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Types of Assessment
Portfolio Collections Defined
Characteristics of Portfolio Collections
Two Types of Portfolios
Rating Scales
Benefits of Portfolio Collections

Types of Assessment
The ways in which teachers collect data and evaluate students' cognitive growth or mastery of concepts are known as assessment. Relevant assessment should examine student-produced work gathered from a variety of sources. The implications of cognitive assessment utilizing an assortment of sources requires a broad-based appraisal of student-produced work that goes beyond pencil and paper assignments or standardized testing.

The title applied to broad-based assessment procedures is alternative assessment. Some forms of alternative assessment include authentic assessment, essay writing, performance-based assessment, and journaling. Also included under the heading of alternative assessment are portfolio collections.

Portfolio Collections Defined
Portfolio collections are usually defined as a purposeful assembling of student work. It should be noted that portfolio, as a noun, refers to the actual folder where work is stored. Portfolio, when used as an adjective, usually refers to the work inside of the folder. Thus, a portfolio collection is the work one would find inside of a portfolio.

Not everything that a student produces during the course of an assignment is required to be in the portfolio collection. Only those items that show change or growth in cognition should be included. These items are known as evidence.

The most effective portfolio collections are created by students in partnership with teachers or others. Other partners in portfolio collections can include school administration, parents, or classmates. These people or groups of people who are interested in learning outcomes are called stakeholders.

Characteristics of Portfolio Collections
It should be stressed that the underlying strategy for successful portfolio collections and assessment is inclusion of the student in all facets of the process. Involving students as central to the assessment process empowers them to be responsible for their own learning. The teacher and student should work as a team to:

  • Set objectives and criteria.
  • Collect work.
  • Select evidence that best exemplifies change or growth in understanding.
  • Reflect upon each phase of the collection.
  • Judge and rate the degree to which each piece of collected evidence and the overall portfolio collection meets stated objectives.
With this basic structure in place, students are more likely to view assessment as an integral part of learning, not as a disassociated consequence about which they have little or no understanding or control.

Two Types of Portfolios
In general, there are two types of portfolio collections: holistic and specific. Holistic portfolio collections are expansive in scope and can include material from any number of content areas. Specific portfolio collections are typically subject-based and more narrowly focused.

Holistic art portfolio collections might include evidence of learning in other content areas such as language arts, social studies, or mathematics (or any other subject) along with visual arts. This evidence could be supplied in the form of poetry or essays, research about a culture or time, a sketchbook that includes mathematical calculations for the planning of an art object, as well as the completed artwork. When classes are interdisciplinary, evidence in holistic portfolio collections could be produced in different classrooms thus encouraging teachers to work closely with one another and students to deliver cohesive, connected lessons.

Specific art portfolio collections or any specific portfolio collection, as the title implies, includes evidence generated by one content area. In the instance of an art portfolio this might include evidence such as preliminary sketches, a final drawing, and a written self-critique.

Rating Scales
Assessing portfolio collections is somewhat more complex than scoring a standardized test because portfolio collections take into consideration individual and original responses as opposed to fixed answers. One of the most comprehensive ways of assessing portfolio content is through the use of rating scales.

Rating scales list the criteria or objectives for an assignment. A well-designed rating scale should provide numeric (or similar) ratings for various levels of mastery and will assist with appropriate and effective assessment of student work by both the teacher and the student.

Rubrics are also a good form of portfolio assessment. Considerably more complex and detailed than rating scales, rubrics are very specific in stating the degree to which each criterion for the lesson has been met.

Other forms of portfolio assessment include embedded activities encompassing any variety of written formats (e.g., narrative stories, persuasive arguments, graphs, or lists, to name a few). Assessment of portfolio collections should be a compilation of scores derived from the individual assignments, not one arbitrary grade assigned for the entire scope of the collection. Of utmost importance is reflective self-assessment wherein students are given an opportunity to discuss processes and personal change in attitudes, opinions, and understanding.

Benefits of Portfolio Collections
Keep in mind that there is no best or singularly correct method for compiling portfolio collections, nor for evaluating and assessing the contents. While certain objectives and standards may be set for a particular class, each student is an individual and, for this reason, work will vary from one student's portfolio collection to another. Assessment should take into consideration each student's own progress towards a learning goal.

VocabularyAlternative assessment: Broad-based assessment procedures that can include journaling, essay writing, and portfolio collections among other methods.

Assessment: Collection and evaluation of student-produced work.

Evidence: Student-produced work that best documents cognitive growth or understanding of skills.

Portfolio: A folder used to contain materials such as drawings, paintings, or written text.

Portfolio Collection: The work contained within a portfolio. This work can be holistic (covering a variety of content areas) or specific (covering one content area).

Rating Scale: A list of criteria for one assignment which allows ratings of achievement for each criterion (usually a simple scale of 1 to 4).

Reflective Self-Assessment: Contemplation, review, or a critique of student-produced work.

Stakeholder: A person or group of people who hold an interest in learning outcomes; stakeholders can be primary (usually a student and teacher) or secondary (all others beyond the primary stakeholders).