Portfolio assessments can be either summative or formative in structure. A summative portfolio focuses on the product or end result of the student’s learning such as, for example, a digital recording of a final performance, a scientific lab report, or a final series of photographs. A formative assessment takes into account the student’s process of learning and can include works-in-progress or evidence of the effort leading to the final product. This type of portfolio might include an actor’s annotated script, the shape and light charcoal studies for a still life painting, or math problem demonstrating the steps in between question and answer.
- Can contain evidence of a wide range of skills and attributes
- Can be very effective in combination with a quick viva exam
- Portfolios can demonstrate progress in learning
- Portfolios can reflect students' attitudes and individual strengths
- Looking through portfolios can be time consuming
- Hard to mark objectively
- Authenticity of evidence can sometimes be questioned
As an example for a high school Biology class, you could get students to make a portfolio and keep adding to it as they progress through the course (including lab reports, personal reflections, concept maps, articles, interviews etc). It would show their understanding of the core ideas in Biology with written explanations and artifacts. It also gives each student the opportunity to assess their own understanding and to reflect on class activities. The portfolio could be graded once per marking period and/or checked periodically throughout the term. It's a great study tool and self-assessment if it's worked on regularly throughout the term.