- College and University

Basing Grading on Portfolios for Teachers and Students

Standardized tests, quizzes, and unit tests are the typical or most common way to asses learning. It certainly is not the only effective practice to assess students. Portfolio-based grading is another valid option. The portfolio is built and graded regularly. It is made to show the students growth over time.

Purpose of Portfolio’s For Students

portfolio contains all the academic work that a student has completed. There are four main purposes, those are:

  • To evaluate coursework quality, progress, and achievement.
  • To determine if learning standards have been met.
  • For student reflection of academic goals and/or progress as a learner.
  • To create an archive of academic work and accomplishments.

Standardized tests are not able to provide an authentic or fully accurate picture of a students’ achievement. Standardized tests are only able to depict what a student may know in one instance of time.

The Two Forms of Portfolios

There are several ways or forms to keep portfolios. The two most common are using digital or virtual archives of notebooks that contain documents or graphics to a binder containing a physical collection of the students’ assignments, quizzes, tests, journals, projects, and/or other physical proof of learning progress and achievement. A physical or digital portfolio may also include awards, certifications, written evaluations, and self-reflections. Digital portfolios are able to contain more content such as videos of presentations, photographs, student created video or other multimedia, and any other digital work the student may have. This type of portfolio is also capable of being public or private so teachers, parents, or anyone who could want or need access can have it. Another positive to digital portfolios is the ability to build upon it every year as a way to monitor progress through all grades or schools.

Understanding Why Teachers Support Portfolios

Portfolios are used to evaluate students learning and achievement. Teachers are able to use this to see what a student is learning and what needs more understanding. With this knowledge teachers are able to change instructional strategies as needed so the student learns the material. Portfolios should be included with instruction. Used as a tool for the student and the teacher. Simply glancing at it or reviewing it at the end of the school year will talk away from its usefulness and effectiveness. Evaluating portfolios regularly will help students to see their achievements and how they have grown or improved throughout the course. Through continuous evaluation students are encouraged to take responsibility and have ownership of their work.

The usefulness of portfolios over other practices to track learning is limitless. Being able to track growth in a way that embodies the whole learning process is important. It will identify the content the student is able to understand and apply more effectively that standardized testing. Evaluating students in this fashion also lowers the stress that is placed on both teachers and students to teach and learn test material. Essentially taking away from the learning that should occur. Portfolios put the power to teach back into the hands of the teacher.


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