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An Introduction to Science Portfolios

Joseph Mahood

Using portfolios as an assessment tool will allow your students to successfully demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of scientific concepts using their own talents and abilities.

Why Portfolios?

  • Invite the revisiting of concepts through different learning modalities.

  • Encourage interdependency and responsibility of all students in a group setting.

  • Allow students to use fully their creative energies and potentials.

  • Provide support for experimentation and risk-taking.

  • Improve critical thinking and evaluation skills.

  • Provide for a successful scientific experience.

Implementation of a portfolio should be systematic and within your own "comfort zone". Your individual teaching style will dictate the types of activities the students perform and the management of their materials. For most people the management of the physical portfolio is difficult to comprehend. Be assured that if you use portfolios with all your classes there will be a fair amount of space needed. It all depends on the level of organization you are comfortable with and the degree of responsibility for the organization which you give to the students. I have some space for storage within my room, but I give the students most of the responsibility for the storage of the entries for the portfolio. My students vary in ability and motivation, but the portfolio is a barrier free vehicle which encourages them to be successful science students.

Following is a suggested flow for the implementation of a portfolio project. I suggest that you start small or with a single topic, entry or science concept to work out the system that is best for you.

  1. Portfolio
    Introduce the topic, entry, concept or project in a clear and concise manner.
    (See "Start-Up" below)

  2. Benefits (make sure you are clear before you explain these to the class)
    Assesses students' knowledge and understanding using their own strengths and creativity.
    Provides a holistic evaluation.
    Accommodates chances to improve their work.
    Allows them a way to explain their work.

  3. Exhibits
    Use existing work.
    Use work that includes the major concepts of your topic/discipline.
    Only a few will be submitted with many to choose from.

  4. Time Management
    Established timeline for the work to be done.

  5. Scoring
    Establish the rubric and standards that will be used.
    Stress the presentation, as well as the content.

Starting Up

Give all of these plenty of thought because as you get into the workings of the portfolio the creative energy will be exciting. The project develops a flow of its own.

  1. Define the goals and objectives that you want the portfolio to demonstrate.

  2. Determine how the portfolio will demonstrate these goals. What assignments? How many entries? How the students will reflect on their work?

  3. Decide how you are going to manage the portfolio. Space? Folders? Electronic submissions?

  4. Determine the standards that will be used. These will dictate the scoring guide that will be used{suggestion-use one that is well established}.

  5. Describe the process to the students more than once, using several methods, with graphic illustrations if you can.

  6. Start small with your portfolio and eventually move to one which is more encompassing.

  7. Determine if there will be a performance component to the portfolio and allot time for it.

  8. Use student feedback for improving what you do-this is a dynamic process which will change, grow, and mature.

Last words: Start small, find your effective level of management and let the students loose to explore.

About the Author
The Golden State Exam Science Portfolio Guide
Sample Student Portfolio
Web Resources
Portfolio Discussion Area

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