Portfolios in Schools: A Longitudinal Study

Laurie Brady


Rubrics like those of Paulson and Paulson (1994) that trace the evolution of portfolios in a sequence from off-track, emerging, on-track to outstanding, may be misleading because they confuse process with purpose. They assume that all portfolios should model the process portfolio that contains ongoing work and student self-reflection.

This article reports on a longitudinal study of one school in which data on teacher perceptions of, and actual portfolio implementation were collected on three different occasions over a five-year period. These data were obtained from interviews, document analysis and surveys.

The findings reveal three distinct emphases, each relating to a different data gathering stage: a tightly teacher-directed and highly outcome based portfolio; a still traditional portfolio but with the incipient process element of self assessment; and an evaluation portfolio containing marked assessment tasks with individual grades and scores. Challenges for systems and schools are discussed.

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