Portfolio approaches to assessing literacy have been described in
a wide variety of publications (Flood & Lapp, 1989; Lamme & Hysmith,
1991; Matthews, 1990; Tierney, Carter, & Desai, 1991; Valencia, 1990; Wolf,
1989) so that many descriptions of portfolios exist. Generally speaking, a
literacy portfolio is a systematic collection of a variety of teacher
observations and student products, collected over time, that reflect a student's
developmental status and progress made in literacy.
A portfolio is not a random collection of
observations or student products; it is systematic in that the observations that
are noted and the student products that are included relate to major
instructional goals. For example, book logs that are kept by students over the
year can serve as a reflection of the degree to which students are building
positive attitudes and habits with respect to reading. A series of comprehension
measures will reflect the extent to which a student can construct meaning from
text. Developing positive attitudes and habits and increasing the ability to
construct meaning are often seen as major goals for a reading program.
Multiple Products Collected over Time
Portfolios are multifaceted and
begin to reflect the complex nature of reading and writing. Because they are
collected over time, they can serve as a record of growth and progress. By asking
students to construct meaning from books and other selections that are designed
for use at various grade levels, a student's level of development can be
assessed. Teachers are encouraged to set standards or expectations in order to
then determine a student's developmental level in relation to those standards
(Lamme & Hysmith, 1991).
Variety of Materials
consist of a wide variety of materials: teacher notes, teacher-completed
checklists, student self- reflections, reading logs, sample journal pages,
written summaries, audiotapes of retellings or oral readings, videotapes of group
projects, and so forth (Valencia, 1990). All of these items are not used all of
An important dimension of portfolio
assessment is that it should actively involve the students in the process of
assessment (Tierney, Carter, & Desai, 1991).
Effective Means of Evaluating Reading and Writing
There are many ways in which portfolios have
proven effective. They provide teachers with a wealth of information upon which
to base instructional decisions and from which to evaluate student progress
(Gomez, Grau, & Block, 1991). They are also an effective means of
communicating students' developmental status and progress in reading and writing
to parents (Flood & Lapp, 1989). Teachers can use their record of
observations and the collection of student work to support the conclusions they
draw when reporting to parents. Portfolios can also serve to motivate students
and promote student self-assessment and self-understanding (Frazier &
Linn, Baker, and Dunbar (1991) indicate that major dimensions
of an expanded concept of validity are consequences, fairness, transfer and
generalizability, cognitive complexity, content quality, content coverage,
meaningfulness, and cost efficiency. Portfolios are an especially promising
approach to addressing all of these criteria.
Brings Assessment in Line with Instruction
Portfolios are an
effective way to bring assessment into harmony with instructional goals.
Portfolios can be thought of as a form of "embedded assessment"; that is, the
assessment tasks are a part of instruction. Teachers determine important
instructional goals and how they might be achieved. Through observation during
instruction and collecting some of the artifacts of instruction, assessment flows
directly from the instruction (Shavelson, 1992).
Portfolios can contextualize
and provide a basis for challenging formal test results based on testing that is
not authentic or reliable. All too often students are judged on the basis of a
single test score from a test of questionable worth (Darling-Hammong & Wise,
1985; Haney & Madaus, 1989). Student performance on such tests can show
day-to-day variation. However, such scores diminish in importance when contrasted
with the multiple measures of reading and writing that are part of a literacy
Valid Measures of Literacy
Portfolios are extremely
valid measures of literacy. A new and exciting approach to validity, known as
consequential validity, maintains that a major determinant of the validity of an
assessment measure is the consequence that the measure has upon the student, the
instruction, and the curriculum (Linn, Baker, & Dunbar, 1991). There is
evidence that portfolios inform students, as well as teachers and parents, and
that the results can be used to improve instruction, another major dimension of
good assessment (Gomez, Grau, & Block, 1991).
Go on to Portfolios and Self-Assessment
Back to Effects on Instruction and Classroom Management
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