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Student Portfolio Assessment: Strengths & Limitations

Student Portfolio Assessment: Strengths & Limitations
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  • 0:03 What Are Portfolio…
  • 1:09 Types of Portfolios
  • 2:15 Creating Student Portfolios
  • 3:52 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Sharon Linde
Educators strive to use various types of authentic assessments with their students. One type of assessment is the portfolio, and this lesson describes what a portfolio is, what goes in it, and how to manage and evaluate them in a classroom.

What Are Portfolio Assessments?

Alex is an eager, first-year teacher who is striving to find great ways to assess her students. She wants to make sure she uses authentic assessments, or things that mimic the real world. Authentic assessments are great for determining whether or not students both understand the skill and are able to apply it. She's been collecting all of her students' work in file folders and plans to use this as a portfolio, but her mentor teacher, Carla, told her this isn't quite what portfolio assessments are all about. Where did she go wrong?

Alex is right about one thing - portfolio assessments are collections of student work used to evaluate. However, instead of it being a stack of papers with no clear purpose, it's an intentionally created collection of student work that meets certain criteria. For example, if Alex wants to use portfolio assessments to evaluate a student's cumulative understanding at the end of the year, she will collect samples of strong writing and look at each carefully, checking for evidence of comprehension.

This sounds a little challenging to Alex. Is it worth all the work? Let's check it out.

Types of Portfolios

Carla explains that there are three main types of portfolios. Like we saw, teachers need to have a clear and specific reason for going through the act of collecting student work. They may use a portfolio to:

  1. Show student growth over time
  2. Show exemplary work, and
  3. Evaluate student work

Using a portfolio to show student growth can highlight how much progress a student makes, zooms in on specific skill development, helps with goal setting, and makes strengths and struggles clear. Alex can use them to determine future instruction or track student progress.

Alex may also want to showcase student achievement with portfolios. She can collect for end-of-year or end-of-unit, or for display purposes. These portfolios can also be used when students transition to a new grade. For example, Alex may collect student work at the end of the year so her students' next teacher can get an idea of their skill level and abilities.

Finally, Alex can use portfolios as an evaluation method. These can be used for grading, progress towards grade level objectives, or placing a student in an appropriate grade or group.

Creating Student Portfolios

Once Alex decides she's using the student portfolios for assessment, she can then begin creating them. Remember, she has three main reasons to use portfolios for assessment - for grading and evaluation, for progress towards an objective, or for appropriate student placement.

Let's say Alex decides to use portfolios to assess student writing. To do this, she will collect samples of student work. These samples have already been graded, but now she will take a comprehensive look at her students' work and make determinations about their overall learning over the year. She will not include all student writing, but she or her students will choose those that best meet the objective, which is to showcase how writing has been understood over the course of a year.

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