“Assessment is the process of identifying, gathering and interpreting information about students’ learning. The central purpose of assessment is to provide information on student achievement and progress and set the direction for ongoing teaching and learning” (NSW Department of Education and Training, 2007, p.1). I believe an assessment strategy which best encapsulates this understanding of assessment is the portfolio. Specifically, a process portfolio provides a wealth of information about a student’s progress in literacy and not only allows a teacher to assess the learning that has taken place but also helps them to identify the areas in need of improvement. Additionally, the crucial element of the student’s self-assessment and self-reflection in the process of creating the portfolio also allows both the teacher and the student to understand the progress, strengths and weaknesses of their writing.
There are a number of definitions in the literature to describe the strategy of portfolio assessment. Brady and Kennedy (2009) describe portfolio assessment as a collection of work samples or products collected over time to demonstrate student progress in learning and achievement of outcomes. This is the most succinct and ideal definition as the idea of assessment is to not only assess the final products of learning but to also assess the process a student takes to achieve that final product. Portfolios in general provide evidence of a how a student thinks, questions, analyses, synthesises, produces and creates (Borich & Tombari, 2004). Grace (2002) emphasises that they keep track of a student’s success rather than their failures. This naturally allows you to determine what their learning needs are while also focusing on their strengths.
Educators identify a number of different types of portfolios. The most common types are the ‘working’ or ‘process’ portfolio, to show work in progress and change in learning over time, to identify strengths and weaknesses and to help develop skills of self evaluation; the ‘evaluation’ portfolio for specified and marked work to document achievement for grading purposes; and the ‘showcase’ or ‘display’ portfolio, with the best work and accomplishments for presentation (Richter, 1997; Valencia & Place, 1994, in Brady & Kennedy 2009; Borich & Tombari, 2004; Mueller, n.d.). It is important to note that these types of portfolios are not completely detached from one another and individual aspects from each type can be applied to a portfolio to accommodate a specific outcome. Brady (2004) prefers process portfolios, as he believes that including reflective writing about their progress makes it a more meaningful learning tool and richer assessment resource. With the process portfolio, teachers have a better insight into the learning that is taking place from the point of view of the student. Consequently, their understanding of how individual students learn strengthens and the...