Although this article is older, I found it worth the read since I want to use portfolios to assess and evaluate my students in the future. However, the word assessment is often used to mean evaluation. In the article Bernhardt (1992) states “that it is unreliable to base [evaluation] on a single sample of student writing” (p. 333). Thus, it is also unfair to evaluate students on “a single sit-down test” (Bernhardt, 1992, p. 333). This is especially true in English classes, where the very nature of the discipline is reliant on the writing process and conferencing. Bernhardt suggests that utilizing portfolio assessment allows students to reflect what they can do for a variety of texts, audiences and purposes (1992, p. 334). Students can show their writing process and get the choice/freedom to control what goes into their portfolio. They also get to spend the needed time on each piece of work and portfolios will mean more to parents than a single exam (Bernhardt, 1992, p. 334).
In my own classroom, I hope to get students to blog their work under each outcome (in student/parent friendly ‘I Can Statements’). Students would then write a letter to their teacher at the end of the year that outlines one piece of work from each outcome to be evaluated, but all of their work would be included. They would receive feedback on all work and teachers, students and parents could all have a say about what work should be evaluated. Students could monitor their growth between school years and have the chance to revisit their work. I would also have “author’s chair” be a weekly routine in my class, where students can help each other, conference their work and showcase their talents. The one downside I see would be making a rubric for each of the outcomes, especially when students may use various indicators for each outcome. Therefore, making the rubrics with the students for each outcome at the start of the year would be important so that students could guide their work from there.
I think portfolios in English are practical and if they foster technology, they better prepare students for the future.
For more information: Bernhardt, S. A. (1992). Teaching English: Portfolio evaluation. The Clearing House, 65(6), 333-334.