An Overview of Portfolio-based Writing Assessment

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Taejoon Park


The notion of portfolio-based assessment began to attract attention around the mid-1980s as a reaction against the psychometric climate prevailing at the time. In the United States in the 1980s, there was growing concern about declining educational standards. This atmosphere led to intense pressure to place more emphasis on testing as a means of raising standards, in accordance with the belief that the more students are tested, the more they will be motivated to improve efforts and performance. Elbow and Belandoff (1997), in looking back on that period, noted that “in retrospect, what was striking was urgent and growing pressure for assessment, assessment, assessment: test everything and everyone for a score; don’t trust teachers” (pp. 22-23). In fields like composition, in particular, this view of testing was seen as counterproductive to the whole process of teaching and learning the complex, multifaceted skill of writing. As a result, many composition specialists began to search for ways of measuring student writing that would be more consistent with the emerging process approach to writing, allowing other views of student writing than the single, timed test, usually placed at the end of a writing course.

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