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Classroom Assessment Techniques

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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. Accordingly, portfolio assessment strategies substantially increase the rigor of an introductory science or mathematics course. For example, in a physics course, this might include quantitative analysis of a video showing motion. In a geology course, this might include an analysis of the impact of agriculture on the community's water quality using locally acquired data. Students must organize, synthesize, and clearly describe their achievements and effectively communicate what they have learned. The evidence can be presented in a three-ring binder, as a multimedia tour, or as a series of short papers.

A unique aspect of a successful portfolio is that it also contains explicit statements of self-reflection. Statements accompanying each item describe how the student went about mastering the material, why the presented piece of evidence demonstrates mastery, and why mastery of such material is relevant to contexts outside the classroom. Self-reflections make it clear to the reader the processes of integration that have occurred during the learning process. Often, this is achieved with an introductory letter to the reader or as a summary at the end of each section. Such reflections insure that the student has personally recognized the relevance and level of achievement acquired during creation and presentation of the portfolio. It is this self-reflection that makes a portfolio much more valuable than a folder of student-selected work.

Assessment Purposes
The overall goal of the preparation of a portfolio is for the learner to demonstrate and provide evidence that he or she has mastered a given set of learning objectives. More than just thick folders containing student work, portfolios are typically personalized, long-term representations of a student's own efforts and achievements. Whereas multiple-choice tests are designed to determine what the student doesn't know, portfolio assessments emphasize what the student does know.

Portfolio assessments provide students and faculty with a direct view of how students organize knowledge into overarching concepts. As such, portfolios are inappropriate for measuring students' levels of factual knowledge (i.e., recall knowledge) or for drill-and-skill activities and accordingly should be used in concert with more conventional forms of assessment. Similarly, student work completed beyond the context of the classroom is occasionally subject to issues of academic dishonesty.

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