Dangers of Portfolios
When it comes down to it portfolios are nothing more than a tool. Simply having students put their writing into a folder will not improve their writing. Portfolios have to implemented with your teaching goals in mind. In addition they have to reflect process and critical thinking about writing. However, there are still some possibilities for portfolios to go wrong. Some of those problems can be seen in the interviews with BSU faculty. Two other potential problems with portfolios are discussed below.
Portfolios Must Evolve
Just as we change our teaching pedagogy over time based on research and technological advances in the world of composition, we must change pour methods of portfolio use. We can’t allow portfolios to become a static tool in our classroom. In her article The Portfolios Shifting Self: Possibilities for Assessing Student Learning, Hiedi Estrem explains, “There is a danger that portfolios themselves can turn into more lifeless testing documents rather than living, shifting portraits of learners, classrooms, and programs” (Estrem 125). One new direction portfolios can take is electronic. Is using an electronic portfolios students are able to include digital media that couldn't have been included in one are otherwise. Also, they learn how to construct the website or forum where they are building their portfolio. If using an electronic portfolio you have to remember to teach your students the technology they will need to know to construct this portfolio. While doing this you assist them in learning additional literacies.
In his article Will the Virtues of Portfolios Blind us to their Potential Dangers?, Peter Elbow discusses his worry of holistic scoring of portfolios. Holistic scoring of portfolios often occurs when a writing program uses them in place of an exit exam and grades them department wide in grading sessions. Elbow states, “When a portfolio gives us a pile of diverse pieces by each writer, it is vain to think we can trust a single holistic score that pretends to sum up this diversity of performances by each writer and compare all writers along a single quantitative scale” (45). In the end holistic scoring does the same thing an exit exam does; attempt to box in students, in comparison to each other, into single categories. Elbow states, “Portfolios give us a good indication of what kinds or genres of writing someone is better and worse at…and what skills or abilities someone is better and worse at...Portfolios do not answer, “how good a writer is this student?”(Elbow 45). If this is the case then holistic scoring is not fair to the student.