Mathematics: A New Kind of Portfolio Assessment
I sat pondering in my classroom as I calculated my grades for my first six weeks of teaching. I began wondering as I looked over grades how accurate these grades were to the ability of my students. I began to wonder how the grades showed the growth from where some of my students started at the beginning of the year. Some of my students started below grade level to begin with and had made tremendous gains to function at the level they were functioning at. However, with the traditional grading system, it tests how much they know at the sixth grade level. According to this grading system, these students were still failing or minimally passing.
This situation began to bother me and I remembered back to when I had read about portfolio assessment in my language arts blocks in college. I began to wonder if portfolio assessment could be more effective than this traditional approach to assessment. If it is more effective, why is that? As I was thinking about this, more reflections came to me such as, how does portfolio assessment take into consideration the way students learn and what have theorists said about learning and assessing mathematics. Furthermore, I needed to know if this assessment could even be applied to my own teaching.
In the last decade there has been a call for more authentic assessment from across all content areas. The question has been, is portfolio assessment the answer? Koca and Lee talk about the benefits of portfolio assessment over traditional assessment in mathematics. Their view focuses on how traditional assessment takes away the “mathematical tasks of reasoning, communicating, and problems solving.” They take a brief stance on this point, but I feel that there is much more to portfolio assessment than its student-centered benefits and its ability to allow students to “integrate their learning with assessment.” In their article they focus on the simple advantages and disadvantages of portfolios, but fail to expand upon the importance of reasoning, communicating and problem solving. They do not specifically address what portfolios look like in the classroom. I think one of the most important components of portfolio assessment is its ability to allow students to reflect, which was not mentioned in the article. Despite this brief description, the article did include research by Edward Wolfe showing that “through the use of large-scale portfolio assessment, students can realize educational outcomes that are not afforded in an educational system that focuses on traditional goals.” This research gives one insight in the value of portfolios.
The book that inspired my interest further was Eyes on the Child by Jervis. In this book, it addresses using portfolios in all content areas and touches on its uses in mathematics. The part that struck me the most out of this book and really helped me to choose my focus of this paper was the following:“The portfolios...