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Evaluating the Portfolio

Evaluating the Portfolio


Students should know from the outset what you expect from them and their portfolios. For this reason, determining how you will evaluate the portfolio is as important to decide before the course begins as what you want the portfolio to include.

The teaching tip

From simplest to most involved, there are a few ways that portfolios can be evaluated:

  1. Checklist - Occasionally a simple "manifest" can be used to ensure a portfolio includes all the required contents. As this provides no feedback to the student, it seems most appropriate when the student has already gotten some form of feedback on the materials.
  2. Holistic grading - Some teachers find that giving the portfolio one overall grade works best for them. Elbow and Sorcinelli (2006) write that "The problem of using a one-dimensional grade for a multi-dimensional performance does not go away when it's a grade for a portfolio. But somehow the problem isn't so pressing because it's a grade for a number of multi-dimensional performances" (p. 207).
  3. Rubric for the entire portfolio - Palomba and Banta (1999, p.140) offer an example of a simple rubric one might use to evaluate a portfolio overall:
    Criteria Rating Scale Score
    Organization 3    Has clear framework
    2    Framework present, but lacks clarity
    1    Framework not apparent
    Completeness 3    All elements present
    2    Most items present
    1    Several items missing
  4. Rubric for each piece of content - Rubrics are useful for communicating expectations to students and also for final evaluation. For this reason, it makes sense for a portfolio to include many assignments which might have their own rubrics.

    These rubrics should be tied directly to the instructional objectives you have identified for each piece of work you require students to include in the portfolio.

    Keep in mind Schulman's (1998) warning that if the rubrics become too exacting, they can "end up objectifying what's in a portfolio to the point where the portfolio will be nothing but a very, very cumbersome multiple choice test" (p.35).


Adapted from:

Elbow, P. & Sorcinelli. M.D. (2006). How to enhance learning by using high-stakes and low-stakes writing. In Svinicki, M. & McKeachie, W.J. (2006). Teaching tips: Strategies, research and theories for college and university teachers. San Francisco: Jossey Bass. 192-212.

Palomba, C., & Banta, T. (1999). Assessment Essentials: Planning, Implementing, and Improving Assessment in Higher Education. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. 131-148.

Schulman, L. (1998). "Teacher Portfolios: A Theoretical Activity" in N. Lyons (ed.) With Portfolio in Hand. (pp. 23-37) New York: Teachers College Press.