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Situating Portfolios

edited by Kathleen Blake Yancey & Irwin Weiser

Publication Year: 1997

Yancey and Weiser bring together thirty-one writing teachers from diverse levels of instruction, institutional settings, and regions to create a stimulating volume on the current practice in portfolio writing assessment. Contributors reflect on the explosion in portfolio practice over the last decade, why it happened, what comes next; discuss portfolios in hypertext, the web, and other electronic spaces; and consider emerging trends and issues that are involving portfolios in teacher assessment, faculty development, and graduate student experience. Contributors include Peter Elbow and Pat Belanoff, Gail Hawisher and Cynthia Selfe, Brian Huot, Sandra Murphy, and William Condon.

Published by: Utah State University Press


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pp. v-vii

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Situating Portfolios: An Introduction

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pp. 1-17

...At the postsecondary level, the efforts were initiated more often than not by a demand for accountability, an insistence that students demonstrate they could write well enough to move to the next level or to graduate. Portfolios, then--as documented by Pat Belanoff. Peter Elbow, and William Condon--comprised a creative response to that demand for accountability. ...

I. Theory and Power

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1. Reflections on an Explosion: Portfolios in the ’90s and Beyond

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pp. 21-33

...First, we note that we are not assessment specialists. We have not mastered the technical dimensions of psychometrics. That doesn't mean we don't respect the field; we agree with Ed White that one of the greatest needs is for practitioners and theorists like us to talk to psychometricians. But we don't feel comfortable doing that so long as they continue to worship numbers as the bottom line. ...

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2. The Lunar Light of Student Writing: Portfolios and Literary Theory

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pp. 34-42

...It's a strange metaphor: the text as a reflective surface, a lunar landscape bending back a light that comes "curiously from elsewhere." Rejecting a myth of creative autonomy, the myth of the artist laboring alone in that upper bedroom, Whitman views his work as a reflection or reconstruction of historical contexts: Emersonian self-reliance, radical democracy, literary sentimentality, and, perhaps most important of all, the lingering terror of the American Civil War. ...

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3. Rethinking Portfolios for Evaluating Writing: Issues of Assessment and Power

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pp. 43-56

ISSUES IN WRITING ASSESSMENT HAVE TRADITIONALLY REVOLVED AROUND our ability to construct procedures that represent the ways students write and at the same adhere to the guidelines set down by theories of educational measurement. Moss asserts that this tension between theoretical constraints of literacy education and assessment has been productive in promoting the many new and improved methods for assessing student writing (see Camp 1993a for a discussion of the relationship between the teaching and testing communities in creating writing assessment procedures). ...

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4. Kentucky’s State-Mandated Writing Portfolios and Teacher Accountability

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pp. 57-71

AS THEIR USE BECOMES MORE WIDESPREAD, PORTFOLIOS ARE BEING ASKED to function in a variety of ways. In exploring how portfolio design may encourage multiple purposes, though, some of us have begun to suspect that not all purposes are compatible. This suspicion can be seen in the growing tension between those who believe portfolios function best as a highly personalized pedagogy kept deliberately separate from formal assessment and grading and those who see portfolios as a desirable vehicle for assessing individual proficiency. ...

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5. Teachers and Students: Reclaiming Assessment Via Portfolios

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pp. 72-88

TEACHERS HAVE PROBABLY ALWAYS UNDERSTOOD THE MEANING OF THE phrase "teach to the test." Evidence confirms this, showing that teachers will base instruction on the content and form of tests, especially when high stakes are attached (Corbett and Wilson 1991; Madaus 1988; and M. 1. Smith 1991). Now educational reformers want to make use of this tendency by linking "tests" to portfolios. ...

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6. Establishing Sound Portfolio Practice: Reflections on Faculty Development

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pp. 89-100

OUR FORMAL INTRODUCTION TO PORTFOLIOS BEGAN DURING THE 1992 TO 1993 school year when we were invited to participate on a district portfolio training committee. The committee provided us with the opportunity to train and collaborate with other teachers and administrators who were interested in integrating portfolios into their classrooms or schools. In addition to receiving books and materials on portfolios, our participation on the committee enabled us to attend conferences both in and out of state. ...

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7. Of Large-Mouth Milk Jugs, Cosmic Trash Compactors, and Renewal Machines: Reflections on a Multi-task Portfolio Assessment

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pp. 101-124

THE EMPHASIS ON PERFORMANCE ASSESSMENT HAS ENCOURAGED EDUCATORS to seek ways to actively involve students in authentic activities which are challenging and interesting. As an English language arts consultant working to help classroom teachers bridge the gap between theory and practice, I know that performance assessment should also model and support good instruction. ...

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8. Portfolio For Doctoral Candidacy: A Veritable Alternative

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pp. 125-141

THE INCREASING USE OF PORTFOLIOS FOR EVALUATION AND ASSESSMENT embraces all levels of education today, including the relatively unexplored territory of considering portfolios as equivalent to doctoral candidacy exams in English. Current literature continues to expand the portfolio dialogue (Belanoff and Elbow 1991; Elbow and Belanoff 1991; Yancey 1992a, 1992b; Graves 1992; Gallehr 1993), including an entire conference on portfolios at Miami University of Ohio in October 1992...

II. Pedagogy

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9. Behind the Scenes: Portfolios in a Classroom Learning Community

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pp. 145-162

I STARTED MY TEACHING CAREER TWENTY-FOUR YEARS AGO BY FURNISHING A large corner of my classroom with a couch and a rug made of carpet remnants. There my eighth graders lounged, upright or prone, while I fed them books and blank pages for their writing. The arrangement did little justice to the student-centered curriculum of James Moffett and B.J. Wagner which was, at the time, in serious contention with the one-lecture-fits-all approach, supported by desks in a row. ...

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10. Using Portfolios to Assess and Nurture Early Literacy from a Developmental Perspective

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pp. 163-175

PORTFOLIOS FOR YOUNG CHILDREN SHOULD BE A POWERFUL INSTRUMENT for assessing and nurturing early literacy development for both the child and the teacher. However, if a teacher does not understand the developmental process of children's early literacy, the instrument remains monodimensional and flat, rather than interactive and dynamic (Stone 1995). ...

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11. Portfolios and Flow

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pp. 176-181

LIKE MANY LITERACY EDUCATORS, I AM AN ADVOCATE AND USER OF portfolios. I use portfolios in all the classes that I teach: an undergraduate English course on young adult literature, a methods course for prospective secondary English educators, and a graduate seminar on English education. My approach to portfolios is slightly different in each of these classes. In my undergraduate literature course, students choose two writing projects to develop and then share with me the evolution of their work in the form of a final portfolio. ...

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12. Producing Purposeful Portfolios

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pp. 182-195

EVERY BELIEF I HAD EVER HELD ABOUT EDUCATION WAS CHALLENGED during the summer of 1991 as I learned about project-based instruction with a group of approximately twenty-five other educators in a month-long session sponsored by the school district where I worked. We studied and debated the educational implications of documents prepared by local businesses showing math, reading, and writing skills needed for employees to be successful in various occupations. ...

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13. Building Bridges, Closing Gaps: Using Portfolios to Reconstruct the Academic Community

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pp. 196-213

ONE OF THE FIRST LESSONS WE LEARN WHEN DEALING WITH ANY KIND of assessment is that context is indeed everything. If we fail to understand the context for the assessment, then we cannot know the questions the assessment is to answer; we cannot collect appropriate samples, define appropriate criteria, set appropriate objectives, nor know whether we have achieved them. ...

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14. Portfolios in Law School: Creating a Community of Writers

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pp. 214-222

IN MY WRITING WORKSHOPS WITH FIRST YEAR LAW STUDENTS, I OFTEN GIVE them a completely inscrutable piece of writing and ask them to comment on it. The single paragraph of approximately 200 words is full of legal jargon, unnecessarily long sentences, Latin phrases, and pretentious diction. I always hope to hear the blunt response, "This person needs to write in plain English." Instead, the students approach the text warily, making timid jabs at its obscurity. ...

III. Teaching and Professional Development

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15. Portfolios as a Way to Encourage Reflective Practice Among Preservice English Teachers

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pp. 225-243

ONE OF THE TENETS TO HAVE EMERGED IN THE BURGEONING LITERATURE ON portfolios is the importance of self-evaluation. Linda Rief writes that portfolios offer "possibilities in diversity, depth, growth, and self-evaluation" (Rief 1990, 26). She asserts that when her seventh grade students used portfolios, "[t]hey thoughtfully and honestly evaluated their own learning with far more detail and introspection than I thought possible" (Rief 1990, 26). ...

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16. Teacher Portfolios: Lessons in Resistance, Readiness, and Reflection

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pp. 244-262

I HAVE TAUGHT ENGLISH "METHODS" COURSES FOR OVER A DECADE NOW: the courses that are intended to help students learn enough about the teaching of English so they can walk into a middle or high school classroom populated with live students and not panic at the sight. As a former public school teacher who herself took such a course, I know both what that course did for me and—as important—what it didn't. ...

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17. Finding Out What’s in Their Heads: Using Teaching Portfolios to Assess English Education Students—and Programs

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pp. 263-277

THE PORTFOLIO HAS TYPICALLY BEEN VIEWED EITHER AS A PEDAGOGICAL strategy or an assessment tool. As a pedagogical strategy, the portfolio grounds the notion of the student's personal process and provides a framework for the display of both process and product. As an authentic assessment tool, the portfolio assesses students' multiple abilities under the ideal of mastery learning...

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18. A Different Understanding

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pp. 278-292

A TEACHER JOINED SEVERAL FRIENDS WAITING FOR CLASS TO BEGIN. ON HER way over from school to campus she had squeezed in some grocery shopping. "There I was, halfway down my list, when I realized that my portfolio was on the car seat. I left my cart in the middle of the aisle and ran out to the parking lot. What a relief! I had remembered to lock the doors." ...

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19. Revising Our Practices: How Portfolios Help Teachers Learn

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pp. 293-301

I REGULARLY TEACH A PRACTICUM FOR NEW TEACHERS OF WRITING, MOST of whom are first year graduate students and teaching assistants with little or no prior teaching experience of any kind. For these new teachers, many of whom were undergraduates only a few months earlier and are often only a few years older than their students, a major concern is their authority in the classroom. ...

IV. Technology

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20. Wedding the Technologies of Writing Portfolios and Computers: The Challenges of Electronic Classrooms

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pp. 305-321

WRITING PORTFOLIOS AND COMPUTERS COMPRISE TWO OF THE MORE recent teaching technologies introduced into late twentieth century English classes. In a relatively short time, these two technologies have spread to English classes at all levels and appear increasingly in the field's professional discussions. Not surprisingly, discussions of both technologies—in journals and other professional publications—are usually upbeat...

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21. A Hypertext Authoring Course, Portfolio Assessment, and Diversity

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pp. 322-337

THE GOAL WAS TO PRODUCE A STUDENT-AUTHORED ELECTRONIC HYPERTEXT about issues of diversity at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNCC) and to assess the course work by means of portfolios. The products included over one hundred and twenty linked screens of information, nine 100-page plus course portfolios, four one-hour long videotaped oral presentations, and three grades of "incomplete." ...

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22. Down the Yellow Chip Road: Hypertext Portfolios in Oz1

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pp. 338-356

I WAS NEVER QUITE SURE WHY I IDENTIFIED MY COLLEAGUE, BOB, FROM THE computer science department with the Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz. Sure, he often had his hands in a computer's innards just as his alloy counterpart seemed condemned to live inside that metal body. But Bob's head did not come to a point, he was certainly far from rusty when it came to teaching computer science, and this gentle professor was not lacking in heart. ...

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23. Reflections on Reading and Evaluating Electronic Portfolios

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pp. 357-369

WITH THE SHIFT FROM PRODUCT TO PROCESS APPROACHES IN TEACHING writing has come the shift from indirect to direct procedures in evaluating writing quality. As a result, portfolios have become a widely accepted evaluation method which focuses on process over product, often assessing the development of written proficiency over time. Within classroom contexts, the form and function of portfolios are generally determined by teachers or administrators hoping to assess the written proficiency of students through the evaluation of academic essays. ...

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24. Portfolios, WAC, Email, and Assessment: An Inquiry on Portnet

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pp. 370-384

"PORTNET" IS A GROUP OF POSTSECONDARY PORTFOLIO TEACHER-RESEARCHERS across the country who exchange, evaluate, and discuss each other's portfolios. It began in October 1992 at Miami University's "New Directions in Portfolios" conference, as a way of examining an argument against portfolio assessment: that since there is no "normed" or standardized portfolio, portfolio programs are too local and thus too individualized. ...

Works Cited

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pp. 385-400

About the Editors

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pp. 401

About the Contributors

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pp. 402-407

E-ISBN-13: 9780874213393
Print-ISBN-13: 9780874212204

Publication Year: 1997