One teaching model that seems to be very effective within the portfolio framework is the "Process Model."
The process model is, at its most simple, a method of writing in which the "process" of writing and revision is emphasized. Perhaps one of the easiest ways to express its essence is that it is the method of using progressive "drafts" to arrive at a final product. Of course, this model can do much to alleviate the motivation and morale issues previously addressed, simply because it alleviates much of the "performance anxiety" that plagues many exceptional learners. Further, key supportive activities on the part of the instructor, including "conferencing, prompting, modeling, and dialoguing," serve to create a "writing environment designed to encourage the creative process and to reduce the fear that students often associate with writing (Newcomer, Nodine, Barenbaum, 1988)."
Of course, this process model is in direct opposition to the "product" model where correct and final (read, "perfect") results are expected. Instead, the student learns that it is perfectly acceptable (and expected) to make errors in the writing process. Again, this does a tremendous service to the morale of the exceptional student, allowing him or her greater freedom to experiment and overcome writing challenges.
Another extremely important aspect of the process model is the use of writing as a "tool for self-expression" (Newcomer, Nodine, Barenbaum) rather than a subject that must be mastered. This means that within the writing assignment repertoire of the instructor, there should be significant emphasis on piquing the interest of the individual students under his or her instruction. For example, in Sheila Alber's 1999 article, "I don't' like to write, but I love to get published," she notes:
Teachers of all grade levels are painfully aware of how difficult it is including children to practice writing. Even students who like to write often have little interest in editing and revising their work...Publication is a good way to give student writing a communicative purpose and can be an effective tool for motivating students to engage in the writing process.
Again, here the key is not simply motivation (although it is an important benefit of the kind of method represented by the "publishing" idea), but the communication of the notion that writing has a practical and useful purpose in the lives of the exceptional student -- or, as Alber writes, "a communicative purpose."
Although the benefits of using a portfolio teaching framework buoyed by a methodology rooted in the process model for the exceptional writing student are obvious, it is important to note that there are drawbacks to the system -- foremost from an instructor's point-of-view may be the issue of "quantitative" assessment techniques -- or the difficulty of applying quantifiable assessment. After all, many may argue that "grading" work can become far too "subjective" to a particular teacher or instructor. However, there are several "rubrics" in existence as well as in development that promise to put this fear to rest (see the Curriculum-Based Measurement of Common Writing Errors (Karge, 1998)).
Additionally, it must also be noted that although the process model closely resembles the "draft" model so common in the typical classroom/student environment, several key components of that model -- peer review, among several -- may present significant challenges to the exceptional student. After all, it must be remembered that many exceptional students may lack the social skills and cues to allow for successful or smooth peer feedback.
In conclusion, however, the writing portfolio model promises to be an extremely effective tool for teaching writing to exceptional students. Further, when coupled with a well planned and customized (according to individual student needs) process model, one can expect to see significant success from a teaching, assessment, as well as most importantly -- a learning point-of-view.
Alber, Sheila. (1999). I don't' like to write, but I love to get published. Reading and Writing Quarterly, Oct-Dec 1999, Vol. 15 Issue 4, p. 355.
Hansen, C. Bobbi. (1998). Using portfolios as a tool to teach writing to students with learning disabilities. Reading and Writing Quarterly, Jul-Sep 1998, Vol. 14 Issue 3, p307.
Karge, Belinda. (1998). Knowing what to teach: Using authentic assessment to improve classroom instruction. Reading and Writing Quarterly, Jul-Sep 1998, Vol. 14 Issue 3, p319.