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