ERIC Identifier: ED351150
Publication Date: 1992-00-00
Author: Grace, Cathy
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Elementary and Early Childhood Education Urbana IL.
The Portfolio and Its Use: Developmentally Appropriate
Assessment of Young Children. ERIC Digest.
The subject of children's achievement and performance in school, and even
before school, has received increasing public attention during the latter 1980s
and early 1990s. A general consensus for assessment reform is reflected by the
volume and variety of professional literature on various methods of assessment
and the number of states that are seeking alternative means to evaluate
Educators use the term authentic assessment to define the practice of
realistic student involvement in evaluation of their own achievements. Authentic
assessments are performance-based, realistic, and instructionally appropriate
(Pett, 1990). One method of authentic assessment is to assemble and review a
portfolio of the child's work.
The portfolio is a record of the child's process of learning: what the child
has learned and how she has gone about learning; how she thinks, questions,
analyzes, synthesizes, produces, creates; and how she interacts--intellectually,
emotionally and socially--with others. Arter and Spandel (1991) define the
portfolio as a purposeful collection of student work that exhibits to the
student, or others, her efforts or achievement in one or more areas. According
to Meisels and Steele (1991), portfolios enable children to participate in
assessing their own work; keep track of individual children's progress; and
provide a basis for evaluating the quality of individual children's overall
performance. Wide use of portfolios can stimulate a shift in classroom practices
and education policies toward schooling that more fully meets the range of
children's developmental needs.
COMPONENTS OF THE YOUNG CHILD'S PORTFOLIO
The portfolio can
include work samples, records of various forms of systematic observation, and
screening tests. Engel (1990) emphasizes that "work samples meet the need for
accountability while recognizing and supporting individual progress." They keep
track of a child's progress--in other words, they follow the child's success
rather than his failure. Teachers and parents can follow children's progress by
reviewing children's writings, drawings, logs of books read by or to them,
videos or photographs of large projects, tape recordings of the children reading
or dictating stories, and so forth.
During systematic observation, young children should be observed when they
are playing alone, in small groups, in large groups, at various times of day and
in various circumstances. Systematic observation must be objective, selective,
unobtrusive, and carefully recorded (Bertrand and Cebula, 1980). Ideally, a
portfolio includes observations in several or all of the following forms:
- Anecdotal records. Anecdotal records are factual, nonjudgmental notes of
children's activity (Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory, 1991). They are
most useful for recording spontaneous events. They should be cumulative,
revealing insights about the child's progress when they are reviewed
- Checklist or inventory. The checklist or inventory is one of the easiest
tools for recording children's progress. It should be based on instructional
objectives and the development associated with the acquisition of the skills
being monitored. In general, observations should be based on regular activities,
not on specially designed or contrived activities.
- Rating scales. Rating scales are appropriately used when the behavior to be
observed has several aspects or components, such as a child's success at
following directions in different situations.
- Questions and requests. One of the most effective and easiest means of
gathering information is to ask direct, open-ended questions of individual
children. Open-ended requests such as, "I'd like you to tell me about this,"
elicit samples of the child's expressive language ability. Asking children about
their activities also often yields insights into why they behave as they do.
- Screening tests. Screening tests are used to help identify the skills and
strengths that children already possess, so that teachers can plan meaningful
learning experiences for their students. Findings of screening tests and
developmental scales should be considered with work samples and other, more
subjective, material that the teacher assembles in portfolios. The assessment
information revealed by such instruments is not appropriately used for grading,
labeling, grouping, or retaining children.
Decisions about what items to place
in a portfolio should be based on the purpose of the portfolio. Without a
purpose, a portfolio is just a folder of student work. The portfolio exists to
make sense of children's work, to communicate about their work, and to relate
the work to a larger context (Arter and Paulson, 1991; Paulson and Paulson,
1991). According to Murphy and Smith (1990), portfolios can be intended to
motivate students, to promote learning through reflection and self-assessment,
and to be used in evaluations of students' thinking and writing processes.
In early childhood education, portfolios should contain a statement of
purpose and a wide variety of work samples, including successive drafts of work
on particular projects. Children should be involved in choosing items to
preserve so that they can analyze their work themselves.
USING THE PORTFOLIO IN EVALUATION
The material in a
portfolio should be organized by chronological order and category. Since all
information in the portfolio is dated, arranging the work samples, interviews,
checklist, inventories, screening test results, and other information should be
simple. Meisels and Steele (1991) suggest further organizing the material
according to curriculum area or category of development (cognitive, gross motor,
fine motor, and so forth).
Once the portfolio is organized, the teacher can evaluate the child's
achievements. Appropriate evaluation always compares the child's current work to
her earlier work. This evaluation should indicate the child's progress toward a
standard of performance that is consistent with the teacher's curriculum and
appropriate developmental expectations. Portfolios are not meant to be used for
comparing children to each other. They are used to document individual
children's progress over time. The teacher's conclusions about a child's
achievement, abilities, strengths, weaknesses, and needs should be based on the
full range of that child's development, as documented by the data in the
portfolio, and on the teacher's knowledge of curriculum and stages of
The use of portfolios to assess young children provides teachers with a
built-in system for planning parent-teacher conferences. With the portfolio as
the basis for discussion, the teacher and parent can review concrete examples of
the child's work, rather than trying to discuss the child's progress in the
Appropriate assessment of young children should
involve the children themselves, parents, and teachers. The portfolio method
promotes a shared approach to making decisions that will affect children's
attitudes toward work and school in general. It frees the teacher from the
constraints of standardized tests. Finally, using portfolios in assessment
allows teachers to expand the classroom horizon and enlarge each child's canvas.
Thus, the teacher can focus on the child and develop an intimate and enduring
relationship with him.
Arter, J., and Paulson, P. Composite Portfolio
Work Group Summaries. Portland, OR: Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory,
Arter, J., and Spandel, V. Using Portfolios of Student Work in Instruction
and Assessment. Portland, OR: Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory, 1991.
Bertrand, A., and Cebula, J. Tests, Measurements, and Evaluation: A
Developmental Approach. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1980.
Engel, B. "An Approach to Assessment in Early Literacy." In C. Kamii (Ed.),
Achievement Testing in the Early Grades: The Games Grown-ups Play. Washington,
DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children, 1990. ED 314 207.
Grace, C., and Shores, E.F. The Portfolio and Its Use: Developmentally
Appropriate Assessment of Young Children. Little Rock, AR: Southern Early
Childhood Association, 1991.
Meisels, S., and Steele, D. The Early Childhood Portfolio Collection Process.
Ann Arbor, MI: Center for Human Growth and Development, University of Michigan,
Murphy, S., and Smith, M.A. "Talking about Portfolios." The Quarterly of the
National Writing Project. 12 (Spring, 1990): 1-3, 24-27. EJ 429 792.
Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory. Alternative Program Evaluation
Ideas for Early Childhood Programs. Portland, OR: Author, 1991.
Pett, J. "What is Authentic Evaluation? Common Questions and Answers."
FairTest Examiner 4 (1990): 8-9.
Paulson, P., and Paulson, L. "Portfolios: Stories of Knowing." In Claremont
Reading Conference 55th Yearbook. Knowing: The Power of Stories. Claremont, CA:
Center for Developmental Studies of the Claremont Graduate School, 1991. ED 308
References identified with an ED (ERIC document) number are cited in the ERIC
database. Documents are available in ERIC microfiche collections at more than
825 locations worldwide. Documents can also be ordered through EDRS: (800)
443-ERIC. References with an EJ (ERIC journal) number are available through the
originating journal, interlibrary loan services, or article reproduction
clearinghouses: UMI (800) 732-0616; or ISI (800) 523-1850.
Calkins, A. (1991). Juneau integrated language arts portfolio for grade 1.
Juneau, AK: Juneau Borough School District, 10014 Crazy Horse Dr.
Koppert, J. (1991). Primary performance assessment portfolio. Mountain
Village, AK: Lower Yukon School District, P.O. Box 32089.
Mathews, J. (February, 1990). From computer management to portfolio
assessment. The Reading Teacher, pp. 420-21.
Paulson, P.R. (1991). Pilot composite portfolio: Developmental kindergarten.
Beaverton, OR: Beaverton School District, P.O. Box 200.
Villano, J. & Henderson, M.C. (1990). Integrated language arts portfolio.
Fairbanks, AK: Fairbanks North Star Borough School District, P.O. Box 1250,
Fairbanks, AK, 99707.