Portfolio Assessment: A literature review

Portfolio Assessment:
A literature review
Philip Smyth
English Centre
The University of Hong Kong
Historical perspectives
 Defining the portfolio
 Purposes of portfolios
 Issues in portfolio assessment
 Research in portfolio assessment
 My own possible research avenues
Historical perspective
Portfolios widely used for many years
 Late 80s interest in portfolios for
assessment (Belanoff and Dickson
 90s saw advent of eportfolios
 A shift in emphasis away from
assessment to learning?
“collection of student work that
demonstrates achievement or
improvement” (Stiggins 1994)
 “a portfolio is a collection of evidence
that is gathered together to show a
person’s learning journey over time
and to demonstrate their abilities” (Butler
“…student writing over time, which
contains exhibits showing the stages
in the writing processes a text has
gone through and the stages of the
writer’s growth as a writer, and
evidence of the writer’s self-reflection
on her/his identity and progress as a
writer” (Hamp-Lyons 1996)
portfolios are “…prepared with a
particular audience in mind”, “…are
selective” and “call for judgments” (Calfee
and Freedman 1996)
“…a purposeful collection of student
work that illustrates efforts, progress,
and achievement in one or more
areas [over time]. The collection must
include: student participation in
selecting contents, the criteria for
selection, the criteria for judging merit,
and evidence of self-reflection” (The
Northwest Evaluation Association cited in Barret 2005)
Definitions – main
They are collections of work, different from
a single timed impromptu essay or a class
essay carried out over a semester.
They are purposeful in that they
“demonstrate”, “exhibit” or provide
“evidence” of “achievement”, “improvement”,
“the writer’s self reflection”, “the writing
process” and “the writer’s growth”.
The degree to which these characteristics
are evidenced in portfolios largely depends
on their purpose.
Types of portfolio
a process portfolio
a showcase portfolio
an assessment
A dossier portfolio
A reflective portfolio
A classroom portfolio
A positivist portfolio
A constructivist
A personal portfolio
A structured portfolio
An employment
A working portfolio
Where are portfolios used?
Primary and secondary classrooms
In tertiary settings:
Teacher education
ESP/EAP writing classes
How are portfolios used?
In a class
 Across more than one class
 Statewide
 Across a university curriculum
Accountability; evaluating program or
curriculum effectiveness
 Evaluating individual student
progress; grading, certifying student
 Diagnosing students’ needs; informing
classroom instructional planning
Encouraging teacher efficacy;
encouraging reflective practice at the
school and classroom levels;
supporting teachers’ professional
 Encouraging student efficacy;
promoting student self-assessment;
motivating student performance
(Herman, Gearhart and Acshbacher, 1996)
Different audiences (who is the
portfolio for?)
 Grading – who grades? (fairness)
 Learning and reflection get lost in
drive to measure competency
(Herman and Winter 1994)
Gap between psychometrics and
collaborative nature of the revision
process (Song and August
2002,Hamp-Lyons and Condon 2000 )
 Time needed for both teachers and
students (Callahan 1995, Herman and
Winters 1994)
Common problems
Purposes – clear to teacher and
student? (Callahan 1995)
Mismatch between assessment
criteria and goals of programme of
 Student anxiety and confusion (Butler
How do portfolios function best?
Research in portfolio
A slim collection?
Research in portfolio
Validity and reliability
 Fairness
 Impact
Vermont program
Correlation ranging from .47 to .58
between writing portfolio scores and
direct writing assessments
 Similar correlation between portfolio
scores and multiple-choice maths test
(Koretz 1993 cited in Herman and Winter 1994)
Gearhart and others (1993) cited in Herman
and Winter (1994) found:
No relationship when comparing writing
portfolios with standard writing assessments
Two thirds of students classified as “masters”
on the portfolio assessment would not have
been so classified on the standard
Gearhart and others (1993) cited in Herman
and Winter (1994) also found:
When portfolios were scored in two different
ways (holistic and individual pieces scored)
correlations were in the .6 range
Half the students who would have been
classified as masters on the single portfolio
score would not have been so classified
when individual pieces were averaged
Which assessment best represents an
enduring capability?
CUNY (Song and August 2002)
2 groups, 1 assessed by portfolio and writing
test, the other only a writing test
Students twice as likely to move to the next
course when evaluated by portfolio
At the end of the next course the pass rate
and grade distribution for the two groups
were nearly identical
Vermont interrater reliability of .28 to
 Pittsburgh portfolio system ranged
from .6 to .7
 Herman et al. (1993)found
correlations of .82 in an elementary
school portfolio containing final drafts
of writing
Little work on other sources of
portfolio reliability
Score stability over time
 Stability across different rater groups
 The portfolio set in which a particular
portfolio is rated
(Herman and Winter 1994, pg. 51)
Heller, Sheingold and Myford (1998)
think-aloud protocol on portfolio raters
to see if they fit process model of
portfolio rating
 Found score validity was threatened
when a major process was omitted or
extraneous assessment criteria were
Nystrand, Cohen and Dowling (1993)
found reliability could be significantly
improved if:
Raters scored each task in response
to a prompt before moving to the next
task and
 Raters read several examples
together to decide how they were to
be rated
Herman and Winter (1994) based on
self-reports from teachers and others
implementing portfolios appears to
have positive effects on instruction
 Vermont principals affirmed that the
portfolio assessment program had
beneficial effects on curriculum and
Aschbacher’s (1993) action research cited
in Herman and Winter 1994 suggests
teacher’s instructional practices and their
attitudes towards students changed.
Reported ways they thought about their own
Two-thirds of teachers expected higher level
of performance from students
Hirvela and Sweetland (2005) used 2 case
studies showing the 2 students did not
strongly endorse the portfolios as used in 2
different courses.
Seemed to need more explanations of what
portfolio approaches were meant to achieve
Even with a 5% final course grade students
saw the portfolio as essentially summative in
Richardson (2000) study involved
classroom observations teacher and
student interviews and examination of
student writing and teacher response.
Found that students regard teacher
responses as directives. Were not
prepared to make independent
judgments largely because of the
threat of grades
The future?
More technical quality
 Issue of fairness needs to be
 More research on impact
 A move away from psychometric
Potential research
Equity of portfolio assessment
 Validity v reliability
 Nature of feedback
 Portfolios for employers
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Calfee, R. C., & Freedman, S. W. (1996). Classroom Writing
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