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teaching profession in order to help students achieve various things.
Goals for students are for example assessed in terms of problem solving, critical thinking, lifelong learning, and thinking independently. Further goals may include personal traits such as persistence, flexibility, motivation, and self-confidence. Portfolios are also helpful to reveal the work processes of students. Teachers can then help students to develop processes through which to monitoring their own learning, and be able to perceive when there is a need to adjust.
Portfolio assessment is also valuable to the teacher in communicating value to the students. Classroom values are those things that are important to the teacher, and the teacher should communicate this adequately to the students. Through portfolio assessment then, both teachers and students receive information from each other about the situation in class and about what can realistically be expected.
Assessment should be integrated with instructions to reflect current instruction theory and student goals. While portfolio assessment is a useful tool, it is also necessary to recognize the correct methods for using it if its effectiveness is to be proved. In order to be effective, a portfolio should have a certain purpose. This purpose should be assessed before beginning the portfolio. Both teacher and student purposes should be carefully assessed to make sure the assessment is a success. The validity of a student portfolio is thus determined by the clarity of purpose in such a portfolio. A portfolio without a purpose is not likely to be very useful.
One could argue that a portfolio assessment is not very reliable, since much of it is dependent upon human factors such as teacher bias. This of course also impacts on the validity and reliability issues. However, if the clear purpose established in the beginning is kept in mind, this problem should be minimized.
Advantages and Disadvantages
An advantage of portfolio assessment includes its focus on collaborative learning. The teacher and student, and different teachers for the same student, collaborate to collect material produced by the students. This then help all the role players to make the best education decisions for the student in questions.
However, portfolios should be handled very carefully. A portfolio that is not judged correctly can have detrimental effects that may even produce worse results than fixed-choice tests. It is thus very important to interpret portfolios correctly.
Portfolio systems should also be designed correctly in order to produce the correct conclusions. As performance assessment tools for example portfolios might produce the problem that the work collected in the portfolio may not truly be representative of what the student knows and can do. As mentioned above, the person evaluating the portfolio may also be biased and unable to make a truly accurate assessment of what is achieved. Representativeness is at issue here. Portfolios have to represent all aspects of what is being measured. A variety of tasks and assessments is therefore advisable to ensure that all aspects have been covered in the area where information is gathered regarding the student.
The advantages mostly connected with portfolio assessments is then that they help students to take responsibility for their own learning. Teachers and students are also in a collaborative process in facing this responsibility. Disadvantages may include the fact that a large amount of careful planning is needed to ensure the validity of portfolios. However, if done correctly, portfolio assessment is a very useful device.
Student Learning and Assessment Portfolios
The first important part a student plays in portfolio selection is self-reflection. The student is expected to comply with the purpose established for the portfolio by means of reflecting on what is best for entering in the portfolio. The teacher again can collaborate in this. Of course the degree of student participation here will depend upon the maturity of a student. If a student is not at a stage where self-reflection is viable, the teacher would play a bigger role. Self-reflection can occur by means of a letter or oral report.
The purpose of the portfolio, as seen above, will also determine its nature. Thus guidelines can be established by the teacher for gathering the material in the portfolio. This may be extremely structured or more open for interpretation by the students. Again, certain students may respond better than others to a structured approach. The maturity level of the students should also be taken into account here. Personality plays a big role. Some students may be unresponsive to the structured approach, while others find an open approach overwhelming.
When portfolios are gathered in the correct way, they can encourage skills that are useful not only for future study, but also for a future in the workplace and in life. Critical thinking, problem solving, and independent thinking are encouraged in this way.
Initially it may be advisable that a teacher begins the process of assembling a student's work into a portfolio. This is especially so if the students are new to the process. However as soon as it becomes more familiar, students should be encouraged to continue this process on their own. This will teach responsibility without having to be supervised for every action. This is when portfolio assessment becomes truly valuable. Students need to be taught criteria and self-reflection as techniques to choose what they wish to reveal in their portfolios. This also empowers students to make informed learning choices.
The assessment process connected to the portfolio can be tricky. Because the portfolio is so flexible, the process of assessment should also be flexible. The portfolio could for example be considered as a story. The portfolio is made to give a narrative of a student's work and progress. This gives the teacher a sense of the student's needs and future work that should be attended to. Self-reflection, self-selection and criteria again play a role in the justification and rationale identified for the conclusions arrived at.
A composite portfolio may be useful when assessing the performance and development of a group of students. Instead of just one student, several students' work is collected and assessed. Information such as the general impact of a program or school on a group of students can be assessed in this way. The principle of story telling remains in this case. In order to demonstrate a group's efforts, progress, and achievement the information in the composite portfolio also needs to be subjected to criteria for selection, criteria for judging merit, and evidence of self-reflection.
The above way of assessment is closely related to reporting. The "story" told by the portfolio is the report given with respect to each student's work.
A record can be kept of such reports, showing the findings and assessments for future action. The role of grading or marking in portfolio assessment depends upon what is entered in the portfolio. Pieces of work handed in during class can be assessed by grading, and these can then be used for the story telling process.
Some teachers do not find that portfolios and assessment can be done at the same time. According to this argument, the humanizing view of the student achieved by portfolios in the first place is reduced by applying a rating scale to it. However, the benefits of clear rating criteria are as important as a clear purpose for the portfolio. Exclusion or inclusion of certain items in the portfolio is after all based on a set of criteria.
The main requirement for assessment criteria is that they should be clear, and they should be communicated to students in a clear way. Students should not be made to guess what is required. In terms of assessment, these criteria can then be put in writing. This is then used to share in the classroom in a collaborative process in deciding the values necessary for assessment.
In this way criteria can give the teacher a concrete way in which to assess student performance. If criteria are absent, student performance cannot be measured adequately, and the whole exercise would be futile. There would be no guide for either the students or the teacher.
Both teachers and students need assessment in order to determine the needs and goals for the future. It is also by means of assessment that performance as a whole is measured by various interest holders such as parents, future teachers, employers and institutions of tertiary learning.
Clear criteria thus have various benefits. They stimulate reflection and goal setting. Strong performance values are identified, which help to determine what is needed to reach the identified goals. The empowerment issue has been mentioned above. Students are allowed to take part in all the processes connected with the portfolio. As they grow and develop, they can b increasingly involved. The criteria are then shared with them and in this way they are empowered to ensure their own best performance. This removes the fear connected to a set of criteria set by the teacher alone and tested in a rigid setting. Clear criteria then also provides a clear guideline for judging performance.
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