EDTC 6329 Project 3 - Portfolios in Education

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The field of education is concerned with the development of children and tracking that development. Simple developmental stages may be tracked in simple ways. Does Susie know her colors? Simply have her identify them one by one. Can Billy tie his shoe? Simply have Billy tie his shoe. Educators can measure easy tasks with easy assessments. But how do we measure higher-level skills? How do we know when a student can analyze the metaphors in a book they will read in the future? How do we know they really understand metaphors when we are not there to help them? The best way to know this is to have a record of a student’s comprehension of a skill, perception of materials, and actual examples showing application of the skill. This cannot be measured by a multiple choice or true-false test. This measurement needs to be a written document that incorporates the child’s honest insight alongside the example showing the skill. A system that integrates this practice and can be used with a learner of any age is the portfolio.

Portfolios have been around for many years in one form or another. Artists have lugged examples of their work from country to country for centuries in portfolios. When their art was presented to potential clients, they were asked questions regarding their chosen formats and subjects. If they were true artists, they were able to give heartfelt explanations of every piece in the collection. But this collection would have to be limited to what an artist could carry and prospective clients could only judge what the artist considered to be his best work. The use of “portfolio assessment” in education began to make an appearance in the 1980s and was used mostly in post secondary situations with the emphasis being on assessment and accountability in college writing classrooms (Belanoff, Elbow). In the K-12 setting, portfolios also began to emerge, but they had many different purposes, mostly for displaying a child’s work, but in some cases to take the place of standardized testing and other established forms of assessment (Barrett, 2003). It seemed that education had stumbled on an application for an age-old system that could be tailored not only to the needs of individual subjects, but also to the needs of individual students. The contribution that the portfolio system has made to education has had long-lasting effects and its flexibility has allowed educators to extend its applications to benefit learners in many new and exciting ways.