Portfolio Assessment: Documenting Authentic Student Learning

By Melograno, Vincent J. | JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, October 1994 | Go to article overview

Portfolio Assessment: Documenting Authentic Student Learning


Melograno, Vincent J., JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance


Motivation to learn in K-12 physical education may be enhanced by collecting portfolio items which reflect students' skills, understandings, social behaviors, and values.

The 1980s saw a demand for greater educational effectiveness. Since publication of A Nation at Risk (National Commission on Excellence in Education, 1983), there has been much legislation and numerous education projects directed toward curriculum reform and school restructuring (Kohl, 1992; Levine & Ornstein, 1993). More recently, America 2000: An Education Strategy (U.S. Department of Education, 1991) emphasized the key elements needed to ensure widespread educational reform. This vision of American education, including a set of national goals, led to passage of the Goals 2000: Educate America Act (PL 103-227) in March 1994. One result of the reform movement is the focus on student outcomes--clearly developed, publicly stated outcomes that are linked to learning units and assessment. The Physical Education Outcomes Project (Franck et al., 1992) is consistent with this focus. Its unified guide includes outcome statements and grade-level "benchmarks" (competencies) which amplify the definition of the physically educated person.

The need for school improvement and accountability relative to student learning has never been more evident. Interest in assessment has also been prompted by accountability concerns, especially the need to organize classroom data in ways that are credible and comprehensible to all constituencies--student, teacher, parent, and community. Although society has been oriented toward standardized achievement tests, there is an apparent readiness for change. Alternatives include more naturalistic, performance-based approaches to assessment. While these approaches are intended to promote a better alignment of instruction and assessment, they entail new roles for teachers and students in the evaluation process (Chittenden, 1991). However, in physical education, these roles may not be entirely new since a performance-based approach coincides with what is typically evaluated (e.g., motor abilities, sports skills, games strategies, fair play).

Developing a systematic evaluation procedure does not mean the group-administered, objectively scored, and normative interpretation of achievement tests. Rather, a comprehensive, performance-based measure of learning is recommended that documents not only understandings and skills, but other outcomes such as attitudes, motivations, social conduct, and values. Evaluation which scans this full spectrum of student learning reflects the trend towards "authentic assessment" (Perrone, 1991).

In authentic assessment, examples of student performances, not the highly inferential estimates provided by group testing, are used to measure learning (Meisels, 1993). For example, in physical education students' performances in naturalistic game settings (e.g., volleyball bump pass is rated when returning a "real" serve) are assessed instead of the results of a skill test (e.g., volleyball bump pass is rated from a partner lob). This notion is also basic to the sport education model (Siedentop, 1994), in which student performance is authentically related to class goals (e.g., seasonal performances, execution of gymnastics routines in competition, weight training performance records).

Authentic assessment is an ongoing feedback system which documents student learning through exhibits and work samples inherent to the school setting. It is nonstigmatizing, enhances motivation, assists teachers with decision making, and is effective for reporting accomplishments and progress to parents. Traditional grades may be replaced with anecdotal records, performance samples, and student profiles. The various forms of authentic assessment seem to have common goals: (1) to capitalize on the actual work of students; (2) to enhance teacher and student involvement in evaluation; and (3) to satisfy the accountability need prompted by school reform (Chittenden, 1991). …

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