Patty Gibbs and Lynn Frantz Adkins
Portfolio assessment is an alternative assessment practice used to document and to evaluate the growth, development, and achievement of students over a period of time (Seely 1994), whether that period is as short as a semester or as extended as the four-year curriculum. If we think of assessment practices as falling along a continuum, portfolio assessment is on the opposite pole from standardized assessment practices. Rather than telling a story of a student's learning over time, as is true in portfolio assessment, standardized assessment provides a single snapshot of a student's knowledge at a particular moment in time (De Fina 1992), with total disregard for the validity, reliability, or representativeness of that single measurement. Standardized assessment makes use of paper and pencil tests that have been devised either by the instructor (e.g., a quiz on a chapter in a textbook) or developed by an outside agency (e.g., state licensure exams). Portfolio assessment, on the other hand, is qualitative and multidimensional, relying on a variety of materials, pieces of work, or types of media as evidence of learning and knowledge. According to Paulson and Paulson (1991), portfolios are
a purposeful, integrated collection of student work showing student effort, progress, or achievement in one or more areas. The collection is guided by performance standards and includes evidence of students' self-reflection and participation in setting the focus, selecting the contents, and judging merit.