The Pros and Cons of Assessing Students through Portfolios

Instructional approaches on K-12 education have changed with the passage of time. Technological advancements have brought into play greater use of visual aids, hypermedia, and interactive simulations and lesser practice of the traditional chalkboard method. Additionally, curricular developments have been undertaken to address the ever increasing stack of educational information needed by students. These did not only redefine the teaching process during K-12 education but also affected the learning experience of students. Such curricular changes also brought about dynamism in the educational evaluation process. Electronically generated examinations, evidenced-based researches, learning portfolios, and the like have been utilized in addition to the conventional paper-and-pen examinations.

The use of learning portfolios, as a new approach to the evaluation process has gauged students' performance and ability to process learned information. Portfolios are collection of documents, literature and other educational materials designed to assess specific student performance. These may cover the conception, drafting, and revision of works in progress; the best pieces of a student's creation; student's assessment of outputs; and parents' and/or instructors' evaluative comments on strengths and weaknesses. It is reflective of the daily learning experience of students and should be a continuous documentation to specifically scale student's status, progress and accomplishments.

The introduction of learning portfolios aims to measure student learning, just like any other evaluators. The pros and cons of assessing students through portfolios can include but are not limited to the following: Portfolios provide for comprehensive illustration of student performance. Its evaluation will enable one to see the overall picture of what a student is capable of doing and can also highlight strengths and areas for improvement. Identifying weaknesses allows the student to focus on specific areas and seek effective measures to progress. Since it is an ongoing process that requires timely monitoring and review, student-teacher collaboration is heightened.

With portfolio assessment, there is conscious effort by a student to generate quality output, thus developing sense of responsibility. Critical thinking skills, creative assessment, selectivity and reflective analysis are also enhanced. Student anxiety on taking examinations is also allayed. Additionally, specific information on student experiences, work participation and work satisfaction can also be gathered through production of portfolios. This, in turn, allows for the different components of the curriculum to be evaluated en masse.

Moreover, individual learning styles are acknowledged with use of learning portfolios. Through this, an individualistic approach to learning commensurate with a student's style can be instituted, providing for more effective learning. Furthermore, curriculum objectives and goals, faculty enhancement, and development of feedbacks are enriched with review of learning portfolios since timely evaluation of student learning and effectiveness of the learning process is measured.

Nevertheless, portfolios as an evaluative measure of student learning pose drawbacks. One is that it can be very demanding for students, parents, teachers and/or policymakers to execute. Additional time is imperative for planning, identifying instructional goals, developing strategies, identifying suitable instructional approaches, conferring with involved parties, assisting students' generation of portfolios, and evaluating outputs. The creation of portfolios in itself is time consuming and requires utmost dedication and discipline to carry out. Additionally, no valid grading criteria as of yet have been established to evaluate quality of generated portfolios. Since outcomes are very personal, contents varying from one student to another, it would be very difficult to objectively assess the contents of portfolios.

Overall, dynamism in the education system is an affirmative response to the ever growing stack of information that needs to be learned by students. The pros and cons of assessing students through portfolios enumerated above are guides as to making smart choices with regard to the most suitable teaching and learning techniques that can be used to enhance student learning. Furthermore, the pros and cons of assessing students through portfolios, being an evaluative tool, also help for the improvement of the current proposed system that ultimately will improve acquisition of learning. Well-identified goals, purposes and standards are essential to not only ensure proper teaching but also effectively measure student learning.

Educational Literature on Portfolio Assessment

  1. Assessment Portfolios: Including English Language Learners in Large-Scale Assessments- ERIC Digest
  2. Electronic Portfolios: A New Idea in Assessment- ERIC Document
  3. New Assessment Methods for School Counselors- ERIC Document
  4. Portfolios: Assessment in Language Arts- ERIC Document
  5. Portfolio Assessment in Mathematics Education- ERIC Digest
  6. Portfolios for Assessment and Instruction- ERIC Document
  7. Student Portfolios: Administrative Uses- US. Department of Education Office of Educational Research Consumer Guide, December 1993.
  8. Student Portfolios: Classroom Uses- US. Department of Education Office of Educational Research Consumer Guide, December 1993.
  9. The Portfolio and Its Use: Developmentally Appropriate Assessment of Young Children- ERIC Document