Development and Implementation of Student Portfolios
in Foreign Language Programs
Conclusions and Recommendations
A critical analysis of the contents of portfolios indicated several important conclusions when portfolios were used as part of an assessment procedure for documenting language development in foreign language programs from kindergarten through 12th grade. First, it was possible to document growth in a foreign language in one academic year in most portfolios when appropriate items were placed in the portfolio throughout the school year. Second, a portfolio was most useful as an alternative method of assessment when a teacher had a plan that took into account purpose and audience. Third, the contents of a portfolio differed by the grade level of the student (e.g., third grade) and by the level of difficulty (e.g., third year high school Japanese) of instruction in foreign language. Finally, an objective measure of oral proficiency in a foreign language should be part of the student portfolio. The Stanford FLOSEM was developed and used for this purpose.
A set of guidelines for implementing portfolios in foreign language classrooms was compiled and offered to our participating teachers. Teachers reported that these guidelines were very useful. The guidelines that follow are intended to enhance the usability of portfolios by students, parents, and language teachers. How the guidelines offered below are implemented will depend on the grade and/or level of foreign language instruction. The guidelines are as follows:
- The teacher and/or student should prepare a brief annotation for each item placed in a language portfolio. These annotations need not be elaborate or lengthy, but they should be descriptive of the activity that the student was engaged in and which resulted in the production of the artifact.
- It is essential that all entries in a portfolio be dated and numbered chronologically.
- Teachers need to keep in mind that the purpose of the student language portfolio is to document student growth in the target language. Thus the portfolio needs to contain materials that first establish a baseline of students' target language ability at the beginning of the school year. All entries thereafter should be directed at showing growth in the target language.
- If possible, teachers must seek out strategies for including information on students' listening comprehension in the target language. This may include audio or video tapes, listening comprehension tests, or other artifacts that were used in class to obtain information about students' ability to listen with understanding in the target language.
- Information on reading comprehension also should be a part of a student's portfolio. This may include audio or videotapes of students retelling a story after it has been read in class. In more advanced language classes (or in the upper grades) such retelling should ideally be longer and, of course, in the target language.
- It is always important to find opportunities to obtain spontaneous target language speech samples. Again, this may be something that could be documented by audio or videotapes.
- Efforts at using the target language creatively in writing stories or narratives are invaluable artifacts for portfolios. However, it is important to also focus on the process of creative writing, and any drafts of writing samples are as important as the final written product.
- The artifacts that are used to make up the student's portfolio need to be well distributed throughout the academic year. Ideally, material should be added to the portfolio at least on a monthly basis. In this way, documentation of language growth across the academic year can be collected.
In addition, we developed another set of guidelines especially for using audio and video tapes as a means of charting students' oral proficiency development. Guidelines were prepared in order to assist teachers to maximize the use of audio and videotapes in their language classrooms. In using the guidelines, it is important to keep in mind the grade and/or level of the students because the guidelines do not necessarily apply in the same way to elementary school language programs and to introductory language classes in high school.
- Prior to the actual taping, students should be told that it is important that they speak loudly, but still within a normal range, so that they can be clearly heard on the audio or videotape by whoever listens or views the tape.
- Students need to introduce themselves by name, and a spokesperson for the group being audio or videotaped needs to describe the activity to be taped and who participated in the writing of the activity, if it is a skit, puppet show, or other dialogue.
- In videotaping groups of students, groups should not consist of more than six students, all of whom have introduced themselves. The optimal group size for a videotape is three to four students. In an audio tape the optimal number of speakers is two -- generally the teacher and the student or two students.
- The time that students should spend in the presentation of their skit/dialogue/oral presentation depends on the level of the students' proficiency (e.g., Japanese I vs. Japanese IV) and the number of participants. Generally, students in more advanced language classes should present dialogues that are longer and more elaborate than those expected of introductory language classes.
- Each participant in a group videotape should have a minimum of 5 or 6 turns (i.e., lines) of dialogue to demonstrate mastery of the target language. The skills in particular that are important in a videotape are pronunciation, fluency and expression in the target language.
- Videotaped material of actual classroom settings is also invaluable. This is especially true when students are engaged in classroom dialogue types of activities that demonstrate their mastery of the target language.
- Also essential in videotaping is that students have the opportunity to engage in spontaneous target language use. Experience has shown that many students become fearful when being videotaped, thus we recommend that teachers foster confidence in students by beginning with a skit or dialogue that students have prepared. Once this is completed teacher-directed, spontaneous speech can be recorded. The topic for spontaneous speech may be selected before the actual taping and students may have the opportunity to think and practice for spontaneous dialogue around the selected topic. However, the speech in this spontaneous dialogue segment should be unpracticed and should be directed by the teacher.
- Whenever possible, the video equipment should rest on a tripod during the taping sessions. This technique provides better quality videotape.
1 This project was funded by the California Department of Education to evaluate Model Projects in Less Commonly Taught Foreign Languages in California Public Schools. We thank Dr. Duarte Silva, Executive Director, California Foreign Language Project, Stanford University, for his assistance.
Purposes of the Portfolio
Audiences of the Portfolio
Implications of "Audience/Purpose" Combinations
Analysis and Results
Conclusions and Recommendations
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