DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.
Back-to-the-Basics: Portfolio Assessment (Workshop)
DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.
DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.


Why Portfolios & What They Do

DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.

Toward a New Discourse of Assessment for the College Writing Classroom

by Brian Huot

College English 65.2 (Nov 2002): 163-180

Full Article:

 Please read excerpts to the right.

"Unless we exploit and recognize the shift in assessment theory that drives portfolios, they will end up being just another tool for organizing student writing within the classroom, a sort of glorified checklist through which students are judged according to the number of texts produced at certain times throughout the semester...


The theory driving the shift to portfolios demands that we think differently about evaluation. Portfolios undermine the current assumption that it is possible to ascertain a student's ability to write from one piece of writing, or that writing or a writer's development can be inferred incrementally through the evaluation of individual products or an aggregate of individual evaluations. In fact it is fair to say that collecting, selecting, and reflecting, three of the major activities involved in portfolio compilation (Yancey,"Portfolios"),are also acts of assessment, since students make decisions based upon their assessments of their own writing.


Certainly, the assumptions behind grading and testing are that student ability can and should be measured by the sum of the scores received on individual tasks or

assignments. Portfolios, on the other hand, provide the student and the teacher with a variety of writing samples that can only be understood and evaluated in context and relationship with each other. A judgment based on a student's portfolio can radically differ from a judgment based on an individual student text because it includes a range of contextual factors including but not limited to the other texts in the portfolio, the act of selecting pieces for inclusion, the act of writing about texts, and the process of writing and compiling the portfolio. The variety of texts within a portfolio exemplifies the progressive, developmental, and fluid nature of written language acquisition.  The texts in a portfolio typically devoted to reflection and writing about writing focus not only on the product of writing but on the process as well, illustrating what the student writer knows about the product and process of writing within his or her own experience as a writer...


[T]he way portfolios are used is a key feature for harnessing their potential. For example, it is possible to use portfolios within the same theoretical framework that underlies testing and grading by continuing to assign separate numbers or letters to individual papers within a portfolio. This is a common practice, because while it is relatively easy to switch to portfolios it is much more difficult to alter the assumptions behind our practices. If, however,we want to conceive of portfolios as a viable way to improve the way we assess student writing, then we need to consider them as discrete units to which we can assign value in their entirety. 


Making us more conscious of our theories about assessing writing, and establishing assessment as a necessary component for effective composition curricula, nonetheless, are some of the most important contributions portfolios can make to the teaching of writing."  




DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.
Our "Range of Contextual Factors"
  1. What does range of the student's selections (i.e., the variety of the texts in the portfolio) look like?  What would you want to see more of and why?
  2. What is the student's process for arranging the texts/artifacts (i.e., order, organization, etc) in the portfolio?  In other words, how does the student rhetorically present this arrangement?
  3. What does the student’s title, container, and/or genre of the portfolio communicate?  How is the "container" working rhetorically with her ideas and writing? 
  4. How does the student describe the process for undertaking/doing the portfolio? What would you want to hear more of and why? 
DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.