Portfolio assessment is an increasingly popular tool in the field of education, both among programs in primary, tertiary, secondary and higher education. The tool is especially good for tracking progress, as it does not just show the results of a group of work or project it also demonstrates the evolution of thought and learning throughout a series of works.
Instead of merely showcasing what the author believes to be his or her best work, the assessment portfolio provides a panoramic view of that person's professional development experiences -- and thereby also serves to measure the contribution to those experiences made by the educational institution from which that individual hopes to graduate. (Christ, 1994, p. 131)
The challenges of the portfolio driven project or term is to allow adequate time for matriculated assessment and review, by self, peers and instructors. If the portfolio is appropriately structured and planned to meet the needs of the student, the project and the goals of the instructor the tool can be invaluable for assessment. (Christ, 1994, p. 131) The method of portfolio use is highly qualitative and can effectively assess the independently driven individual, especially within the context of diversity. (Messick, 1999, p. 32) With this tool there is a promising ability for a student, her or his peers and the instructor to develop and intervene where there are problems and/or successes.
The portfolio has become a widely used to for assessment in many educational settings, among elementary aged students it is used as a supplemental overall view of performance on both project-based curriculum and overall achievement in any one or all subjects. The collected work of the student can be looked at through representative selection of his or her work through the grading year and in future grades to track current progress and with astute observation discover avenues of understanding in the past that might aide difficulties of the present. In the middle school years project-based portfolios are used by the instructor to motivate the student with personal interest, possibly the subject has been chosen by the student who then has a vested interest in the learning opportunity the work might afford. Similarly, the portfolio used in the high school setting can be project driven and complex, e.g. associated with learning concept or theme or it can be used as a basis for broader goals, such as future education or career milestones. In the later example such a portfolio would be reviewed and added to in a collaborative effort between the student and an advisor. (Anderson, Bachor, 1998, pg. 0969594X)
As a project driven tool the portfolio can be used to assess many individual and overall education goals such as writing skills improvement or the portfolio can be used as a tool to provide a wide view of the individual student's goals for education and after. (Cassel, 2000, p. 201) The use of the portfolio as an overall assessment has been criticized as to far reaching for the direction of the student, as assessing the viability or interest a child has in attending higher education at the beginning of his or her high school career seems to some as contradictory to the goal of the curriculum to provide a streamlined product for all students. (Cassel, 2000, p. 201) Others react to the use of a portfolio as an assessment tool for overall goal achievement assessment as a positive demonstration of individual driven goals and decisions and personal and the personal investment that may result.
The traditional project-based portfolio, such as one might see in a literacy program, or a writing class has been sighted as valuable tool from nearly every angle of education. Educators appreciate it because it gives them demonstrative examples of progress and allows them to effectively track individual progress in subjects that are often difficult to judge, such as writing skills. Many educators also find it useful as a way to motivate individuals to being interested self-learners especially in situations where the subject matter is challenging or traditionally uninteresting. (Campbell, 2002) Many educators use the portfolio style assessment tool as a way to communicate with the student as well, in the form of a collaborative journal that acts as a bridge between individual students and educators and corresponds with the progress of the project driven portfolio. Some educators do respond to the portfolio driven project-based system as time consuming, but still find its use applicable where special needs warrant its use. (Campbell, 2002)
Portfolio assessment is w ell accepted as an efficient and effective way to evaluate student work because it takes into account a writer's work over time rather than grading a writer on an individual piece, thus providing "a more equitable and sensitive portrait of what students know and are able to do" (Herman & Winters, 1994, p. 48). According to Paulson, Paulson, and Meyer (1991), portfolio assessment is "a healthy and robust concept" that has inspired "a considerable variety of portfolio projects" (p. 63) in schools across the U.S. (Campbell, 2002)
The representation of a portfolio also acts as a lasting expression of the learning environment, offering the student and the educator opportunities to leave a legacy of learning that can be reviewed repeatedly by either to illicit future individual project driven work.
As a student and future educator some experience with the tool of the portfolio has been very useful for a greater understanding of the need to motivate and tailor needs to the individual student. As a comparative portfolio assessment of others, e.g. peer reviews, or as a project portfolio in both higher education and secondary education the portfolio tool has proven to inspire and seed new ideas for my own interest and goals. My experience with portfolio use has been productive as a tool for communicating with my instructors, especially in the electronic setting in a manner in which there has been no comparison. I also believe that my fellow students and my instructors has similar positive results from portfolio use, as a tool for assessment and learning growth. Subjects both inside and outside my field of study have been aided by the use of the portfolio. Additionally, the review of portfolios from within the age group for which I will eventually act as an educator has given me a great insight into the needs and abilities of the students I hope to teach.
The portfolio assignment aims to be personally relevant to the students -- a relevance that would be clear to them. It helps them not only to develop and assess their skills in producing a variety of documents but also to produce a professional, polished product that they can use to showcase these skills to prospective employers. The personal appeal of the assignment, together with its practical useability, makes for a more exciting and gratifying task for students. Furthermore, students benefit from the fruits of their labor almost immediately. (Campbell, 2002)
My own experience mirrors that of others as the project and general portfolio as a tool of self-assessment and peer and pupil assessment has added to my ability to create a holistic understanding of my own goals and those of others.
The state of Florida has developed a position paper on the subject of portfolio use as and exception to the third grade advancement testing policy, (Sunshine State Standards Tests) a product of the no child left behind legislature. The tool is an accepted base for the evaluation of a student's ability to prove that they can read and write at the appropriate level for advancement. This position paper with all its variations and restrictions is available online at, www.firn.edu/doe/commhome/progress/Portfolio_TAP.pdf. The work demonstrates a practical way in which portfolio assessment can allow an independent learner with testing troubles to excel despite their testing troubles. The work allows…