Portfolio assessment

from: McAlpine, D. G&T Related Reading on School Policies and Programmes . http://www.tki.org.nz/r/gifted/reading/assessment/portfolio_e.php Accessed: June 2006.

What is the history of portfolio assessment?
Portfolios reflect a move away from normative, test score, quantitative methods of addressing student performance to more standards-based, authentic, qualitative methods.

Portfolio assessment also reflects a move away from the teacher at the centre controlling assessment, to the student at the centre self-determining assessment. In truth, it is more of a partnership between student and teacher, where conferencing on what should be included in a portfolio, what assessment criteria should be used, and what future goals should be pursued are discussed by both student and teacher.

Portfolio assessment offers more autonomy and student choice in learning and assessing, for example, in choice of content, and choice of ways of presenting material.

What are some of the characteristics of portfolio assessment?
  • accentuate the positive, and generally include samples of "best performance"
  • show systematic evidence of student achievement
  • reflect a sample of student work over time
  • include a rich variety of style and content, and
  • encourage higher levels of reflective practice and self assessment.

What are some of the different kinds of portfolios?
There are three common types of assessment portfolios. The first, and most commonly found in New Zealand schools, is the student portfolio, or working portfolio. Its main emphasis is on best performance, but it may be used to illustrate improved performance over time with a wide range of standards of work. Teacher and student act as partners in learning and assessment with a strong emphasis on critical analysis, self-reflection, and self- assessment (Forster & Masters, 1996).

The second kind of portfolio is called the "standards-based portfolio". With this form of portfolio, selection of content is more controlled by the teacher and the curriculum. All students in a class may do work on a particular set of specific curriculum objectives. Assessment is based on grade-related criteria as in some criterion-referenced assessment. Claims of greater reliability and validity are made for this kind of portfolio. While it has been the main form of portfolio assessment in some parts of the United States (for example, Vermont), it has not proved popular in New Zealand.

The third kind of portfolio is called a "show portfolio" and is typically found at the secondary and tertiary levels of education. Assessment is more likely to be summative rather than formative, and it may be performed by independent outside assessors. If such portfolios are used for course entry and selection, they generally reflect "high stakes" assessment.

What are some of the advantages of portfolio assessment?
Portfolio assessment:
  • is a positive statement of achievement
  • is highly motivating for the student and tends to emphasise intrinsic rather than extrinsic motivation
  • allows a high degree of student autonomy and choice
  • encourages the development of higher levels of self assessment and decision making
  • forces the student to constantly evaluate learning, for example, to select content, to choose appropriate methods of representing the content, to assess performance, and to take the next step in choosing appropriate objectives
  • emphasises the close link between learning and assessment
  • reflects holistic learning and assessment, and
  • develops a fairly comprehensive picture of a student's best performance over a sustained period of time.

While there are also some enduring problems with portfolio assessment, e.g. staff training and development, criteria connected with selecting, discarding, and storing work, time involved in teacher conferencing, reliability and validity of measures and problems related to ownership/privacy of portfolio content, they are not insurmountable.
In conclusion, there are many characteristics of gifted students which are nurtured through portfolio assessment. Some of these include intrinsic motivation, goal directedness, and persistence and preference for independent learning (Moltzen, 1996).

Portfolios also offer students with special abilities the opportunity to excel and to offer "best performances" in areas of personal interest. Portfolio assessment encourages higher-level reflective practices and self-assessment. It also offers opportunities for sustained in-depth for study over relatively long periods of time. For those with high creative abilities, portfolios allow opportunities for imaginative and creative productions.

There are also similarities between processes and products related to portfolios and enrichment, and research opportunities associated with Type III activities (Renzulli and Reis, 1985).

In many ways, portfolios are the harbingers of real-life productions.