Introduction to Portfolios
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Pros and cons of portfolio assessment
• They allow the teacher to see the student as an individual, each with his or her own unique set of characteristics, needs, and strengths.
• They transform the role of the teacher away from generating comparative rankings of achievement (grades, percentile rankings, test scores) and toward improving student achievement through evaluative feedback and self-reflection.
• They help teachers standardize and evaluate the skills and knowledge we expect students to acquire without limiting creativity in the classroom.
• They help students be more accountable for the work they do in class and the skills and knowledge we are asking them to acquire.
• They aid in the diversification of approaches to teaching and learning, thus increasing the connections with a wider range of learners and learning styles.
• They involve students in the assessment process, thus giving them a more meaningful role in improving achievement.
• They invite students to reflect upon their growth and performance as learners.
• They involve parents and the community in taking measure of their children's academic achievement in the context of the school curriculum rather than as measured by more ambiguous standardized tests and grades.
• They may be seen by some as less reliable or fair than more quantitative or standardized evaluations such as test scores.
• Parents can often be skeptical about measurements other than grades and test scores.
• Most colleges and universities still use test scores and grades as primary admissions criteria.
• They can be time consuming for teachers and staff, especially if portfolios are done in addition to traditional testing and grading.
• Teachers must develop their own individualized criteria, which can be initially difficult or unfamiliar.
• Data from portfolio assessments can be difficult to analyze or aggregate, particularly over long periods of time.
• They are often difficult to integrate meaningfully into school cultures where very high stakes are placed on comparative student ranking and standardized tests.
By Andrew Epstein, Synapse Learning Design
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