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Assessment by Portfolio and Standardized Testing

Comparison and Contrast between Assessment by Portfolio and Standardized Testing

Assessment is an important aspect of evaluating a student performance and ability throughout their learning period. There are several types of assessment among them assessment by portfolio and standardized testing. These two types of assessment have many differences as opposed to similarities with portfolio assessment considered to be appropriate in the current education system in parts of the globe due to its merits. On the other hand standardized testing is considered as traditional method due to its reliance on multiple choice assessments thus not giving students enough room for developing their skill set.  

Standardized tests are used by psychologists as primary basis for assessing cognitive abilities and academic achievement. Weiner, et al, (2003) indicated that “standardized tests may be administered to a group of people or students by the examiner so as to match the students to academic curricula” (p. 275). On the other hand portfolio assessment provides a means for gathering student work over a long period of time which demonstrates the student’s proficiency in one or more academic areas. As a result Weiner, et al, (2003) established that “unlike standardized tests portfolio assessment usually emphasizes on complex works that integrate multiple dimensions of proficiency such as performance assessments, essays, and recordings of student performances” (p. 277).

Standardized tests are also known as traditional assessment or norm-referenced and they have been used for a long period of time as a means of evaluating student performance. Mundell & DeLario (1994) found out that “standardized tests measure growth in basic skills and their content is based on the best of curriculum practices for diverse population” (p. 1). This type of tests is known to have several inadequacies hence as a result efforts have been made to come up with a more precise assessment method. Mundell & DeLario (1994) further says that portfolio assessment was developed out of the need to review performance and to logically collect sections of scholar’s work which is based on what the students are familiar with or are capable to do.

Compared to portfolio assessment, standardized tests have a numerous choice format which makes tests a simple and economical way to evaluate knowledge.  Mundell & DeLario (1994) indicated that “information obtained from these type of tests used for reporting to the parents on their children’s progress in learning basic skills, determining the developmental level of students for instructional purposes and providing information helpful in planning programs or groupings for instruction” (p. 1). Portfolio assessment revolves around the assortment of work that shows an individual’s knowledge in an area a criterion which was embraced by the progressives. For example a student may be good in art and consequently as an artist’s portfolio this can include various segments indicating what he or she can do.

When a portfolio assessment is assumed, it is used to bring together and weigh up multiple sources of information that confirms a scholar’s capability in terms of procedure and invention (Mundell & DeLario, 1994). Where else standardized tests use multiple choices, portfolio assessment reflects students work in one or additional subject areas and the models are chosen by mutually the scholar and the tutor. These samples are gathered analytically over time and are utilized to assess student development. One of the limitations of standardized tests is that they quantify comprehension learned instead of demonstrating what the student comprehends and can be comfortably apply and put more attention on recall. Mundell & DeLario (1994) continues to say that “the how and why of what students read and write, the strategies they apply and how this learning relates to other tasks and to new ideas are not measured by standardized” (p. 1).

In addition it important to note that using standardized test it is not possible to assess student’s abilities, analyze reason, reflect, and persuade from multiple choice answers (Mundell & DeLario, 1994). This type of tests does not assist the teachers to plan more effective lessons. As a result, Mundell & DeLario (1994) argued that “standardized tests limit the planning of lessons geared towards the achievement of students needs” (p. 2). Portfolio assessment is known to present authenticity as one of its characteristic. Using this type of assessment the teacher is able to evaluate reading throughout a range of daily reading activities in the classroom thus using this type of assessment, students are appraised on the basis of comprehending strategies they exhibit, their reactions in their reading journals and their conversation with the teacher or with other classmates (Mundell & DeLario, 1994).

Furthermore, Mundell & DeLario (1994) argued that “portfolio assessment creates an accurate picture of achievement because it directly involves the teacher and students in establishing criteria for evaluation” (p. 3). This means that using portfolio assessment there is a undeviating relationship amid what is learned and what is evaluated, and learners know from the start of an assignment what they are expected to accomplish. Unlike in standardized test in portfolio assessment students have a number of examples in their portfolios to exhibit attainment of a particular objective more willingly than just one sample taken during one testing circumstance (Mundell & DeLario, 1994).

Ryan & Cooper (2008) in addition indicated that “standardized tests overemphasize technical information and underemphasize educator’s professional judgments about the worthiness of a school programs” (p. 396). With the increasing calls from the progressives for more crises solving, decisive thinking and inscribing skills in the schools, standardized tests do not measure these outcomes. Studies show that qualities such as vital thinking and predicament solving abilities are difficult to measure while using multiple choices and other objective tests hence this calls for portfolio assessment (Ryan & Cooper, 2008). Standardized tests can not gauge genuine student performance on some momentous tasks. Due to these limitations associated with standardized tests portfolio assessment was developed which puts into consideration recital tests that gets closer to how students relate knowledge rather than how they accumulate it in their brains.

Both portfolio assessment and standardized tests present different dimensions of determining how students can fair in their schooling process. According to Ryan & Cooper (2008) using portfolio assessment, it is possible to determine how well the students understand scientific concepts and can carry out scientific processes by requesting them to perform actual experiments. Ryan & Cooper (2008) says that “through portfolio assessment teachers are capable of measuring what they want students to be able to do rather than relying on them to choose the correct response on a multiple choice test item in standardized tests” (p. 396). A major advantage of portfolio assessment is that it reveals student’s escalation in a certain period of time.

A major contrast between portfolio assessment and standardized tests is that in portfolio assessment, students are appraised against themselves and not judge against other students (Mundell & DeLario, 1994). This implies that in portfolio assessment, students become talented at evaluating their ability and set logical targets hence they can see their enhancement over a specific time epoch as skills are disclosed on tasks and goals are arrived at. Mundell & DeLario (1994) continues to say that in “portfolio assessment, evaluation is part of instruction and also it considered to be ongoing and there not just the final product is important but also the process and growth over time” (p. 3). Also portfolio assessment is considered to be wide as it takes into account the students concerns, personal know-how, inspiration, and tactics.

In conclusion, the progressive’s reaction to portfolio assessment was considered far much better than standardized test because of its strengths. While standardized tests do not focus on students development, this criteria does not give the students an opportunity to develop their skills in a particular area and it is does not assess their strengths and weaknesses. The advantages of portfolio assessment outweighs those of standardized tests because students work harder on tasks giving them more ownership in their work besides increasing their responsibility for learning and enhances their self concepts as learners.


Mundell, S. B & DeLario, K (1994). Practical portfolios: reading, writing, math, and life skills, grades 3-6, Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.
Ryan, K &  Cooper, J. M (2008). Those Who Can, Teach, Stamford, CT: Cengage Learning.
Weiner, I. B, Freedheim, D. K, Graham, J. R. & Naglieri, J.A (2003). Handbook of Psychology: Assessment psychology, Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons.

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