Portfolio Assessment

You will earn much of your course grade by assembling two portfolios, one at mid-term (30%), and one during the last weeks of class (30%).

What do we mean by “portfolio”?

We define a portfolio as a collection of work purposefully selected and intentionally assembled by a learner. The one piece of writing that is required in a portfolio is an extensive reflective overview (more explanation below), which is a piece of writing that presents the portfolio contents to readers / evaluators and that explains why particular contents were chosen and what they are meant to show.

Why use portfolios?

Using portfolios is the most effective way to evaluate the extent to which you are achieving the kinds of learning represented in our course learning outcomes and to evaluate the fullest range of work you do to achieve these kinds of learning.

Think of your experiences in many other courses:

You earn your grade with three or four exams, perhaps regular quizzes, maybe a writing assignment and / or a presentation. Most of the work you do for a course and the “learning” that results from it—active reading and re-reading, multiple study strategies, drafting and revising a written assignment or presentation, active listening and participating in class activities—contribute to your grade only to the extent that it affects your performances on exams and quizzes.

With the portfolio and the reflective overview that accompanies it, you are able to show and explain a more complete representation of the work you accomplished and the learning it represents.

Further, the process of collecting, selecting, and reflecting—what we call the “portfolio process”—invites you to be more active in your learning. And with the reflective overview, you take responsibility for helping your instructor (and other evaluators) recognize how you have engaged with the course and how you have expanded your learning. Your choice of evidence helps with our evaluation, and your reflective overview (a central part of the portfolio) helps us understand what you include as evidence and why you include it. In other words, the portfolio gives us a broader and deeper view of your performance and learning than is possible with single tests or with single pieces of writing.

Finally, and perhaps most important, using the portfolio process engages you in the kinds of higher-order, active thinking that promotes deeper, long-term learning. Portfolios emphasize reflective thinking (metacognition) and "learning how to learn," the kinds of skills your future will require. Your success as a professional (and as a citizen) will depend on your being able to use your knowledge and skills to address unique challenges, to work independently and as a member of a team, to be flexible, and to be more responsible for your success.

What is a “portfolio process”?

Let’s start at the end and work backward.

For the mid-term and the final portfolio, you will assemble a portfolio, which will include selected evidence of your learning and a fully developed reflective overview. With these portfolios, you will show and explain how and to what extent you think you have achieved the learning outcomes specified for that particular portfolio.

By “show” and “explain” we mean that you will select evidence (from the various kinds of work you have been collecting); and with a fully developed reflective overview, you will explain how these examples of your work show that you are achieving the course outcomes (and to what extent). An effective portfolio depends on your meaningful, consistent, and active participation in class activities and assignments. Further being able to select the most appropriate evidence means that you have been collecting your work on a regular basis.

If you are following along so far, by now you realize, we hope, that you want to collect all the work you do, keeping it in a folder on your hard-drive, in your Microsoft "OneDrive?" account (online, in the "cloud"), on a flash drive, or in some other cloud site you may use (Dropbox, Google Drive, etc.).

From another angle: for every class (seminar, English, etc.) and between classes (homework, library, study time) you will be completing numerous assignments and activities. But most of those pieces will not be graded individually. Instead, you will use selections from all that work to demonstrate your learning. If you aren’t doing the assignments and activities as they are scheduled, regularly, you will not have evidence to support your claims for learning.

What will I be collecting to use as evidence in my portfolios?

All of the assignments and activities in the class are designed to engage you with knowledge and skills related to our course learning outcomes. The assignments and activities expect your meaningful, consistent active participation: in regular face-to-face interactions in classes; and in using various kinds of informal writing in and out of class. In fact, for every class meeting, you may write before or during or after (and often all three).

Your instructors will be asking you regularly, “How will you provide evidence of today’s activity for your portfolio?” or “How did today’s activities relate to course outcomes?”

How will I submit my portfolio?

You have options, and your instructors will help you decide. The complicating factor (and the reason you have options) is that all of you will not be completing all of your activities and assignments digitally (using a computer). The out-of-class work will be in digital formats; however, many of you will be using pencils, pens, and paper for in-class work. So the options for submitting will include the following: Recommended: All digital, as an e-portfolio: You would convert your handwritten / paper work to digital formats by scanning it or taking phone-photos and collecting it in Google Docs / Drive with the work you do digitally. All paper, in some form of binder or bound collection of portfolio documents: You would print out the work you do digitally, including the reflective overview, and submit your handwritten work as is. Your portfolio would include a mixture of documents produced with a word processing program and produced with pen or pencil. Part digital, online, and part paper, submitted in a bound collection: In this case, you’ll submit the reflective overview digitally, and select evidence from both your online collection and your collection of handwritten documents.

Don’t panic. In addition to support from your instructors, the consultants in the College Writing Center will be prepared to help you.

What will my portfolio include, specifically?

An effective portfolio will most likely not include “everything” you do for that part of the course. One of the principles of portfolio assessment is that the learner takes an active role in choosing work to include (though your instructor may stipulate that you include certain items). In other words, you are responsible for selecting evidence that you think best demonstrates your performance, your learning, your development of specific skills and knowledge; you are responsible for helping portfolio-readers understand your choices (in the reflective overview).

For many students, portfolios are problematic. Your instructor will not prescribe "the" way to assemble a portfolio. Nor will she or he provide a checklist of materials to include. Students have no one formula to follow, nor can they wait until the night before it is due to assemble and complete a portfolio that will earn a satisfactory grade. In other words, for many students, the portfolio prevents them from using the same methods in college that they used to succeed in high school. The portfolio process requires you to be an active learner, to value deep learning, to engage in the kinds of intellectual work that you haven’t been asked to do before now.

The Reflective Overview

The Reflective Overview (RO) is the most important piece of writing you will do for a portfolio.

The RO invites you (some might say "challenges you") to help your instructor(s) understand how to evaluate / think about / "read" the materials in your portfolio. When you think of the RO in this way, it is also your opportunity to explain what you might not have done, or how you fulfilled expectations in ways that are different from the norm.

Because the RO is an important piece of writing—it is the first thing your instructor will read, expecting the RO to help her or him make sense of all the other work you did—you will want to produce more than one draft, sharing with classmates so you can consider revisions to make this piece more effective.

Without a reflective overview, a portfolio is nothing more than a collection of artifacts, and readers of the portfolio are forced (free) to make sense of these artifacts as they see fit. With the overview, the writer takes control of her or his portfolio, helping readers understand the portfolio in the ways that the writer intends it to be understood.