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MarylandFine Arts Education Instructional Toolkit
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Maryland Fine Arts Education
Developing Fine Arts Assessments
Integrating Fine Arts Across the Curriculum
Assessment Outcomes and Implications
 

Long-term Task Formats and Examples
Product  Performance  Extended Constructed Response
Curriculum Unit  Portfolio Assessment

Portfolio Assessment
Contents of a Portfolio: More Details

Table of Contents/Documentation of Progress

Work Samples

Evidence of Process

Evidence of Reflection

Personal Skills/Knowledge Inventory

Personal Inventory Form (PDF: 24k)

Supporting Information

Evidence of Evaluation

Evidence of Application/Extension

 

Table of Contents

A table of contents is essential for reviewers to navigate the collection of entries. It also helps reviewers understand the chronology of entries and the relevance of components to each other within and across projects.   Without some means of documenting contents, a portfolio would be little more than a storage container.   Using a traditional, written list of contents or an “audio-tour,” the person(s) responsible for a portfolio should meaningfully identify all contents.  

For instructional purposes, this documentation could be a “work log.” A work log tracks all entries retained in the portfolio over time and provides a historical record of all work generated and resources gathered and consulted in the process.   The removal and addition of entries might be supported with anecdotal information explaining the student's portfolio management decisions.

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Work Samples

The heart of any portfolio is its array of work samples.    Portfolios are more meaningful if they include "best work," as well as work in progress, “false starts,” “glorious failures,” and other work products that convey the behind-the-scenes learning process.   Entries are more meaningful if accompanied by text or audio- or videotaped annotations to clarify the underlying objectives.

The success or failure of portfolio assessments can depend on the logistics of gathering and storing work samples.   Teachers will need to determine (alone, or with colleagues or students) such practical matters as:

  • The size, shape, and material for the portfolio “container” (suggested or mandatory)
  • The means of including “outsized,” perishable, or otherwise difficult-to-collect evidence
  • Portfolio storage location(s) permitted or recommended while the portfolio is “in progress”
  • Portfolio access

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Evidence of Process

A portfolio can enable those who consult it to consider process as well as product. In making decisions about what evidence of process may be appropriate and effective, students and teachers should consider the primary (and perhaps secondary) purposes of the particular portfolio. They might ask, for example:

  • Who has primary “ownership” (decisionmaking power) over the portfolio?
  • Who is/are the audience(s) for the portfolio?
  • How will that/those audience(s) use the portfolio?
  • What decisions may be made as a result of viewing the portfolio?

The more a portfolio is geared toward instruction, the more documentation of process is advisable. By accessing plans, drafts, and rejected or revised work and supporting research and resources, students and teachers can better follow the development of skills and knowledge, and identify strengths, weaknesses, and challenges that shape and drive instruction. Supporting materials may also reveal proficiencies not evident in end products, or clarify what may appear to be misinterpretations or misapplications of concepts or strategies.

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Evidence of Reflection

Reflection is the vehicle by which students develop their metacognitive abilities—their ability to think about their own thinking in a meaningful way.

  • Useful reflection glances backwards by asking:
    • What was I trying to do?
    • How did I go about doing it?
    • Why did I make those choices?
    • What had I considered but rejected, and why?
    • How did I manage my time to do it?
  • Useful reflection focuses on the present by asking:
    • How well did I accomplish my goals?
    • How would I and others judge what I have accomplished?
    • What are the strengths of what I have done?
    • What are the weaknesses of what I have done?
    • What are the opportunities and next steps that are evident based on what I have done?
  • Useful reflection also glances forward by asking:
    • How might I go about a similar task in the future?
    • What would I do the same?
    • What would I do differently?
    • In what ways might my goals change?
    • What choices had I rejected that I might now reconsider?

Reflection has much in common with self-assessment. When the student applies specific criteria to make judgments about his or her own performance, reflection gives way to self-assessment.

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Personal Skills/Knowledge Inventory

Able teachers routinely use pre-assessment strategies to determine students' prior knowledge and feelings about particular topics and concepts. One form of pre-assessment that lends itself to inclusion in an arts assessment portfolio is a personal inventory. This inventory may involve a written inventory form, an individual interview (audio- or videotaped), or a small group discussion.

Teachers can use the example of a personal inventory form (PDF: 24k) to create their own form to suit course goals or instructional level. A teacher should fill in the blanks in the form with the arts content area(s) addressed in a given class or course.

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Supporting Information

Teachers may wish to identify additional resources that enhance the ability of a reviewer to understand and appreciate the work entries included in a portfolio. Teachers should inform students whether particular supporting resources are required or recommended. Examples of resources are:

  • Actual assignment sheets
  • Notes clarifying the content and purpose of each entry
  • Peer review forms or comments at various stages of work
  • Process journal
  • Examples of models that influenced entry (in written, graphic, or electronic form)

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Evidence of Evaluation

Because the contents of many arts assessment portfolios may be assembled over a period of time, at least some of the entries may have been the focus of an earlier evaluation. Students should retain all documentation of evaluative criteria applied to individual entries. Documentation may be a Post-it note with the grade or score or a detailed account of evaluation. It may also include:

  • Rubrics or other scoring tools that convey the criteria used to judge particular entries
  • Self- or peer evaluation forms completed for a given entry
  • Provisional or final conference or presentation notes
  • Anecdotal and descriptive comments from the teacher or other evaluator

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Evidence of Application/Extension

As an assessment tool, a portfolio is evidence of a student's ability to apply or extend the learning that has been demonstrated though various work samples. That evidence might be a guided reflection, in which the student responds to specific questions such as:

  • How do you see one or more specific skills and processes demonstrated in an entry being used in future work?
  • When and how might you create another version of an entry in your portfolio?
  • What is another context or situation in which you might use certain skills, processes, or content knowledge evident in a portfolio entry?

Another strategy for eliciting evidence of the ability to apply or extend learning is the “portfolio probe,” a concept first presented in the Maryland School Portfolio: Proposed Guidelines for Implementation.1 In the context of this plan, the “probe” is a question that prompts the student to revisit entries in his or her portfolio and consider the implications of that work. The probe gives students an opportunity to refocus and reflect, and then through the creation of an additional entry, to extend, refine, and apply to new situations the learning already demonstrated. The new entry goes beyond showing “what students know and have learned” to showing “what students can do with what they know and have learned.”

Some sample probes include:

  • Select a piece (or pieces) from your portfolio that did not turn out the way you expected or to which the intended audience reacted differently than you thought they would.   Write a brief explanation of how and why the final results did not match your expectations.   Then, revise the work(s) to either better match your original plans or to make it more effectively accomplish its new purpose or form.
  • Select several entries from your portfolio that deal with a related idea or theme and describe the relationship those entries have to that idea or theme and to each other.   Bring the entries together to create a single new work or a closely related set of works that expresses the common idea or theme more completely.
  • Select one or more entries from your portfolio that required that you master a new technology in order to communicate a specific idea, concept, or feeling.   Explain how you applied the technology to complete the work.   Then consider and explain how new advances in the same or related technology might impact the creation of subsequent work.

1Maryland School Portfolio: Proposed Guidelines for Implementation. (June 1992). Maryland State Department of Education, Baltimore, MD; portfolio probe concept based on Gail Goldberg, "Portfolios: Linking Assessment and Instruction," a paper presented at Maryland Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development Conference, March 27, 1992.

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