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Classroom Assessment Techniques

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Timothy F. Slater
Department of Physics & Astronomy
University of New Mexico

Timothy F. Slater

"While I was a graduate teaching assistant...I sympathized with students who told me that there were two ways of taking college science classes. One was to learn and understand the material and the other was to get an "A."...I realized that what I loved about doing science was DOING science...I began exploring ways to adopt the procedures already well understood in the fine arts areas (photographers always have a portfolio) to the excitement of scientific inquiry...I now believe...portfolios supports student-centered instruction better than any short-duration examination that I can imagine."

Portfolio assessment strategies provide a structure for long-duration, in depth assignments. The use of portfolios transfers much of the responsibility of demonstrating mastery of concepts from the professor to the student.

Student portfolios are a collection of evidence, prepared by the student and evaluated by the faculty member, to demonstrate mastery, comprehension, application, and synthesis of a given set of concepts. To create a high quality portfolio, students must organize, synthesize, and clearly describe their achievements and effectively communicate what they have learned.


Instructor Preparation Time: Minimal, after the course learning objectives have been clearly identified. Can be high if multiple graders are to be trained (e.g., graduate teaching assistants) when used in large classes.
Preparing Your Students: Clear expectations must be provided to students at the beginning of the course.
Class Time: None.
Disciplines: Appropriate for all.
Class Size: Most applicable in small classes (n <30); possible in large classes with pre-existing infrastructure and less "open ended" character of evidence allowed.
Special Classroom/Technical Requirements: None.
Individual or Group Involvement: Individual.
Analyzing Results: Intense and requires a scoring rubric.
Other Things to Consider: Materials are presented in the natural language of the student and will vary widely within one class.

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