KEY STEPS IN PORTFOLIO PLANNING
1 . Determine the Key Goals of Instruction
Goals for instruction and learning need to be set before any decisions about what should be assessed can be made. Once the goals are set, then the kinds of things that need to be included in the evaluation portfolio can be determined.
Without clearly specified instructional and learning goals, portfolios can easily become unfocused holding files for odds and ends. This kind of portfolio has no place in an effective evaluation plan!
The key thing to remember is that evaluation should be related specifically to what it is you are trying to teach and what it is the students are trying to learn. If this is clear, then the things that are included in an evaluation portfolio are those things that show where a student is in relation to where he wants to be.
2. Determine What You will Do lnstructionally to Help Students Progress Towards their Goals
It is important for instructors to plan to use teaching strategies and assignments that will enable learners to reach their learning goals. If these instructional activities are also used as evaluation activities, then evaluation would be woven into instruction. Such a meshing of evaluation and instruction would result in a very effective evaluation procedure.
Many good instructional activities are indeed very appropriate activities to include in an evaluation portfolio. For example, many instructors use story maps as part of their instruction on understanding story structure. Including completed, dated story maps in a portfolio would provide evidence of a learner's increasing skill in achieving this learning and instructional goal.
Thus, determining what you will do to help students achieve their learning goals can help you identify some of the content and format of the kinds of things that can be included in an evaluation portfolio.
3. Establish How Progress will be Determined
When learning goals are set, it is important to also establish the criteria that will be used to determine when the goals have been met.
Before any truly meaningful selections can be made for inclusion in an evaluation portfolio, instructors and learners must have a very clear idea of what the learner should know and be able to do when he/she has reached the learning goal that is being evaluated. This is not to imply that only work that provides evidence of completed goals should be included in the evaluation portfolio. What it does mean is that it is impossible to evaluate any performance without some criteria or standards to measure it against.
If the criteria for success are clearly understood at the start, then including "work along the way to a goal" will provide an excellent profile of what has already been achieved and what still needs to be worked on.
To have real meaning, the criteria that are established should:
4. Determine What Kind of Container will House the Portfolio
Since the range of items to include in a portfolio is almost limitless, it is important to plan for a container that will enable students to include more than sheets of paper in their portfolio.
5. Determine Where the Portfolio will be Located
The portfolio should be kept in a spot in the classroom that is easily accessible to students and teachers. The location must invite students and instructors to contribute to them on an ongoing basis. They also need to be accessible so that students and instructors can refer to them, reflect on their contents, and use them to plan the next learning stage.
6. Develop Criteria for Evaluating Portfolios
The criteria you will use to assess individual portfolio entries and/or the portfolio as a whole will be the performance criteria that you have already agreed upon with the individual learner during the goal setting and instructional planning procedures.
Not only is it important to agree on the criteria that will be used to judge performance, but it is also important to agree on how each of these performance criterion will be weighed relative to the others.
Looking at samples of students' work and identifying the kinds of traits that are evident in top quality work and what is missing in low quality work will help you make decisions about what constitutes mastery and varying degrees of mastery for a particular task.
Once instructors and learners have carefully thought through the criteria, then these expectations should be made explicit. They should be recorded and posted somewhere so that students and teachers can refer to them when selecting data for the portfolio, and when meeting to evaluate progress.
7. Decide on a Process for Portfolio Evaluation
Several processes for portfolio evaluation have been suggested by different assessment researchers. One approach is to have individual instructor-learner conferences to assess the portfolio. Another is to have students reflect on their work individually. They can then include a summative sheet explaining their reasons for choosing the portfolio contents and/or a reflective note to accompany each piece.
Another approach is to schedule portfolio review sessions with small groups of students on a regular basis. At this time, students confer with one another and provide each other with written and oral feedback about the contents of their portfolios. They also provide feedback about which areas seem to be well covered and which areas still need work. They can also brainstorm together about what kinds of evidence might address those areas that still need to be covered or expanded.
This review process provides learners with an opportunity to learn from each other. It also helps students clarify and broaden their ideas of what evidence could be used to demonstrate growth or mastery for certain areas or even to discuss what might be included in a certain area. Instructors can also be involved in the review process by viewing the portfolios and the feedback sheets with the students and providing their own feedback about how well the portfolio demonstrates that the owner is meeting the established criteria for performance and mastery.
Although individual needs and circumstances will influence what process you will use to evaluate portfolios, it would seem important to include as many opportunities as possible for students to confer with both their peers and their instructor about the contents of their portfolios and what they can include to demonstrate that they are meeting the criteria for the successful achievement of their goals.
Appendix F contains samples of feedback sheets and criteria that can be used in the process of portfolio evaluation.