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Articles on Portfolios and Assessment

Listed below are articles on this topic from the Campus Writing Program library. Short summaries and citations are provided when available.


Adams, Dennis, and Mary E. Hamm. "Portfolio Assessment and Social Studies: Collecting, Selecting, and Reflecting on What Is Significant." Social Education 56.2 (1992): 103-105.

Considers use of portfolios to assess learning in social studies with students in junior high and high school. Includes answers to teachers' frequently asked questions about portfolios.

Anson, Chris M. "Response Styles and Ways of Knowing." Writing and Response: Theory, Practice, and Research. Urbana, IL: NCTE, 1989. 332-366.

Attempts to show how student writing corresponds to the Perry scale of epistemological development. Analyzes writing samples and the responses given by instructors to see how teacher input affects the development of student worldviews in the university years. Classifies and describes 3 types of writers [dualistic, relativistic, and reflective] and considers how teacher responses to writing also fall into these three categories.

Belanoff, Pat, and Peter Elbow. "Using Portfolios to Increase Collaboration and Community in a Writing Program." WPA: Writing Program Administration 9.3 (1986): 27- 39.

Describes the portfolio system used at the authors' university to evaluate freshman composition students. Then discusses the growth of a sense of community and collaboration among students, among teachers, and between students and teachers. Also discusses the problems encountered in administering the portfolio evaluation, and how some of those problems were handled.

Berenson, Sarah B. and Glenda S. Carter. "Changing Assessment Practices in Science and Mathematics." School Science and Mathematics 95 (1995): 182-186.

Elementary-secondary school science and mathematics courses use assessment methods more conducive to developing a student's memory than understanding. In order to give students opportunities for making conceptual connections and for reflection upon information, alternative forms of assessment--all of which reward higher order thinking--should be incorporated into the math and science curriculum. Five alternatives are outlined: journal writing, open-ended problem solution, portfolio, interview, and performance assessment. The discussion of each alternative includes a brief overview of the method, sample assignments, and hints for incorporating the alternative into the curriculum.

Bleeker, Gerrit, and Dev Hathaway. "Portfolio Assessment of Student Writing." Manuscript copy of conference paper on portfolio assessment at Emporia State University.

Summarizes a portfolio assessment project at Emporia State University. Portfolios were collected from 25 randomly chosen freshmen and sophomores and evaluated by 3 faculty from different disciplines. Same faculty also evaluated writing samples from a standardized competency exam. The study concludes that portfolios have advantages over standardized tests: they're longitudinal, not one-shot; they show strengths and weaknesses; they show writing for non-composition courses and different types of writing; they encourage cooperation among faculty in different disciplines, are cost-effective, and may be fairer to minorities.

Bridgeman, Brent, and Sybil B. Carlson. "Survey of Academic Writing Tasks." Written Communication 1 (1984): 247-280.

Questionnaire responses from faculty members in 190 academic departments at 34 universities were analyzed to determine the writing tasks faced by beginning undergraduate and graduate students. In addition to English, six fields were studied: electrical engineering, civil engineering, computer science, chemistry, psychology, and MBA programs. Results indicate considerable variability across fields in the kinds of writing required and in preferred assessment topics.

Broad, Bob. "Reciprocal Authorities in Communal Writing Assessment: Constructing Textual Value within a`New Politics of Inquiry.'" Assessing Writing 4.2 (1997):133-167.

Portfolio grading puts assessment into a communal context. A study in a large university reveals the complexities in negotiating different types of authorities within the assessment process. Each portfolio is read by three instructors, one of whom is the writing instructor for that student. The teacher's knowledge of the student is balanced by the other readers' unfamiliarity with the student. Negotiating the dynamics between the various types of authorities helps to create a sense of communal assessment, where issues underlying the evaluative process become explicit.

Connors, Robert J. and Andrea A. Lunsford. "Frequency of Formal Errors in Current College Writing, or Ma and Pa Kettle Do Research. "College Composition and Communication 39 (1988): 395-409.

Connors and Lunsford present their analysis of 3000 marked essays in order to discover the most common patterns of student errors and which errors are marked most consistently by American instructors. Major findings include the observation that teachers disagree on what constitutes a markable error, and tend to mark errors related to how serious or annoying the error is perceived for both student and teacher, although the difficulty in explaining the nature of the error also factors into the process. Furthermore, all stereotypes of English teachers aside, teachers do not mark many errors. Finally, and more refreshingly, the study suggests that college students at the end of the century do not make more errors than they did earlier in the century.

Cooper, Winfield, and B. J. Brown. "Using Portfolios to Empower Student Writers." English Journal 81.2 (1992): 40-45.

Describes use of portfolios with junior high and high school students. Suggests a portfolio table of contents.

Grady, Emily. "The Portfolio Approach to Assessment." Bloomington, IN: Phi Delta Kappa Eduational Foundation, 1992.

Suggests what might go into a portfolio in math or language arts; standards for evaluating portfolios; and why to use portfolios.

Greenberg, Karen L. "Assessing Writing: Theory and Practice." Assessing Students' Learning. New Directions for Teaching and Learning No. 34 Ed. J.H. McMillan. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1988. 47- 59.

Describes methods for assessing writing in any discipline: holistic scoring, evaluative grid, portfolios, peer review and self- evaluation. Includes examples of all methods except portfolio evaluation.

Hamilton-Weiler, Sharon. "Writing as a Thought Process: Site of a Struggle." Journal of Teaching Writing 7 (1988): 167-179.

Grounded in the context of the British educational system, in which students study subjects in-depth over a period of 2-3 years before sitting a series of exams assessed byan external examiner, Hamilton-Weiler describes the various ways in which students and teachers in A-level coursework (equivalent to lower-level U.S. college courses) are forced to grapple with the conflict between individual response and authorized discourse. Through a series of anecdotes by students and teachers, Hamilton-Weiler shows that teachers are aware that examinations do allow for individual response and insight, but that examiners assume that such responses will be within the conventions of the specific discipline. As a result, students may feel frustrated because their responses, while commonsensical, are judged to be inadequate because they fail to bring the specific semantic and syntactic conventions to their work. A goal of the teachers, therefore, is to enable students to understand that the discipline-specific conventions can act as heuristics, allowing students to engage more fully with the material. Another result is that students may feel as if their own interests in a topic are immaterial, because they should study for the types of questions asked in the examination itself. Hamilton-Weiler concludes with an example from a biology class in which students were given tasks that asked for their intuitive responses, but then guided the students to transforming those responses into the discourse of the discipline, therefore using the tension between choice and convention as a dialectic.

Haswell, Richard H. "Rubrics, Prototypes, and Exemplars: Categorization Theory and Systems of Writing Placement." Assessing Writing 5 (1998): 231-268.

Writing placement assessment often uses holistic scoring as a methodology. Categorization theory, however, sees categorization as falling under three models: classical, prototypical, and exemplar. The results of actual holistic scoring show that readers behave as if the points had prototypical structure. Assessment methods based on prototypical and exemplar categorization models may offer a more efficient and flexible method.

Janopoulos, Michael. "University Faculty Tolerance of NS and NNS Writing Errors: A Comparison." Journal of Second Language Writing 1.2 (1992): 109-121.

Study of faculty (in)tolerance of NNS (nonnative speaker) errors. Faculty were given 24 sentences that contained common NNS errors to rate for acceptability. Half of the faculty were told they were rating NNS sentences, the other half NS sentences. Results suggest that faculty were slightly (but not significantly) more tolerant of NNS than NS errors.

Law, Joe. "Accreditation and the Writing Center: A Proposal for Action." Writing Center Perspectives. Ed. Stay, Byron L., Christina Murphy, Eric H. Hobson. Emmitsburg, MD: NWCA Press, 1995. 155-161.

Proposes the creation of a national accrediting agency for writing center evaluation. Suggests possible benefits and configurations.

Law, Joe. "Starting New: Using Assessment to Shape and Promote a WAC Program." conference paper. n.d. 9 pp.

Part of what appears to be a roundtable discussion. Gives an example of how Wright State University drew up criteria for WAC assessment based on WAC goals, as perceived by a committee of ten faculty members drawn from a variety of disciplines. These assessment guidelines fell into three phases. The first phase, gathering data, was designed to focus on student writing outcomes while making instructor participation easy. In the next phase, data used from the assessment would be given to focus groups drawn from various university constituencies. The final phase would involve adapting the WAC program in light of what the groups would suggest. The phases would be ongoing and overlapping. Opposition to the plan showed a need to address positivism within the WAC context.

Law, Joe and Christina Murphey. "Formative Assessment and the Paradigms of Writing Center Practice." Writing Center Practice 71 (1997): 106-108.

Although the history of the writing center shows the presence of the principles of formative assessment, this presence has been unacknowledged. To understand and value the historical role of writing centers in literacy instruction, as well as to critique the degree to which writing centers are bound to prevailing pedagogies, this presence should be recognized.

Martin, Wanda. "Dancing on the Interface: Leadership and the Politics of Collaboration." Writing Program Administration 11.3 (1988): 29-40.

A basic writing program develops a portfolio system to replace traditional exit exams.

Moss, Pamela, Jamie Sue Beck, Catherine Ebbs, Barbara Matson, James Muchmore, Dorothy Steele, Caroline Taylor, and Roberta Herter. "Portfolios, Accountability, and an Interpretive Approach to Validity." Educational Measurement: Issues and Practice 11.3 (1992): 12-21.

Discusses use of portfolios in junior high and high school classrooms. Specifically considers how portfolios can be used for assessment; how results of portfolio assessment can be communicated outside the classroom; how to set up a portfolio assessment procedure; and, how to evaluate such a procedure.

Odell, Lee. "Responding to Student Writing" College Composition and Communication 24 (1973): 394-400.

Odell suggests that teachers' responses to student writing should identify and refine the strategies of students' mental processes. These strategies include focus, contrast, change, reference to sequence, reference to physical context, and classification. He analyzes several examples of student writing to explain useful response techniques.

Olmsted III, John. "Using Classroom Research in a Large Introductory Science Class."Classroom Research: Early Lessons from Success. (New Directions for Teaching and Learning, no. 46.) Ed. Thomas A. Angelo. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1991. 55-65.

Argues for the use of classroom research (Classroom Assessment Techniques, or CATs) to improve student retention in a large introductory science course, to promote active learning, to make lecture more interesting, to increase student satisfaction with the course, etc. Techniques include in-class questionnaires, mid-lecture breaks, self-analysis of homework, and frequent feedback from professor about what is being learned from the questionnaires, etc.

Peterson, Shelley. "Evaluation and Teachers' Perceptions of Gender in Sixth-Grade Student Writing." Research in the Teaching of English 33 (1998): 181-208.

Studies of writing assessment need to take cultural influences in consideration when looking at assessment practices. This study examines teachers' perceptions of gender, using five narrative papers by sixth-grade students. Teachers were asked to identify the gender of the writer, describe the elements that helped them identify the writer's gender, and to compare and contrast the girls' and boys' writing. One paper, written by a girl, exhibited both male and female writing traits. Those who perceived the writer as a girl gave the paper higher marks than those who perceived the writer as a boy.

Rothstein-Vandergriff, Joan. "Testing Writing Proficiency: How to Put Theory into Practice." No citation.

Argues that writing assessment tests must be tailored to the curriculum that they're connected to. Assessment must ask what the assessment is for--exit exam? placement? etc. and must take into account the theoretical underpinnings of the writing program it's part of. Discusses the advantages of portfolio assessment. Describes the process of holistically scoring writing samples.

Royer, Daniel J. and Roger Gilles. "Directed Self-Placement: An Attitude of Orientation." CCC 50.1 (1998): 54-70.

Instead of relying upon placement tests or other external measures to guide administrators in placing in-coming students into the appropriate composition course, the authors advocate "directed self-placement." During orientation, just before students register for classes, the composition director gives the students brochures, explains the difference between the two different writing courses, and points out the advantages of choosing the right course. Giving students the choice of which course allows students to participate in their own education, and illustrates Dewey's notion of a democratic and pragmatist education. Directed self-assessment also eliminates the problem of having to rely on ineffective methods.

Schultz, Lucille M., and others. "Stories of Reading: Inside and Outside the Texts of Portfolios." Assessing Writing 4.2 (1997): 121-132.

Portfolios are often thought to be a means of ensuring objectivity in grading, especially in those institutions where teachers trade portfolios so as not to be swayed by their knowledge of the individual students. Every reading, however, involves the construction of an "implied author," a persona that represents the author. This construction can have an effect on the evaluation of the student's work. Group discussion of portfolios can help teachers to become more aware of this activity, and to confront the various ethical problems that may arise.

Shay, Suellen. "Portfolio Assessment: A Catalyst for Staff and Curricular Reform." Assessing Writing 4.1 (1997): 29-51

Describes how a portfolio assessment project in a South African chemistry department led to curricular reform. In response to industry complaints that graduates were technically competent, but unable to communicate in the workplace, the University of Cape Town (UCT) set up a portfolio project in which students were to write a series of reports similar to those found in work situations. The assessment process led to a staff dialogue on the nature of written competence within the discipline. The insights from this dialogue helped fuel curricular reform so that students are taught writing conventions and strategies for approaching particular tasks. This sort of reform is important to UCT in light of the influx of students whose education was hindered by the inequalities of apartheid.

Smolen, Lynn, Carole Newman, Tracey Wathen, and Dennis Lee. "Developing Student Self-Assessment Strategies." TESOL Journal 5.1 (Fall 1995): 22-27.

This article discusses the importance of student-managed portfolios to promote independent learning. The authors emphasize and explain strategies such as goal-setting, time management, and reflective self-assessment as tools to enhance critical thinking.

Spalding, Elizabeth and Gail Cummins. "It was the Best of Times. It was a Waste of Time: University of Kentucky Students' Views of Writing under KERA." Assessing Writing 5 (1998): 167-199.

Freshmen at the University of Kentucky were surveyed about their high school writing experiences since the passage of the Kentucky Education Reform Act (KERA) in 1990. Despite many favorable observations, students failed to report purpose and audience as important parts of their approach to writing, despite the fact that these are the two most important considerations in portfolio assessment. Students also failed to see the usefulness of compiling a portfolio. These results suggest that KERA was hastily implemented, such that students and teachers did not have a chance to understand the theoretical underpinnings and pedagogical implications of the portfolio. Schools, administration, and employers must work together to provide real world grounding to portfolios.

"Student Portfolios for Assessment." No citation.

Defines portfolios and what they might include. Justifies their use. Discusses how to incorporate portfolios into the syllabus.

Vavrus, Linda. "Put Portfolios to the Test." Instructor 100.1 (1990): 48-53.

General background on portfolios: what they are, how they can be used with students at a variety of ages, why they should be used.

Wolf, Dennie Palmer. "Portfolio Assessment: Sampling Student Work." Educational Leadership 46.7 (1989): 35- 39.

In their search for alternatives to standardized assessment, a consortium of Pittsburgh administrators, teachers, etc., discovered the value of portfolios gathered by students. The portfolios consist of a variety of different types of writing, plus the student's own thoughts on the pieces.

Yancey, Kathleen Blake. "Looking Back as We Look Forward: Historicizing Writing Assessment." CCC 50.3 (1999): 483-503.

Traces three "waves" of assessment trends as documented in past CCC articles. Assessment, rather than being a logical progression, is best described as a series of surges that move assessment from being about applying methods to a test subject to seeing assessment as tied up with issues of identity and self-reflection. In this later stage, assessment is seen more as a rhetorical act, and future views of assessment will probably exploit the implications of this understanding.

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