Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

Preservice Teachers' Perceptions of Portfolios: Process versus Product

Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

Preservice Teachers' Perceptions of Portfolios: Process versus Product

Article excerpt

Portfolios are common instructional and evaluation tools, but educators share neither a common definition of portfolios nor a method for using them. We find it challenging to help preservice teachers understand the complexity and confusion surrounding the multiple definitions and uses of portfolios. In this study, we examined students' pedagogical beliefs and their definitions of and experiences with portfolios. We wanted to understand better how preservice teachers viewed portfolios. We examined whether preservice teachers' pedagogical beliefs related to their definitions and experiences with portfolios.

The use of professional portfolios to document professional development is common practice for many preservice teachers and for inservice educators (Adams, 1995; Barton & Collins, 1993; Bouas, Bush, & Fero, 1994; Krause, 1996; Ryan & Kuhs, 1993; Simmons, 1995; Tierney, 1993; Touzel, 1993; Vavrus & Collins, 1991). Some have promoted professional portfolios as a way to measure preservice teacher knowledge and growth, even for purposes of certification (California Commission of Teacher Credentialing, 1992; Dollase, 1996; Stahle & Mitchell, 1993; Wichita State University, 1993; Wolf, 1996). Preservice teachers are introduced to two distinct, but related, types of portfolios: student portfolios for assessment in classrooms and professional portfolios for evaluation of teachers.

A distinguishing characteristic of portfolios, which adds to their complexity, is whether they are used as process or product. At one end are educators viewing portfolios as evolving works and at the other those viewing them as showcases. In the middle are educators seeing value in both the process of creating a portfolio and the final product.

Preservice teachers must learn how to use portfolios for their professional development and in their classroom instruction. We hypothesized that their pedagogical beliefs and their methods course experiences and field experiences are important and related influences on how preservice teachers define and use portfolios.

Whether teachers view portfolios as product or process might be an important influence on how they conceptualize and use portfolios. We examined preservice teachers' pedagogical beliefs in terms of their achievement goals. An achievement goal perspective posits a potential conflict between two approaches to learning: goals set to enhance mastery or learning, a process orientation, and goals set to enhance outcomes, a performance orientation (Ames, 1992; see also Dweck, 1986; Nicholls, 1989). Students with mastery goals focus on learning new skills, understanding, and making progress. They are interested in improvement and report using strategies to learn from their mistakes. This goal orientation relates to the concept of a portfolio as work in progress. In contrast, performance-oriented students focus more on how outcomes reflect on their ability. They ask themselves if they are scoring better than others and concentrate more on the product than the process. This goal orientation relates to a portfolio as a showcase or final product. Some (Ames, 1992; Ames & Archer, 1988; Blumenfeld, 1992) have used such an achievement goal framework to describe classroom contexts and teachers' approaches to instruction. Little research has focused on teacher development of these goals and their relation to practice.

Understanding the personal foundation of preservice teachers, while not a new issue in teacher education (Combs, 1965; Lortie, 1975), has gained in importance as constructivism has emerged in teacher education (Weinstein, 1990). Teacher educators have become interested in preparing reflective teachers (Schon, 1983). Becoming a reflective practitioner builds upon the development of self-understanding; it involves both exposure to new information and experiences and the personal discovery of what they mean (Combs, 1982). If new teachers are to adopt a combination of product- and process-oriented methods, as student portfolios and professional portfolios demand, teacher educators must understand how pedagogical beliefs support or contradict these developing conceptualizations and experiences with portfolios. …

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