ERIC Identifier: ED391110
Publication Date: 1995-01-30
Author: Lester, Juliette N. - Perry, Nancy S.
Clearinghouse on Counseling and Student Services Greensboro NC.
Assessing Career Development with Portfolios. ERIC Digest.
The assessment of career development is a relatively new concept. In general,
ideas of appropriate methods for assessing student achievement and mastery of
any set of competencies are shifting. Criterion-referenced tests, which measure
performance relative to a specified set of standards or tasks, are gaining
favor, for example, over norm-referenced tests, which measure how an examinee
performed in relation to others. At the same time, support for internal
accountability, that is, determining what is worth knowing and assuring that
students know it, is increasing. One response to this has been an increased use
of portfolios that provide a medium for assessing student work and invite them
to become responsible partners in documenting their learning. Through
portfolios, students compose a portrait of themselves as able learners,
selecting and presenting evidence that they have met the learning standards for
individual classes and for broader learning tasks (Wolf, LeMahieu & Eresh,
1992). A student portfolio may be described as "a purposeful collection of
student work that tells the story of the student's efforts, progress, or
achievement in a given area. This collection must include student participation
in selection of portfolio content; the guidelines for selections; the criteria
for judging merit; and evidence of student self-reflection" (Arter and Spandel,
As career development becomes an increasingly important component of
educational systems, the issues of measurement and accountability are raised.
This digest focuses on the use of portfolios in assessing career development.
CAREER DEVELOPMENT GOALS
In today's workplace, employment
security is becoming "employability security" (Kanter, 1991, p.9) -- the
knowledge that one has the competencies demanded in a global economy and the
ability to expand and adjust those competencies as requirements change. The
challenge of preparing our young people for this new workplace has generated
legislative efforts to stimulate educational reform directed at creating "world
class" education and a comprehensive system for helping American youth make a
smooth transition from high school to productive, skilled employment and further
learning. The "Goals 2000: Educate America Act" establishes eight national
education goals and two national councils--one to stimulate the development of
voluntary academic standards and the other to identify essential occupational
skills. The "School to Work Opportunities Act of 1994" is a strategy to
implement the purpose of the "Goals 2000: Educate America Act," that is, helping
all Americans to reach internationally competitive standards through educational
Career development is a major component of the "School to Work Opportunities
Act (STWOA)." Career guidance and counseling, which are interventions in the
career development process, are recognized as essential in helping students to
choose their career (educational) pathway. Section 102 of the STWOA states that
"The school-based component of a School-to-Work Opportunities program shall
include ... career awareness and career exploration and counseling (beginning at
the earliest possible age, but not later than the 7th grade) in order to help
students who may be interested to identify, and select or reconsider, their
interests, goals, and career majors, including those options that may not be
traditional for their gender, race or ethnicity." The Act also provides grants
to states to plan for and implement school-to-work opportunities systems.
Renewed interest in career development has led to an equal demand for
accountability. This prompts several questions. What do we want our students to
know and be able to do as a result of a career development process and how will
we know that they have achieved it? This legislation has placed the onus on
school systems to provide the programs to help students make informed career
decisions, and to provide opportunities for students to take responsibility for
their career development. How will they know they have achieved these outcomes?
Two major endeavors can help schools to meet the double need of
accountability and assessment. First, state and professional associations, as
well as national leaders, practitioners, and career development experts,
collaborated to develop the National Career Development Guidelines (NOICC,
1989). The National Career Development Guidelines offer a comprehensive,
competency-based approach to career development that states, educational
institutions and other organizations can use in developing effective career
guidance programs. The Guidelines offer the processes, content and structure for
such programs. More importantly, they provide the standards or competencies for
career development at four different levels--elementary, middle/junior high,
high school, and postsecondary/adult. The competencies fall within three areas
of career development--self-knowledge, educational and occupational exploration,
and career planning. The Guidelines, already being used in over 40 states as
standards or as the basis for establishing career development standards, provide
nationally validated competencies that can be used in assessment.
The second significant effort has been the work of the Secretary's Commission
on Achieving Necessary Skills (SCANS). In the Commission report, "What Work
Requires of Schools" (U.S. Department of Labor, 1991), five areas of
competencies based on a three-part foundation are delineated. Of the 36 specific
skills or qualities noted, over half are commonly included in a career guidance
program. This report validates the integration of career guidance and counseling
into educational programs and supplies a complementary set of standards by which
a career development process can be measured.
ASSESSMENT THROUGH PORTFOLIOS
The essential criteria for
measuring the accountability of a career guidance program are available. Since
self-assessment and reflection are important to developing personal
responsibility in career decision-making, a portfolio that sets standards and
also allows for reflection emerges as the instrument of choice. Until now, most
efforts to document career development have been through career planners. Career
planners are usually the end product of a career development process and, as
such, are appropriate for secondary education or higher but not for the student
at the awareness or exploratory stages. They also do not typically provide for
the self-reflection essential to an individual's ownership of the process.
"Get A Life: Your Personal Planning Portfolio" (ASCA, 1993), designed through
collaboration between the American School Counselor Association and the National
Occupational Information Coordinating Committee, is one instrument that sets
standards and allows for self-reflection. The portfolio is divided into four
sections--self-knowledge, life roles, educational development, and career
exploration and planning. Each section contains competency files and personal
files. The National Career Development Guidelines for the middle and high school
levels are used as competencies for both program and individual assessment.
Program planners can analyze the comprehensiveness of their programs by
evaluating their activities in relation to the expected student outcomes
contained in the Guidelines. Individuals can determine if they have met the
career development competencies through the programs offered. Within the
competency file, a sign-off ascertains the strategies and the date on which each
competency was addressed. In some schools, students make the decision whether,
in fact, the activity or strategy presented did help them to master the
competency. The personal files are a set of guiding questions that help students
to reflect on their learning. The portfolio is an organizational tool that
allows the owners to collect information about themselves to use in making
personal, educational and career decisions. At the same time, the students are
introduced to the idea that the process is lifelong, and that they must become
"career negotiators" (Bailyn, 1992), taking responsibility for their own
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION
Recent efforts to improve education
have led to a new look at assessment. As pedagogy has changed to focus on
learner-centered education, the need to make assessment an integral, on-going
part of instruction has become obvious. Concurrently, Federal initiatives to
promote educational reform have required the provision of career development
opportunities and have demanded accountability in this area. The portfolio
concept is one way to meet this challenge by giving students ownership of their
work and standards by which they can be measured. States and local districts
must define the career development standards they wish to implement, allow
students the opportunity to take responsibility for their career development,
offer the necessary career guidance and counseling to support student learning,
and assess both the program and the individual to assure that the expected
outcomes are being achieved. The portfolio provides the format for the process
and documentation of career development while giving individuals and programs
standards for assessment.
American School Counselor Association. (1993).
Get a life: Your personal planning portfolio. Alexandria, VA: Author.
Arter, J. & Spandel, V. (1992). NCME Instructional Module: Using
portfolios of student work in instruction and assessment. Educational
Measurement: Issues and Practice, 11(1), 36-44.
Bailyn, L. (1992). "Changing the conditions of work." In Career development:
theory and practice, D. Montross and C. Shinkman, (Eds.), Springfield, IL:
Charles C. Thomas.
Kanter, R. (1991). Globalism/localism. Harvard Business Review, 69(2), 9-10.
National Occupational Information Coordination Committee. National career
development guidelines. Washington, DC: Author. (ED 317 874-880)
U.S. Department of Labor. (1991). What work requires of schools. Washington,
Wolf, D., LeMahieu, P., & Eresh, J. (1992, May) Good measure: Assessment
as a tool for education reform. Educational Leadership, 49(8), 8-13.