How to Evaluate Student Writing Portfolios

Instructor: Sharon Linde

Sharon has a Masters of Science in Mathematics

Teachers can assess a student's writing in many ways. One is through a writing portfolio. This lesson will identify and discuss guidelines for evaluating a student writing portfolio and provide some examples of each.

What Is a Writing Portfolio?

Ms. Frank is a new teacher trying to figure out how to best assess her student's writing. She's attending a conference about using writing portfolios to help her understand this process. A writing portfolio is a collection of student writing used to help both the student and teacher see the progress of writing over time. It can be used in two ways:

  • Process portfolios are used on one piece of writing. They are a collection of all the work a student does in the process of completing a writing sample. For example, a student working on a historical fiction piece on the Civil War will include research notes, drafts, revisions, teacher notes, and other work in the portfolio related to that one assignment. The teacher and student will use this information to look back and reflect on the process of the student's work, and the teacher will have a big picture of the steps the student took to produce the final product.
  • Final portfolios are a collection of completed student work gathered over time, like the school year or semester. Sometimes, teachers ask students to put all final writing pieces in this portfolio, but more typically it reflects only the best work of a student. When a final portfolio shows a sampling of student work, the students are always involved in the process of selection, and criteria for the portfolio should be provided by the teacher. Teachers, parents and students may come together to review this portfolio and reflect on student growth over time.

This is great information for Ms. Frank, but she's not quite sure how she'd use portfolios for evaluative purposes. After a quick lunch break, she finds out.

Guidelines for Evaluating Student Portfolios

Portfolios are used to show a student's best work, their progress over time, and to evaluate a student's writing ability. What criteria are used when evaluating? Ms. Frank needs to consider a few things:

  • Rubric score - Writing portfolios are best evaluated by using a scoring rubric, or a guide that allows a teacher to assess work based on predetermined criteria. Scoring rubrics for writing portfolios can contain many elements, such as the quality of work chosen, ability to write about or defend choices, or the variety of pieces chosen for the portfolio.

Teachers can create a scoring rubric to use with writing portfolios.

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