Senior 3 English Language Arts: A Foundation for Implementation

Implementation Overview: Senior 3
Teaching and Learning in English Language Arts - Part 3

Managing Results-Based Curricula through Literacy Portfolios

Literacy portfolios are the cornerstone of assessment in many language arts classrooms and an invaluable tool for managing results-based curricula. Portfolios allow students to select the products by which they demonstrate their mastery of specific learning outcomes. They are an exceptionally useful assessment tool in a diverse classroom in which students work on self-selected projects. They allow students a measure of autonomy and self-expression that is highly motivating, and they provide a personalized profile of student competence and growth. They allow students to display samples, not only of written products, but also of their work in all of the language arts by including audiocassettes, videocassettes, and examples of illustrations, design, and graphics.

Literacy Portfolios

Literacy portfolios are work samples carefully selected to demonstrate that a student has attained the student learning outcomes. They provide evidence of

  • quantity, range, and depth of listening, reading, and viewing
  • experience in a variety of forms of speaking, writing, and representing
  • progress and accomplishments
  • metacognition

Literacy portfolios are not

  • files of all the assignments a student has completed during the semester or year
  • employability portfolios
  • artifacts for assessment in themselves

Selection is of the essence in portfolio development. Each work sample in a portfolio is carefully chosen for a specific purpose. Portfolios are maintained throughout the semester or year, and pieces are replaced as students produce new work that better demonstrates their attainment of specific learning outcomes. As Burke, Fogarty, and Belgrade (118) point out, this "revolving door" system keeps the portfolio fresh and manageable and engages students and the teacher in continuous assessment. Students’ final selections at the end of the semester or year allows the teacher and students to survey student achievement. End-of-semester/year assessment of a literacy portfolio is congruent with the fact that the learning outcomes are exit outcomes.

Creating Portfolios

Consider the following processes in implementing portfolios as a means of managing results-based curricula:

Introducing portfolios: Portfolios are best introduced to a class by inviting an architect, graphic designer, commercial artist, or photographer to display his or her portfolio to the class and to talk about how it was assembled and how it is used. University or community college students who have submitted a portfolio for admission into fine arts, journalism, design, or creative communications courses are another resource.

Planning for portfolios: Student portfolios contain examples of the whole continuum of student work, from brainstorming and personal notes, through drafts, personal letters, and examination questions, to polished, published products and presentations. Classes may decide to use stick-on dots of three colours to identify work according to type:

  • Type 1: exploratory work and personal records
  • Type 2: informal communication
  • Type 3: formal communication

These categories of work are discussed in Section 3: Assessing, Planning, and Reporting Progress.

Remind students who are unaccustomed to maintaining a portfolio to date all their work and to store everything until they make their selections. Storage files in the classroom may be helpful. Remind students who work on word processors to print a draft after each working session. To help students recognize the necessity of storing work from every stage in the learning process, have the class collaborate as early as possible on the list of required portfolio items.

Deciding on required portfolio items: Collaborate with students in determining a list of required items for their portfolios. Required portfolio items should be closely tied to the Senior 3 learning outcomes. Almost every learning outcome can be demonstrated by a product or by documentation in a portfolio. Facilitate the process of selecting required items by providing a list of learning outcomes that have been the focus of classroom work in the preceding weeks.

Building a Portfolio

The list of required portfolio items should incorporate work in each of the six language arts and in the following categories:

  • Goals: an expression of student preferences and goals at the outset of the semester or year (e.g., a personal essay, goal sheet, personal profile) and a corresponding piece written later in the semester or year that reflects on growth and accomplishments (e.g., learning outcomes 1.1.5, 4.2.1, 5.1.4).
  • Process: documentation of a work in all its stages, from the conception of the idea to the final product, along with a student’s commentary discussing the decisions that he or she made along the way. Learning logs or journals can be part of a portfolio (e.g., General Learning Outcomes 3 and 4).
  • Progress: samples that illustrate the student’s progress through the semester or year — samples from early and late in the semester or year (e.g., learning outcomes 1.2.1, 2.1.2, 4.3.1, 5.2.4).
  • Range: a variety of pieces that reflect the six language arts and the curriculum focus (e.g., learning outcomes 2.2.2, 3.2.4, 4.1.2, 5.2.3).

-- Students in the Comprehensive Focus may be asked to select forms produced for pragmatic and aesthetic purposes in approximate balance.

-- Students in the Literary Focus may be asked to ensure that the majority of their samples demonstrate aesthetic uses of language.

-- Students in the Transactional Focus may be asked to ensure that the majority of their samples demonstrate pragmatic uses of language.

  • Self- and peer-assessment: self-assessment rubrics and feedback sheets (e.g., learning outcomes 1.1.2, 3.3.4, 5.1.4).
  • Transfer: a piece that demonstrates the transfer of English language arts learning to another subject area, to a language other than English, to another language such as mathematics or music, or to work outside school (e.g., learning outcomes 1.1.4, 2.1.4, 3.1.4, 5.1.3).
  • Collaboration: a piece that represents collaboration (e.g., learning outcomes 1.2.4, 3.1.3, 5.1.2).

Once the list of required portfolio items has been determined, post it in the classroom and/or photocopy it for each student. This list will be the basis of the Table of Contents students develop for their portfolios.

Assessing Portfolios

Criteria for assessing portfolios are developed through teacher and student collaboration before the portfolios are assembled. The criteria are not the list of required items, but are the learning outcomes that the pieces in the portfolios and the portfolios themselves demonstrate.

Portfolio assessment does not entail individual assessment of each piece included in the portfolio. Generally, each piece has been assessed previously. If the assessment identified weaknesses that the student would like to address, he or she should have the option of reworking an assignment before placing it in the portfolio.

Students play an important role in self-assessing their portfolios.

  • Self-assessment: Students self-assess their portfolios using tools such as a sheet with sentence stems similar to a peer assessment sheet, a checklist, or a form for joint student-teacher assessment. The form that follows is a sample of the kind of rubric that classes may develop for assessing portfolios. The learning outcomes listed in the form as examples are drawn from the Comprehensive Focus. This form leaves space for student self-assessment on the left and teacher assessment on the right.

Portfolio Assessment

Name: ______________________
Date: ___________________
Needs further work
Self-Assessment Targeted Learning Outcomes Teacher Assessment
5  4  3   2  1 4.1.2: Select and use a variety of forms appropriate for content, audience, and purpose. 5  4  3   2  1
5  4  3   2  1 2.2.1: Experience texts from a variety of genres and cultural traditions; compare various interpretations of texts. 5  4  3   2  1
5  4  3   2  1    5  4  3   2  1
5  4  3   2  1    5  4  3   2  1
5  4  3   2  1    5  4  3   2  1
Comments: _____________________________________________________
Final Mark: _____________________________________________________
  • Teacher assessment: The student brings the portfolio and self-assessment sheet to a conference with the teacher. At the end of their discussion, the teacher assigns a grade and records it on a separate piece of paper. (Because portfolios are often displayed publicly, grades are not written on the portfolios.)

Audience Response to Portfolios

Peers, parents, and other audience members do not play a part in the formal assessment of learning outcomes through literacy portfolios. They may, however, contribute to the celebration of student accomplishments through viewing the portfolios and recording their comments. A page is generally made available in the portfolio for parents, administrators, and other readers to add their responses when the portfolio is displayed.

Students may want to create a sheet that asks for particular kinds of responses from peers. This sheet can include sentence stems for peers to complete, such as the following:

  • What I enjoyed most about this portfolio was . . .
  • Something I would like to try myself was . . .
  • I would like to have seen more of . . .
  • The most valuable thing (student’s name) contributed to the class was . . .

Portfolio Resources

The following resources explore the use of literacy portfolios:

The Mindful School: The Portfolio Connection by Kay Burke, Robin Fogarty, and Susan Belgrade

Portfolio Assessment in the Reading-Writing Classroom by Robert J. Tierney, M.A. Carter, and L.E. Desai

Portfolios in the Writing Classroom by Kathleen Blake Yancey


Implementation Overview: Senior 3