How do I Use Portfolio Assessment?

In my class, students traditonally write three essays during the first half of the semester. The essays are evaluated as they are submitted, but they are not graded (evaluation can be done in class via student-teacher tutorials, via peer evaluation, or in the usual manner). At midterm, students submit a midterm portfolio that includes two of the three essays (the student selects the essays to include). At this point the portfolio is evaluated, and a tentative grade is assigned.

During the second half of the semester, students complete three more essays. Again, the essays are evaluated as they are submitted, but they are not graded (evaluation can be done in class via student-teacher tutorials, via peer evaluation, or in the usual manner). At the end of the semester, students submit a final portfolio that includes four of the total six essays written during the semester. Again, the student selects the essays to include. At this point the entire portfolio is evaluated, and a final grade is assigned.

Usually, the final exam is a self-evaluation that asks students to evaluate their own writing and progress across the semester. Specifically, it encourages them to develop a rationale for why they chose to select certain essays to include in the portfolio and why they didn’t select others. Additionally, it requests that they assign (and justify) a particular grade to the final portfolio.