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- Portfolios are a form of alternative/authentic assessment in which a student's progress is measured over a period of time in various language learning contexts. Portfolios can include evidence of specific skills and other items at one particular time and language performance and progress over time, under different conditions, in all four modalities (reading, writing, listening, and speaking) or all three communication modes (interpersonal, interpretive, and presentational). Using a combination of testing instruments lends validity and reliability to the portfolio.
- Portfolio assessment is closely linked to instruction, which has two educational benefits. First, linking assessment to instruction means that you are sure that you are measuring what you have taught. Second, portfolios reveal any weaknesses in instructional practices. For example, if the purpose of the portfolio is linked to making progress toward all areas of the National Standards, and, at the end of the marking period, there are no works related to oral communication in the portfolio, the teacher may decide to incorporate more oral communications work into the curriculum. This is a way of providing for systemic validity.
- Portfolio assessment is by nature incorporated fully into instruction: there is no time lost on assessment. Assessment is a true learning experience, and not external to the learning process.
- Student assessment portfolios promote positive student involvement. As students create their portfolios, they are actively involved in and reflecting on their own learning. Increased metacognition has a positive impact on a student's self-confidence, facilitates student use of learning strategies, and increases the student's ability to assess and revise work. Student motivation to continue studying and succeeding in language learning tends to grow in such an environment.
- Portfolios offer the teacher and student an in-depth knowledge of the student as a learner. This means that the teacher can individualize instruction for the student. Weak areas can be strengthened and areas of mastery built upon. Learners are involved in this process of tracking their learning and can take control of their learning.
- Using portfolios introduces students to an evaluation format with which they may need to become familiar as more schools and districts adopt portfolio assessment.
- Using assessment portfolios gives the teacher opportunities to involve parents in their children's language learning. Parental involvement is an important factor in educational success.
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