Revolution Lullabye

May 1, 2009

Elbow and Belanoff, Portfolios as a Substitute for Proficiency Exams

Elbow, Peter and Pat Belanoff. “Portfolios as a Substitute for Proficiency Exams.” CCC 37 (1986): 336-339. In Assessing Writing. Eds. Huot and O’Neill. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2009. 97-101.

Elbow and Belanoff describe the process and the benefits of the portfolio evaluation system they piloted at Stony Brook University. Instead of focusing on scoring and ranking essays, the portfolio system they put in place, which is a pass/fail (C or not) from the student’s teacher and another instructor, is mastery- and competency-based. The focus of the assessment and the course turns to comments, feedback, advice, and revision as well as collaboration among teachers. Students see the portfolio assessment (which has a dry run mid-semester) as a hurdle to overcome. Elbow and Belanoff argue that even though the assessment process leads to much debate among teachers during the assessment, this disagreement and chaos is key to learning and the development of community standards and values.

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