Notes on Portfolio Assessment in the ESL Classroom – Joanne Pettis

Portfolio Assessment in the ESL ClassroomJoanne Pettis


[note – my own comments are in square brackets]

Definition of Assessment – a systematic approach to collecting information on student learning and performance based on various sources of evidence to inform teaching and help students learn more.

Assessment should benefit students, foremost


Purpose of Assessment:

  • placement (diagnostic)
  • for learning (formative)
  • of learning (summarative)


Problem of diverse contexts [Is this an inherent characteristic of ‘Language Learning’?]

Assessment, by nature, can’t be made specific for specific groups


Assessment that Impacts is:

  • planned
  • goal driven
  • engages participants in reflection and dialogue


PBLA – Tells the Story of learning English and Meeting Goals

PBL Assessment is a part of teaching – embedded in the teaching learning cycle

Standardized tests are One Shot Deals – situationally dependent [privileges teachers/structure?]

PBLA provides multiple opportunities – privileges students

PBLA are Learning portfolios, documenting learning over time [important info to relay to learners?]


Metaphor —> Language Learning as a Road Trip:

  • Starting points are different
  • Destination is restricted by available time
  • Watch for signposts, read a road-map as you go
  • Produces a keepsake, document of the journey


Elements of a PBLA:

  • placement levels
  • needs
  • goals
  • autobio
  • language samples (skill building & skill using)
    • when students decided what to include initially, there wasn’t much useful for benchmarking purposes (ie: grammar exercises)
    • therefore more direction was needed, to include more skill using
    • [PBLA is centralized distributed interaction?]
  • Feedback – action oriented (not ego oriented [Is this true for Japan, all cultures?])
  • Reflection – promotes autonomy


Add items frequently, depending on frequency of study – however, need at least 6 items to make benchmark decisions


This is a very informative talk by Joanne. Generally, I find a lot of connections to MOOC style learning, or even Distance Education methods – mainly in that assessment (as well as instruction, or even simply structure) needs to, and has the ability to become more specific for individuals. One of the main differences, would be the centralized nature of the PBLA vs a more decentralized approaches that are possible nowadays (I guess this is inherent since Joanne talks about off-line portfolios, not online ones). Each have their benefits – and I would be interested in the idea about guiding students from the former to the latter, as a major goal in Language Learning. Joanne touches on this idea with her points about reflection, and how this helps learners to begin to do.

I especially love Joanne’s point that the main purpose of assessment is to further benefit the student by better shaping the structure of their future study. I wish some of my recent profs understood this.


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