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Pros & Cons
There are always two sides to every story and writing portfolios are no different. The following are pros and cons of using writing portfolios in an elementary classroom.

Pros

Brown, C. (2002). Portfolio assessment: how far have we come?. Assessment and Evaluation, 18.

  • Students evaluate their own work.
  • Student decides what is included in their portfolio.
  • Students learn to assess their own work.
  • Portfolios measure the process and the outcomes for a student's writing.
  • Portfolios help teachers assess their objects for the students and if they were met.

Duffy, M. L., Jones, J., & Thomas S. (1999). Using portfolios to foster independent thinking. Intervention in School and Clinic, 35(1), 34-37.

  • "Portfolios foster independence and self-evaluation skills in students."
  • Skills improved by portfolios: knowledge of audience, knowledge of "personal learning needs", and sucessful portfolio completion through reflection.

Cons

Gearhart, M., & Herman, J. (1998). Portfolio assessment: whose work is it? issues in the use of classroom assignments for accountability. Educational Assessment, 5(1), 41-55.

  • Student work is evaluated by teachers, peers, and parents and then edited by student. The work is no longer solely the students.
  • Correlation between on-demand writing and portfolio assessment almost non-existent which tells researchers that others are influencing portfolios.

Our writing is always influenced by those around us. As teachers, we should make the most of the help the students do get from family and friends.

Dutt-Doner, K., & Gilman, D. (1998). Students react to portfolio assessment. Contemporary Education, 69(3), 159-165.

  • Students are often unclear as to why they are creating a portfolio.
  • Many students need more structure and directions then other students.

Teachers must make their intentions clear about the objectives of the portfolios. A good way is giving the students the rubric prior to the students preparing the portfolio. There will be no surprises for the student through this evaluation technique.

Sample Rubric
Sample Rubric #2
Sample Rubric #3

Please keep in mind that not all rubrics are created equal. You may want to create your own for your students. You know your students better then anyone. Just remember the more specific the better. Good: Student should have few spelling errors. Better: Student should have fewer then 3 spelling errors.

Terwilliger, J. (1997). Portfolios and classroom assessment: some claims and questions. Assessment and Evaluation, 11.

  • Portfolios display the values of a particular classroom and therefore are not authentic assessment.
  • Unless the same outcome is being measure throughout the school year, you cannot show proof of growth through a portfolio.
  • Scores on portfolios are not reliable because several raters may rate a particular portfolio differently.

Everyone is influenced by their environment and no test can be 100% unbiased. The teacher must decide what outcomes are the most important for his/her students. By giving a rubric to the students prior to creating the portfolio the teacher will establish what is going to be assessed. If the rubric is well written and specific then any rater should have similar results.