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An alternative to traditional assessment of student progress is portfolio assessment. Utilizing portfolio assessments, students will be able to show a comprehensive correlation between skills taught and learned over an entire grading segment. This is in contrast to the standard testing that is done at generally the end of a unit or mid-marking period followed by a final examination.
A portfolio assessment is typically initiated right at the beginning of the class and is introduced with the core curriculum. The idea is to compile representations of both progress that is forming for a student on a given skill as well as a cumulative assessment.
Portfolio Assessments vs. Traditional Grading
The intent of a portfolio assessment is to show the depth and scope of a student's understanding of the applications being taught. One of the most effective elements of a portfolio is a student's ability to show their contributions at a comprehensive level. This assists students with a visual of their own progress. Consider what a student would see when they reviewed a line of assignment and test scores on a grading sheet. These numbers may show some relative progress but they do not necessarily directly signal where the improvement has been or where the opportunity for development might be without further understanding of what the score relates to.
By using a portfolio assessment, the lesson plans of a teacher are aligned with the output by the student in a visual way. The student, teacher and parents can see the alignment of student progress as it relates to the class curriculum. There are also typically grading criteria, rubrics and other methods for developing the overall grading strategy that are incorporated into the portfolio assessment plan. These guidelines help to designate the expectations for students.
The Challenges of Implementing Portfolio Assessments
In today's learning environment, there are many different educational mediums that can challenge the development of a portfolio. It may be difficult to provide a portfolio representation of oral communication or if the class is held virtually/through the internet there can be challenges to some of the typical dynamics of portfolio building. Traditional portfolios have been physical documentation of student progress, worksheets and actual class work that reflect lesson plans. However, there is a great opportunity to create a multi-media portfolio as an option in order to best represent student work.
Teachers can consider using a video portfolio or an electronically based representation of a students work in a presentation format. This would also enable for easy electronic transmission of the portfolio information between parents, students and teachers to assess progress at intervals and provide feedback when needed.
The availability of technology resources is generally the limiting factor for students and teachers looking for creative implementations of portfolio assessments. Teacher resources and student accessibility should be accounted for when developing a portfolio assessment strategy. The ability to incorporate all forms of student progress should be considered in the overall designation of work to be incorporated into a portfolio assessment.