A portfolio assessment provides a body of student work–essentially, a portfolio–that can be used to appraise student performance over time.
Portfolio assessment ranges from portfolios that demonstrates the student’s best work to an “expanded student record” that holds a full representation of the student’s work, from math equations to essays on literature. There has been some confusion in the field as to who the portfolio is being kept for. For example, in some cases, student portfolios serve as a replacement for the high school diploma or transcript.
The disadvantage of portfolios is that they’re not as quick and easy to evaluate, plus they’re hard to rank, as with a grade or score. Because portfolios are qualitative, many employers find them difficult to use as a determinant of a candidate’s skills. Often, employers would rather see a quantitative demonstration of a student’s best skills and work.
Some schools create portfolios that serve as a representative sample of a student’s work, showing the range of performance and experience. Such records usually hold far more information than employers need. Other schools want to use portfolios as an assessment tool to provide an alternative to standardized or teacher testing.
In some schools, there has been much discussion on who “owns” the portfolio, the student or the school? Ownership implies who gets to decide what goes into the portfolio, where the portfolio is stored, and what happens to the portfolio after graduation.
Let’s look at the implications portfolios have on the following 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.