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Science portfolios in a seventh grade classroom: How do science teachers incorporate the use of portfolios to enhance learning in the classroom?

1 June 1998


This study explored the question of how to incorporate the use of portfolios to enhance learning. A portfolio is a display of an individual's progression in his or her learning process. A major component of the portfolio includes reflection; an opportunity for a student to reflect on his or her learning process. Arter, et al (1995) states that the portfolio may be the "promise for both improving assessment and motivating and involving students in their own learning" (p. 1). The Oregon Education Department has developed curriculum standards that each student should be able to achieve at various grade levels: 3, 5,8, & 10. Portfolio assessment (also known as "collection of evidence") was the tool chosen to compile and store the indication(s) that the student had achieved those set standards. This research is a qualitative case study design. A 7th grade science teacher volunteered to be observed during classroom construction of portfolios. The Pacific Northwest Middle School conducted a student"led, teacher-parent conference that allowed students to share their portfolio and to explain to parents their accomplishments toward meeting the standards for 8th grade. Twenty-four of the twenty~six students completed a portfolio. Through observation of the classroom instruction in portfolio construction, examination of five student portfolios, observation of the conference and by way of surveying the class and interviewing the teacher, the study did reveal that the portfolio construction enhanced learning in the classroom. This study discovered that the student learned about portfolios from the teacher who provided a variety of teaching strategies that informed and helped students to collect and reflect on evidence that demonstrated achievement toward the standards. Motivation to complete the portfolio was accomplished not by a grade but by the realization that the portfolios would be presented to their parent(s) during the teacher-parent conference. The possibility that students' developmental maturity hindered the reflection process was seen during the learning process in constructing the portfolio. In addition, the teacher was able to evaluate not only the students' work but also her own instructional and curriculum strategies. This evaluation allowed the teacher the ability to change and adapt strategies appropriately to meet the various learning styles of the students and to provide a means by which students had more opportunities to be successful in meeting the standards.


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