Teachers' assessment decisions during literacy portfolio reviews: Four descriptive case studies

Date of Completion

January 1998


Education, Tests and Measurements|Education, Curriculum and Instruction




One possible method of alternative assessment is the portfolio. In language arts, it has been described as a purposeful display of student work in reading and writing, selected over periods of time. Information reflecting student achievement in literacy at given times during the school year can be selected by teachers and students. These selections have the potential to assess student growth in literacy over-time and to plan for subsequent instruction. Little research has been conducted to see if teachers take advantage of these opportunities, and to what extent this process affects classroom instruction in the language arts.^ The purposes of this study were to understand and describe the kinds of assessment information teachers gathered from a review of portfolios, and the extent to which this information is used in classroom instruction. This study used a qualitative approach in producing four descriptive case studies of two teachers each in grades two and five in two selected Connecticut, K-5 elementary schools which had implemented portfolio assessment in literacy for at least two years.^ Think-aloud protocols were taken from each of the four teachers as he/she reviewed six randomly selected student portfolios from his/her class. A think-aloud protocol followed the teacher's verbalized thought processes as he/she reviews the contents of the portfolio. These protocols were recorded and transcribed in order to identify emerging patterns from the information reported.^ Field notes were collected during scheduled classroom observations of each teacher's language arts instruction of those students whose portfolios were reviewed for the think-aloud protocols will be taken following the recorded sessions. Brief interviews of teachers were conducted immediately after each classroom observation. These interviews provided data on teachers' perceptions of the assessment decisions made and subsequent implementation into language arts instruction. A final interview of each teacher was conducted in order to provide further background on teachers' philosophies, knowledge bases, and perceptions.^ Data were examined and triangulated for evidence of the relationships between the assessment decisions verbalized by teachers and the actual implementation into classroom instruction in language arts. ^