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Portfolio assessment for teachers, students

Dec 12, 2013 : 20:14 IST

Against the popular concept of portfolio assessment as another Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation (CCE) document, Ravinarayan Chakrakodi,

Aportfolio may be broadly defined as a purposeful collection of student work that exhibits a student’s efforts, progress, and achievement in a given area. It is a focused collection of diverse documents and artifacts that are apt to reflect a person’s learning process.

In other words, assessment of portfolio consists of samples of work produced by learners over a period of time. It has gained popularity in recent years. Portfolios are widely used nowadays in schools, colleges, universities and teacher education contexts. This is because portfolio assessment seems to have several advantages over a single test.

Portfolios seem to be a popular assessment tool even in Indian schools. However, the concept has been grossly misunderstood and is considered to be another CCE document. In many schools, portfolios consist of only test papers, answer scripts of students and the home tasks or project works that they have done. Hence, an account of how portfolio assessment is being carried out in an in-service teacher training course will help readers gain better insights into the process.

Portfolio procedure

The teacher trainees who attend the in-service programme evolve portfolios during the training course. The purposes of portfolio in the in-service teacher training programme are;

-Developing abilities to write: The main reason for undertaking portfolio assessment is to develop teacher trainees’ abilities to write for different purposes in a variety of genres.

The portfolio consists of all the writing tasks undertaken during the training course, self-assessment reports and pieces of reflective writing.

-Training in pedagogical aspects: In implementing portfolios, process-oriented approach to teaching writing is followed. Each week, one writing task is administered to the teacher trainees.

The task is completed using the process-oriented approach which involves various stages such as free writing, prompted discussion, brainstorming, peer assessment, revising and editing. Teacher trainees produce the final piece using the process strategies. The process data such as initial drafts, comments from peers and feedback from trainers are kept in individual portfolios along with the final products.

Teacher trainees carry out self-assessment regularly using the self-assessment checklists provided to them. After the completion of all the tasks, teacher trainees record reflections on the processes of writing they followed and on their own development in writing over a period of time.

Portfolio conferences are held on alternative weeks to discuss the processes the teacher trainees followed in completing the tasks and to find out the strengths and weaknesses of their writing.

- Assessment and certification purposes: The portfolio not only includes final versions of the texts but all the drafts as well. All the work, except the self-reflection recordings, is taken directly from classroom activities. The portfolio thus reflects the teacher trainee’s work over a period of time.

Teachers’ voices

Teachers feel that creating a portfolio is a useful learning experience. One of the teachers says: “My portfolio looks like an autobiography. It helps me to identify myself, i.e. my weaknesses and strengths. Each task sets a challenge to me. Each revised product gives me satisfaction and confidence. It is a documentation of my progress. It shows my gradual growth in writing; not only in writing but also in every aspect of professional development.”

Another teacher remarks: “As a teacher, I have come to know the benefits of group discussion, presentation and peer group evaluation. After doing this, I have acquired knowledge about writing process and features of writing. I am now able to apply these knowledge, skills and values in my classroom.”

The experience of creating portfolios develops a positive attitude in teachers towards writing as well as teaching the art of writing in English as a second language.

Benefits of portfolio

The benefits of portfolio work may be attributed to three things;
-The process of constructing a portfolio
- The mentoring and collaboration associated with the process of portfolio construction
- The feedback given on the portfolio.

Assessment criteria

In order to use portfolios for high-stake purposes, it is essential to develop a set of assessment criteria. The five dimensions used for the assessment of portfolios are;

-Task fulfillment and appropriacy: the extent to which a text relates to a given context and its appropriacy and comprehensibility

- Cohesion and organisation: ability to link ideas and organise them to achieve coherence and cohesion in a text

- Grammar, syntax and mechanics: the extent to which a text is free of grammatical and other mechanical problems

-Ability to engage the reader: ability to engage the audience by using stylistic devices, appropriate tone and idiomatic expressions

-Revision across writing and reflective thinking: ability to revise a text and reflect on the processes and strategies used to complete tasks

Teachers who have been trained in the pedagogical aspects of portfolio assessment will be able to implement it successfully in schools and help learners develop the desired skills and competencies.

(The writer is a faculty, Regional Institute of English South India, Bangalore.)

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