Perhaps the most prominent form of alternative assessment in use today is the student portfolio. A portfolio can be described as a “purposeful collection of student work that exhibits the student’s efforts, progress, and achievements in one or more areas of the curriculum.” Key elements of the portfolio include evidence of students’ choosing the contents of their own portfolio, specific criteria for the selection and assessment of student work, and clear evidence that the student has reflected on his or her work (Chriest & Maher, n.d.). Portfolios have been proven an effective means of student assessment in many areas of schooling, from preschool all the way through post-graduate work. Portfolio assessment has also been rendered effective in many business settings to determine the value of an employee.
The advantages of portfolio assessment are many. Foremost, portfolios, when compared to written testing, provide teachers with a more complete picture of a student’s progress. Portfolios exhibit a student’s ability to problem solve and to reflect on the work that he has done. They also give students the opportunity to tangibly track their progress in a class. When implemented, portfolios can also encourage a school system to work towards a more “collaborative evaluation environment” (Curry, 2000). This indicates that the portfolios are not only tools for teachers to assess a student’s progress, but also for administrators to monitor a teacher’s classroom management.
Disadvantages of portfolio assessment also exist: in many studies, “students found that keeping a portfolio contributed little to their self-awareness of strengths and weaknesses and, in some cases, that it even reinforced weaknesses without pointing the way to development” (McMullan, et al, 2003). This may be due to the fact that many
students may find portfolios an invasion of personal privacy due to the fact that they are aware that their work will be evaluated. This knowledge keeps students from writing their complete opinion for fear of being judged.
Another common form of alternative assessment is the performance-based assessment. It is often the case that a teacher wants to evaluate a student’s prior knowledge in a subject area. However, written testing methods will most likely not be successful in determining this prior knowledge due to the fact that written tests that go beyond the level at which the students are able to recall information are extremely hard to develop. Through the use of hands-on activities that demand that a student apply knowledge and skills, teachers are able to examine the ways in which students work and solve problems. Conversely, many teachers feel uncomfortable with applying performance-based assessments because they feel they are unable to completely and fairly assess a student’s work habits and thought processes (Brualdi, 2002).
Advantages and disadvantages of...