product.
3. A portfolio always includes reflection.
A portfolio tells one person’s story
This is why a portfolio is important and this is what keeps it current.Your portfolio is
your tangible record of accomplishment, a collection of your products,which tells who you are,
and over time, becomes a record of how you came to be there.It strongly communicates what is
important to you.
Your story, your portfolio, is not a fad and it cannot go out of fashion because
it is always evolving with you, at your pace, in your style. In this sense, a portfolio
is like skin; it always fits you and is not interchangeable with anyoneelse.
A portfolio is as much a process as a product
One could say, theprocess involves thecourage to try andfail, the patience to
reflect and thematurity to try again.
In our experience, this is the process of a sentient being‟s ongoing, adapting involvement
with the world, a lifelong learning process. Teachers call it the learning cycle; writingteachers
call it the writing process; planners call it the planning cycle; marketers call itthe product cycle;
programmers call it the development cycle. Every discipline seems tohave its own variation and
vocabulary. It always involves performance (trying, doing),reflection (What worked well? What
flopped? How will I improve next time?), andadjustment (making changes and trying again). The
adjustment will range from a fewtweaks, to serious revision, to starting over, all with the goal
of moving closer to gettingit right.
In a classroom, the portfolio process starts when the teacher and the students
setlearning goals and expectations. The teacher (or perhaps a student) models a newconcept or
procedure. Then students take a try at it. If the classroom has a portfolioculture_, not getting
it right away and considering Why, is a strong signal that learning is happening. Students and
teacher pause to reflect on performance. They think aboutthese questions: What worked?
What could be improved? How? What makes senseto try next? After considering the student
critique and the teacher feedback, theremight be several tries and several revisions.
Eventually, new connections are madethat lead to solid understandings, new skills are mastered,
and bit by bit, studentsare able to move on to master new segments of the knowledge
continuum. Then, newexpectations and goals are set and the cycle repeats. The following
diagram highlightsthe reflection/adjust/try/repeating portion of the cycle because that is so
central to theprocess.
Reflection and Feedback. The single most important interaction between teachers andstudents
at any level is what academics call formative assessment_; what we prefer tocall useful
feedback. More than a cheery Good job!, this is a feedback that offers commentsabout
particular aspects of work, gives concrete advice or suggestions for improvement,or guides
students into their own evaluation of their work. This kind of feedback happensone on one,
frequently, and informally. Black andWilliam point out that self-assessment,(i.e., reflection) is
“an essential component of formative assessment.†” Students who getuseful feedback from
teachers learn how to reflect and they improve their understandingof lessons.
Culling. Over time, reflection will naturally result in culling. Don‟t make the mistake ofkeeping
every piece of work produced in the portfolio. An important part of the processis a periodic
review of the contents to determine which pieces to remove because newerwork better shows
one‟s abilities, skills and growth. The portfolio process starts with a collection of work and
continues asthe pieces are compared and considered against goals, previous work, colleagues‟
workand professional standards. Over time, the collection is culled and new pieces are
added.You can look back and see your professional growth, the evolution in your thinking,
therefinement of process, the mastery of your profession.
Our point, which the literature tends to omit, is that this do-it-reflect-on-it, revise-and-
try-again cycle extends well beyond the classroom and is a practicalprocess for everyday life, as
evinced by how it is incorporated into so manydisciplines. Like any serious creative activity,
portfolio making evolves overthe life of the portfolio and perhaps beyond, in very much the way
A painting is not thought out and settled in advance. While it is being done, it
changesas one’s thoughts change. And when it’s finished, it goes on changing,
according tothe state of mind of whoever is looking at it. – Pablo Picasso
A portfolio always has reflective pieces
In fact, if reflection is missing, it is not a portfolio; it‟s something else, a collection, a
scrapbook, a box of stuff; and it may be terrific stuff, but it‟s not a portfolio.Reflection on
performance is as important as the performance itself_ because that iswhen understanding
sharpens and deepens and becomes a part of what you know, whichis another way of saying it
becomes a part of who you are. Ideally, a portfolio will havereflections on individual artifacts
and experiences, as well as an over-arching reflectionon the portfolio as a whole.Reflecting is
usually the most vexing part of the portfolio process because many peoplehave no idea what‟s
expected in a reflection, nor how to go about doing it. Reflectingcan be threatening: should you
toot your own horn? should you point out errors? Howyou approach reflection may depend on
whether it‟s strictly for your own use, or whetheryou will be sending the portfolio out for
review. For the latter, view reflection as yourchance to frame the discussion and guide
reviewers toward the same understanding orpoint of view that you have. What‟s obvious to you
may not be to a reviewer. Use thereflection to state why the work is important, why you are
proud of it. Give them thelanguage to see it your way.
Reflection Cycle that expands on the “3 Whats” (what, so what, what now) with five steps:
1. Select (choose artifacts, evidence)
2. Describe (circumstances - who, what, when, where)
3. Analyze (dig deeper, Why did you do it?, Where does it fit? Was it meaningful?)
4. Appraise (How effective was it? What impact did it have?)
5. Transform (What might you change to improve it? What have you learned?).
Portfolios (of student work) are concrete evidences of student performance. They are
far less susceptible for faking and manufacturing than transcripts and diplomas. In fact, in
some instances, portfolios served as replacement for high school diplomas and transcript of
The biggest drawback of portfolios, whether they are kept in a computer or in a cereal
box, is time. It takes time to get organized, time to gather the pieces, time to cull them, time
to digitize them (cheerio to cereal boxes), and time to reflect about each artifact and about
the whole collection.
The main disadvantages of portfolios are:
Not easy to evaluate
Hard to rank as with a grade or score
Qualitative in nature, not a good determinant of student‟s ability
This explains the popularity of hard, quantitative tests required in entrance or admission
to universities or a certain job.
Some schools create portfolios that serve as a representation of a student‟s work,
showing the range of performance and experience. Such records usually hold far more
information that employers need. Other schools want to use portfolios as an assessment tool to
provide an alternative to standardized teacher testing. While this would seem to be a rationale
objective, it is often very difficult to implement in practice. Person in authority who decides on
the fate of an applicant, hardly expected to evaluate and make judgment on presented
portfolios no matter how detailed or concise the portfolio presentation may be.
Why Bother with Portfolios?
If you are sincerely dedicated to your work, every nano-second spent on your portfolio
is time well spent. Bother with portfolios because:
They tell the most important story: your story, through a chronicle your work
that shows how you‟ve grown and mastered your field.
They provide a far richer account of accomplishment than any test score, resumé
They become a gift to your future self, providing a great satisfaction when you
review your portfolio, which you should do often.
8.4 IMPLICATIONS OF PORTFOLIOS ON SOME ELEMENTS OF EDUCATION
CURRICULUM–Some people believe that using portfolios will enable teachers to
broaden their curriculum to include areas they traditionally could not assess with
standardized testing. How well this works depends on how much a curriculum is developed
“to the test,” in other words, how much curriculum is geared towards achieving high test
scores rather than learning for learning‟s sake.
INSTRUCTION–Portfolio assessment appears to compliment a teacher‟s use of
instructional strategies centered around teamwork, projects, and applied learning.
Portfolios are also compatible with more individualized instruction, as well as strategies
focused on different learning styles.
ASSESSMENT–A portfolio can be used as an assessment tool. External assessors–
employers, evaluation panels, and so on–can benefit from them. Teachers can also utilize
them to judge student performance. Plus, students can use their own portfolios for self-
assessment and reflection.
COMMON TYPES OF STUDENTS' LEARNING PORTFOLIOS
Working / Growth Portfolios
Evaluation / Assessment Portfolios
There are three types of portfolios: Formative Portfolios, which usually occurs on an ongoing
basis supporting professional development; Summative Portfolios, which usually occurs within
the context of a formal evaluation process; and Marketing Portfolios, which are used for
seeking employment (Hartnell-Young &Morriss, 2007). Student learning portfolios, which indeed
function as sample selection of students‟ work, in a single discipline, or multiple disciplines,
accumulated throughout an assessment period, classified as formative ones.
In the context of language teaching & learning processes, student learning portfolios are
typically constructed for one of the following three purposes: to show growth, to showcase
current abilities, and to evaluate cumulative achievement (Mueller, 2007) . The three common
types of student learning portfolios are therefore termed as Working Portfolios (or Growth
Portfolios) which emphasize on students‟ learning progresses and processes, Showcase
Portfolios which aim at displaying the students‟ products of learning and Assessment Portfolios
which are created for specific assessment and evaluation purposes of what students‟ have
learned throughout the course.
However, it is critical that a portfolio may tell more than one story, thus, elaborate
coincidentally more than one purpose mentioned above. There are no straightforward
boundaries between the given categories of student learning portfolios. For example, a
showcase portfolio might be used for evaluation purposes, and the Working portfoliosmight
“showcase” eventually targeted performances or specific products.
A student- learning portfolio of this category elaborates the student‟s collection of work
over time, showing growth and improvement reflecting his or her own learning of identified
outcomes. This portfolio also referred to as the documentation portfolio. Inclusion in a working
portfolio can be everything from brainstorming activities to drafts to finished products, or
even the student‟s archives of referential materials .Working portfolios allow teachers to
diagnose students' strengths and weaknesses and provide guidance for the students in how to
improve or perfect their work. Working portfolios can also show teachers what they might need
to emphasize in their teaching. However, the main audience for the working portfolio is the
student. With feedback from teachers, students can develop their reflective skills and cope
with self-evaluation by working on the projects within the portfolio. The substance of a working
portfolio is specific content related to course learning objectives.
By constructing and learning on a working portfolio, students can complete an assignment,
get feedback from their teachers, make necessary adjustments, and resubmit the assignment
for the teacher‟s input. This cycle allows for a process of interaction that students usually
consider as much more personalized than scores on a test or general statements made during a
class about writing skills, grammatical errors, paper organizations, and so on.
As they are termed, showcase portfolios, typically created to show off students‟ progress and
mastery of key curriculum outcomes in a specific course or throughout an entire program.
Portfolios of this type, as Madden (2009) describes, include students' very best selection of
work, especially elaborated by audio-visual artifact development, including photographs,
videotapes, and electronic records of students' completed work. Written analysis and
reflections by the students on their own decision- making processes to determine which
displayed works are also typical inclusions of showcase portfolios.
Constructing a showcase portfolio is demanding but especially fulfilling to students for it
enables them to define who they are in terms of their culture, learning, experiences, and
beliefs. The content of a showcase portfolio may include projects created in class as well as
projects done outside of the classroom environment, maybe for a part-time job or a volunteer
The main advantage of a showcase portfolio is that the students can select their best
work from a variety of experiences to demonstrate their skills and learning. Showcase
portfolios therefore act as students‟ advertisements appealing for potential employers, future
teachers or higher study admissions.
The primary purpose of an assessment portfolio is to determine where the student has
achieved academic goals or performance during the course. A portfolio, which is employed to
examine where the student has obtained critical thinking, interpersonal skills or other “soft”
skills that are difficult to quantify in an exam, or that are too broad to be assessed in a paper
or on one topic, is then an assessment portfolio. Assessment portfolios driven usually by a
specific set of requirements about content and possibly format that come out of an agreement
between the teacher and the student.
Elements in an assessment portfolio must be designed to help the student manifest
learning related to specific course objectives defined in the syllabus (Widiatmoko, 2005) for
the portfolio is intentionally targeted at demonstrating the student‟s accomplishment of both
skills and content elaborated in the course. In other words, assessment portfolios are students‟
collections and archives of their assigned tasks, probably including lab activities, compositions,
reviews, assignments, presentations, audio/video productions and so on to show that the
students themselves have achieved the intended learning outcomes of the class, and especially
to serve the evaluation purposes of their specific audience:
the teacher – the assessor.
Therefore, it is comprehensively critical that templates or sample formats, including meticulous
lists of required portfolios components, should be given or verified by the teacher on students‟
constructing their assessment portfolios.
The following are the three considerably needed steps on implementing assessment portfolios:
1. Identifying what forms of procedural knowledge will be assess through the portfolio
2. Designing assessment tasks for the identified learning objectives;
3. Determining the criteria for each assessment task.
Through the process of implanting an assessment portfolio, the student gain a more positive
perception of himself or herself as the learner, an individual, and a professional in his or her
own expertise. Then, the student iswell prepared for world of real work in his or her future life
and career. The teacher, examining students‟ individual portfolios, receivescomprehensive
portraits of the students, the "beyond the classroom" pictures of them.
However, portfolio assessment is always labor-intensive and time-consuming; so a start on
a small scale of students‟ portfolios should be great advice for teachers who wish to benefit
from portfolio-based evaluation.
8.5 CREATING A PORTFOLIO ASSIGNMENT
In order to create a portfolio assignment for the students, it is necessary to establish a
series of questions which have to be addressed in designing a portfolio assignment. There are
essentially seven (7) questions necessary in the development of a portfolio assignment:
1. Purpose: What is the purpose(s) of the portfolio?
2. Audience: For what audience(s) will the portfolio be created?
3. Content: What samples of student work will be included?
4. Process: What processes (e.g., selection of work to be included, reflection on work,
conferencing) will be engaged in during the development of the portfolio?
5. Management: How will time and materials be managed in the development of the portfolio?
6. Communication: How and when will the portfolio be shared with pertinent audiences?
7. Evaluation: If the portfolio is to be used for evaluation, when and how should it be evaluated?
Purpose: What is the purpose(s) of the portfolio?
As mentioned above, before you can design the portfolio assignment and before your
students can begin constructing their portfolios, you and your students need to be clear about
the story the portfolio will be telling. Certainly, you should not assign a portfolio unless you have
a compelling reason to do so. Portfolios take work to create, manage and assess. They can easily
feel like busywork and a burden to you and your students if they just become folders filled with
student papers. You and your students need to believe that the selection of and reflection upon
their work serves one or more meaningful purposes.
Audience: For what audience(s) will the portfolio be created?
Selecting relevant audiences for a portfolio goes hand-in-hand with identifying your
purposes. Who should see the evidence of a student's growth? The student, teacher and
parents are good audiences to follow the story of a student's progress on a certain project or
in the development of certain skills. Who should see a student's best or final work? Again, the
student, teacher and parents might be good audiences for such a collection, but other natural
audiences come to mind such as class or schoolmates, external audiences such as employers or
colleges, the local community or school board. As the teacher, you can dictate what audiences
will be considered or you can let students have some choice in the decision.
Just as the purposes for the portfolio should guide the development of it, the selection
of audiences should shape its construction. For example, for audiences outside the classroom it
is helpful to include a cover page or table of contents that helps someone unfamiliar with the
assignment to navigate through the portfolio and provide context for what is found inside.
Students need to keep their audiences in mind as they proceed through each step of developing
their portfolios. A good method for checking whether a portfolio serves the anticipated
audiences is to imagine different members of those audiences viewing the portfolio. Can each of
them tell why you created the portfolio? Are they able to make sense of the story you wanted
to tell them? Can they navigate around and through the portfolio? Do they know why you
included what you did? Have you used language suitable for those audiences?
Content: What samples of student work will be included?
As you can imagine, the answer to the question of content is dependent on the answers to
the questions of purpose and audience. What should be included? Well, what story do you want
to tell? Before I consider what types of items might be appropriate for different purposes, let
me make a more general point. First, hypothetically, there is no limit as to what can be included
in a portfolio. Paper products such as essays, homework, letters, projects, etc. are most
common. But more and more other types of media are being included in portfolios. Audio and
videotapes, cd-roms, two- and three-dimensional pieces of art, posters and anything else that
can reflect the purposes identified can be included. Some schools are putting all the artifacts
onto a cd-rom by videotaping performances, scanning paper products, and digitizing audio. All of
those files are then copied onto a student's cd-rom for a semester or a year or to follow the
student across grades as a cumulative record. Realistically, you have to decide what is
manageable. But if the most meaningful evidence of the portfolio's goals cannot be captured on
paper, then you may consider including other types of media.
Obviously, there are a considerable number and variety of types of student work that can
be selected as samples for a portfolio. Using the purposes given above for each type of
portfolio, I have listed just a few such possible samples of work in the following tables that
could be included in each type of portfolio.
Growth Portfolios: What samples might be included?
Purpose Some possible inclusions
a. to show growth or change over time
early and later pieces of work
early and later tests/scores
rough drafts and final drafts
reflections on growth
reflections on progress toward goal(s)
b. to help develop process skills
samples which reflect growth of process skills
self-reflection sheets accompanying samples of work
reflection sheets from teacher or peer
identification of strengths/weaknesses
reflections on progress towards goal(s)
see more detail below under Process below
c. to identify strengths/weaknesses
samples of work reflecting specifically identified strengths and weaknesses
reflections on strengths and weaknesses of samples
reflection on progress towards goal(s)
d. to track development of one or more
products or performances
obviously, drafts of the specific product or performance to be tracked
self-reflections on drafts
reflection sheets from teacher or peer
Showcase Portfolios: What samples might be included?
Purpose Some possible inclusions
a. to showcase end-of-year/semester
samples of best work
samples of earlier and later work to document progress
final tests or scores
discussion of growth over semester/year
awards or other recognition
teacher or peer comments
b. to prepare a sample of best work for
employment or college admission
sample of work
reflection on process of creating sample of work
reflection on growth
teacher or peer comments
description of knowledge/skills work indicates
c. to showcase student perceptions of
favorite, best or most important
samples of student's favorite, best or most important work
drafts of that work to illustrate path taken to its final form
commentary on strengths/weaknesses of work
reflection on why it is favorite, best or most important
reflection on what has been learned from work
teacher or peer comments
d. to communicate a student's current
representative sample of current work
match of work with standards accomplished
self-reflection on current aptitudes
teacher reflection on student's aptitudes
identification of future goals
Evaluation Portfolios: What samples might be included?
Purpose Some possible inclusions
a. to document achievement for grading
samples of representative work in each subject/unit/topic to be graded
samples of work documenting level of achievement on course/grade-level goals/standards/objectives
rubrics/criteria used for evaluation of work (when applied)
self-reflection on how well samples indicate attainment of course/grade-level
teacher reflection of attainment of goals/standards
identification of strengths/weaknesses
b. to document progress towards standards
list of applicable goals and standards
representative samples of work aligned with respective goals/standards
rubrics/criteria used for evaluation of work
self-reflection on how well samples indicate attainment of course/grade-level
teacher reflection of attainment of goals/standards
analysis or evidence of progress made toward standards over course of semester/year
c. to place students appropriately
representative samples of current work
representative samples of earlier work to indicate rate of progress
match of work with standards accomplished
self-reflection on current aptitudes
teacher reflection on student's aptitudes
parent reflection on student's aptitudes
other professionals' reflections on student's aptitudes
In addition to samples of student work and reflection upon that work, a portfolio might also
include a table of contents or a cover letter (both typically composed by the student) to aid a
reader in making sense of the purposes, processes and contents of the portfolio. This can be
particularly useful if the portfolio is to be shared with external audiences unfamiliar with the
coursework such as parents, other educators and community members.
Process: What processes will be engaged in during the development of the portfolio?
One of the greatest attributes of the portfolio is its potential for focusing on the
processes of learning. Too often in education we emphasize the products students create or the
outcomes they achieve. But we do not give sufficient attention to the processes required to
create those products or outcomes, the processes involved in self-diagnosis and self-
improvement, or the metacognitive processes of thinking. As a result, the products or outcomes
are not as good as we or the students would like because they are often unsure how to get
started, how to self-diagnose or self-correct or how to determine when a piece of work is
Although a variety of processes can be developed or explored through portfolios, I will
focus on three of the most common:
selection of contents of the portfolio;
reflection on the samples of work and processes;
conferencing about the contents and processes.
Selection of Contents
Once again, identifying the purpose(s) for the portfolio should drive the selection
process. As listed in the tables above, different samples of student work will likely be selected
for different purposes. Additionally, how samples are selected might also differ depending on
the purpose. For example, for an evaluation portfolio, the teacher might decide which samples
need to be included to evaluate student progress. On the other hand, including the student in
the decision-making process of determining appropriate types of samples for inclusion might be
more critical for a growth portfolio to promote meaningful reflection. Finally, a showcase
portfolio might be designed to include significant input from the student on which samples best
highlight achievement and progress, or the teacher might primarily make those decisions.
Furthermore, audiences beyond the teacher and student might have input into the
content of the portfolio, from team or department members, principals and district committees
to external agencies to parents and community members. External audiences are most likely to
play a role for evaluation portfolios. However, it is important to remember there are no hard
rules about portfolios. Anything can be included in a portfolio. Anyone can be involved in
the processes of selection, reflection and evaluation of a portfolio. Flexibility applies to
portfolios as it does to any authentic assessment. That is, you should be true to your purpose(s),
but you should feel no constraints on how you meet them with a portfolio assignment.
How might the selection take place?
What I will describe below are just a few of the many possible avenues for selecting
which samples will be included in a portfolio. But these examples should give you a good sense of
some of the choices and some of the decisions involved.
when a sample of work is completed -- at the point a piece of work is ready to be
turned in (or once the work has been returned by the teacher) the student or teacher
identifies that work for inclusion in the portfolio;
at periodic intervals -- instead of selecting samples when they are completed, the
samples can be stored so that selection might occur every two (three, six or nine) weeks
or once (twice or three times) every quarter (trimester or semester);
at the end of the ... unit, quarter, semester, year, etc.
by the student -- students are the most common selectors, particularly for portfolios
that ask them to reflect on the work selected. Which work students select depends on
the criteria used to choose each piece (see below).
by the teacher -- teachers may be the selector, particularly when identifying best
pieces of work to showcase a student's strengths or accomplishments.
by the student and teacher -- sometimes portfolio selection is a joint process involving
conversation and collaboration.
by peers -- a student might be assigned a "portfolio partner" or "portfolio buddy" who
assists the student in selecting appropriate pieces of work often as part of a joint
process involving conversation and collaboration. A peer might also provide some
reflection on a piece of work to be included in the portfolio.
by parents -- parents might also be asked to select a piece or two for inclusion that they
particularly found impressive, surprising, reflective of improvement, etc.
Based on what criteria?
best work -- selection for showcase portfolios will typically focus on samples of work
that illustrate students' best performance in designated areas or the culmination of
evidence of growth -- selection for growth portfolios will focus on identifying samples of
work and work processes (e.g., drafts, notes) that best capture progress shown on designated tasks,
processes or acquisition of knowledge and skills. For example, students might be asked to choose
o samples of earlier and later work highlighting some skill or content area
o samples of rough drafts and final drafts
o work that traces the development of a particular product or performance
o samples of work reflecting specifically identified strengths and weaknesses
evidence of achievement -- particularly for showcase and evaluation portfolios, selection might focus on
samples of work that illustrate current levels of competence in designated areas or particular exemplars of
evidence of standards met -- similarly, selection could focus on samples of work that
illustrate how successfully students have met certain standards
favorite/most important piece -- to help develop recognition of the value of the work
completed and to foster pride in that work, selection might focus on samples to which
students or parents or others find a connection or with which they are particularly
one or more of the above -- a portfolio can include samples of work for multiple reasons
and, thus, more than one of the above criteria (or others) could be used for selecting
samples to be included
Reflection on Samples of Work
Many educators who work with portfolios consider the reflection component the most
critical element of a good portfolio. Simply selecting samples of work as described above can
produce meaningful stories about students, and others can benefit from "reading" these
stories. But the students themselves are missing significant benefits of the portfolio process if
they are not asked to reflect upon the quality and growth of their work. As Paulson, Paulson and
Meyer (1991) stated, "The portfolio is something that is done by the student, not to the
student." Most importantly, it is something done for the student. The student needs to be
directly involved in each phase of the portfolio development to learn the most from it, and the
reflection phase holds the most promise for promoting student growth.
In the reflection phase students are typically asked to
comment on why specific samples were selected or
comment on what they liked and did not like in the samples or
comment on or identify the processes involved in developing specific products or performances or
describe and point to examples of how specific skills or knowledge improved (or did not) or
identify strengths and weaknesses in samples of work or
set goals for themselves corresponding to the strengths and weaknesses or
identify strategies for reaching those goals or
assess their past and current self-efficacy for a task or skill or
complete a checklist or survey about their work or
some combination of the above
Probably the most common portfolio reflection task is the completion of a sheet to be
attached to the sample (or samples) of work which the reflection is addressing. The possibilities
for reflection questions or prompts are endless, but some examples I have seen include
Why did you select this piece?
Why should this sample be included in your portfolio?
How does this sample meet the criteria for selection for your portfolio?
I chose this piece because ....
What are the strengths of this work? Weaknesses?
What would you work on more if you had additional time?
How has your ______ (e.g., writing) changed since last year?
What do you know about ______ (e.g., the scientific method) that you did not know at
the beginning of the year (or semester, etc.)?
Looking at (or thinking about) an earlier piece of similar work, how does this new piece of
work compare? How is it better or worse? Where can you see progress or improvement?
How did you get "stuck" working on this task? How did you get "unstuck"?
One skill I could not perform very well but now I can is ....
From reviewing this piece I learned ....
What is one thing you can improve upon in this piece?
What is a realistic goal for the end of the quarter (semester, year)?
What is one way you will try to improve your ____ (e.g., writing)?
One thing I still need to work on is ....
I will work toward my goal by ....
If you were a teacher and grading your work, what grade would you give it and why?
Using the appropriate rubric, give yourself a score and justify it with specific traits from
What do you like or not like about this piece of work?
I like this piece of work because ....
How much time did you spend on this product/performance?
The work would have been better if I had spent more time on ....
I am pleased that I put significant effort into ....
Overall portfolio questions/prompts
What would you like your _____ (e.g., parents) to know about or see in your portfolio?
What does the portfolio as a whole reveal about you as a learner (writer, thinker, etc.)?
A feature of this portfolio I particularly like is ....
In this portfolio I see evidence of ....
As mentioned above, students (or others) can respond to such questions or prompts when
a piece of work is completed, while a work is in progress or at periodic intervals after the work
has been collected. Furthermore, these questions or prompts can be answered by the student,
the teacher, parents, peers or anyone else in any combination that best serves the purposes of
Other reflection methods
In addition to reflection sheets, teachers have devised a myriad of means of inducing
reflection from students and others about the collection of work included in the portfolio. For
example, those engaging in reflection can
write a letter to a specific audience about the story the portfolio communicates
write a "biography" of a piece of work tracing its development and the learning that
write periodic journal entries about the progress of the portfolio
compose an imaginary new "chapter" that picks up where the story of the portfolio leaves
orally share reflections on any of the above questions/prompts
Reflection as a process skill
Good skill development requires four steps:
Instruction and modeling of the skill;
Practice of the skill;
Feedback on one's practice;
Reflection on the practice and feedback.
Reflection itself is a skill that enhances the process of skill development and virtually all
learning in innumerable settings. Those of us who are educators, for example, need to
continually reflect upon what is working or not working in our teaching, how we can improve what
we are doing, how we can help our students make connections to what they are learning, and
much, much more. Thus, it is critical for students to learn to effectively reflect upon their
learning and growth.
As a skill, reflection is not something that can be mastered in one or two attempts.
Developing good reflective skills requires instruction and modeling, lots of practice, feedback
and reflection. As many of you have probably encountered, when students are first asked to
respond to prompts such as "I selected this piece because..." they may respond with "I think it
is nice." Okay, that's a start. But we would like them to elaborate on that response. The fact
that they did not initially elaborate is probably not just a result of resistance or reluctance.
Students need to learn how to respond to such prompts. They need to learn how to
effectively identify strengths and weaknesses, to set realistic goals for themselves and their
work, and to develop meaningful strategies to address those goals. Students often have become
dependent upon adults, particularly teachers, to evaluate their work. They need to learn self-
So, the reflection phase of the portfolio process should be ongoing throughout the
portfolio development. Students need to engage in multiple reflective activities. Those
instances of reflection become particularly focused if goal-setting is part of their reflection.
Just as instruction and assessment are more appropriately targeted if they are tied to specific
standards or goals, student identification of and reflection upon strengths and weaknesses,
examples of progress, and strategies for improvement will be more meaningful and purposeful if
they are directed toward specific goals, particularly self-chosen goals.
Once opportunities for reflection (practice) take place, feedback to and further
reflection upon student observations can be provided by conversations with others.
Conferencing is one tool to promote such feedback and reflection.
Conferencing on Student Work and Processes
With 20 or 30 or more students in a classroom, one-on-one conversations between the
teacher and student are difficult to regularly arrange. That is unfortunate because the give and
take of face-to-face interaction can provide the teacher with valuable information about the
student's thinking and progress and provide the student with meaningful feedback. Such
feedback is also more likely to be processed by the student than comments written on paper.
Conferencing typically takes several forms:
teacher/student -- sometimes teachers are able to informally meet with a few students,
one at a time, as the other students work on some task in class. Other times, teachers
use class time to schedule one-on-one conferences during "conference days." Some
teachers are able to schedule conferences outside of class time. Typically such
conferences take only a few minutes, but they give the teacher and the student time to
recap progress, ask questions, and consider suggestions or strategies for improvement.
teacher/small group -- other teachers, often in composition classes, meet with a few
students at a time to discuss issues and questions that are raised, sharing common
problems and reflections across students.
student/student -- to conserve time as well as to give students the opportunity to learn
how to provide feedback along with receiving it, teachers sometimes structure peer-to-
peer conferencing. The focus might be teacher-directed (e.g., "share with each other a
sample of work you recently selected for your portfolio") or student-directed (e.g.,
students use the time to get feedback on some work for a purpose they determine).
Management: How will time and materials be managed in the development of the portfolio?
As appealing as the process of students developing a portfolio can be, the physical and time
constraints of such a process can be daunting. Where do you keep all the stuff? How do you keep track
of it? Who gets access to it and when? Should you manage paper or create an electronic portfolio? Does
some work get sent home before it is put in the portfolio? Will it come back? When will you find the
time for students to participate, to reflect, to conference? What about students who join your class in
the middle of the semester or year?
There is one answer to all these questions that can make the task less daunting: start small! That
is good advice for many endeavors, but particularly for portfolios because there are so many factors to
consider, develop and manage over a long period of time. In the final section of this chapter (Can I do
portfolios without all the fuss?) I will elaborate on how you can get your feet wet with portfolios and
avoid drowning in the many decisions described below.
How you answer the many management questions below depends, in part, on how you answered
earlier questions about your purpose, audience, content and process. Return to those answers to help you
address the following decisions:
Management Decisions Possible Solutions
Should the portfolio building process wait until
the end or should it occur as you go?
The easiest solution is to collect work samples along the way but save the selection
and reflection until the end, keeping selection simple and limiting the amount of
The more involved (and more common) approach is for participants to periodically
make selections and to engage in reflection throughout the process. This gives the
student time to respond to identified weaknesses and to address goals set.
Will the portfolios be composed of paper or
stored electronically (or both)?
Paper Portfolio: As you know, the most common form of portfolios is a collection of
paper products such as essays, problem sets, journal entries, posters, etc. Most
products produced in classrooms are still in paper form, so it makes sense to find
ways to collect, select from and reflect upon these items.
Hybrid Portfolio: Other forms of products are increasingly available, however, so
teachers are adding videotapes, audiotapes, 3-D models, artwork and more to the
containers holding the paper products.
Electronic Portfolio: Since many of the paper products are now first created in an
electronic format, it makes sense to consider keeping some samples of work in that
format. Storage is much easier and portability is significantly increased.
Additionally, as it becomes easier to digitize almost any media it is possible to add
audio and video examples of student work to the electronic portfolio. A
considerable amount of work can be burned to a CD or DVD or displayed on a
website. An electronic compilation can be shared with a larger audience and more
easily follow a student to other grades, teachers and schools. Copies can be made
Where will the work samples and reflections be
Obviously, the answer to this question depends on your answer to the previous question about
storage format. The possible solutions I describe below will assume that you have chosen an
option that includes at least some paper products.
A common model for portfolio maintenance is to have two folders for each student
-- a working folder and a portfolio folder. As work samples are produced they are
stored in the working folder. Students (or other selectors) would periodically
review the working folder to select certain pieces to be included in the portfolio
folder. Usually reflection accompanies the selection process. For example, a
reflection sheet may be attached to each piece before it is placed in the portfolio.
In addition to manilla or hanging folders, portfolio contents have also been stored
in pizza or laundry detergent boxes, cabinets, binders and accordian folders
(Rolheiser, Bower &Stevahn, 2000).
For older students, some teachers have the students keep the work samples. Then
they are periodically asked to select from and reflect upon the work. Students
might only keep the working folders while the teacher manages the portfolio
As a parent, I know I also would like to look at my child's work before the end of
the semester or year. So, some teachers send work home in carefully structured
folders. One side of a two-pocket folder might be labeled "keep at home" while the
other side might be labeled "return to school." The work likely to end up in the
portfolio would be sent home in the "return to school" pocket.
Who will be responsible for saving/storing them?
Typically the teacher keep the contents of the portfolio as they are usually stored
in the classroom.
Older students (and sometimes younger ones) are also given the responsibility of
managing their portfolios in the classroom, making sure all samples make it into the
appropriate folders/containers, remain there, are put back when removed, and are
kept neatly organized.
As mentioned above, older students sometimes are required to keep track of their
work outside the classroom, bringing it to class on certain days for reflection and
For electronic portfolios, it usually depends on teacher preference and whether or
not students have access to storage space on the network or can save samples
locally, or burn them to CDs or DVD, or add them to websites.
Who will have access to it, and when?
Who? Again, that depends on the purposes for the portfolio.
Usually the teacher and student will have access to the working folder or the final
But, for some types of showcase portfolios, only the teacher might have access
because she is constructing the portfolio about the student.
For older students, the teacher might only have limited access as the student
controls the portfolio's development.
Parents might have access and input as samples of work are sent home.
Other educators might also have access to final portfolios for larger evaluative
Typically, students and teachers contribute samples to a working folder as they are
created. Access to a portfolio folder is gained on a more regular schedule as times
for selection and reflection are scheduled.
Parents or other educators might have access at certain intervals depending on the
purpose of the portfolio and the process that has been chosen.
How will portfolio progress be tracked?
A checklist sheet is sometimes attached to the front of a folder so that the
teacher or the student can keep track of when and which samples have been added,
which have been removed (temporarily or permanently), when reflections have been
completed, when conferences have taken place, and whether or not any other
requirements have been completed.
The teacher might just keep a schedule of when selections, reflections or
conferences are to take place.
Older students might be required to keep track of the process to make sure all
requirements are met.
What will the final product look like?
Once again, this depends on the purposes and audiences for the portfolio, as well as the type
of contents to be included.
Showcase portfolios will typically have a more formal and polished presentation. A
cover letter or introduction along with a table of contents might be included to
provide context for a potentially wide range of readers, and to give the student or
teacher a chance to more fully flesh out the student's story.
Growth or evaluation portfolios might have a less formal presentation, unless the
evaluation is part of a high stakes assessment. If the student and teacher are the
primary readers, less context is needed. However, if parents are the primary or a
significant intended audience, more explanation or context will be needed.
What if students join your class in the middle of
Obviously, one advantage of choosing to build the portfolio at the end of a period
of time rather than build it along the way (see the first question) is that transient
students can still easily participate. They have less work to consider, but they can
still engage in the selection and reflection process.
If selection and reflection occur as work is being produced, the new student can
simply join the process in progress. Some adaptation will likely be necessary, but
the student can still demonstrate growth or competence over a shorter period of
If the portfolio is also to be evaluated, further adjustment will need to be made.
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