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Portfolio Assessment As A Measure Of Student And Program Success

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1999 Annual Conference


Charlotte, North Carolina

Publication Date

June 20, 1999

Start Date

June 20, 1999

End Date

June 23, 1999



Page Count


Page Numbers

4.422.1 - 4.422.8

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Mary K. Handley

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 3148

Portfolio assessment as a measure of student and program success

Mary K. Handley James Madison University


Engineering technology students are good at making things work. They are curious about the mechanical world, and tend to have a very practical viewpoint. It is sometimes difficult to encourage them to master theory. They often don’t like to write. In a survey of learning styles conducted on 41 students in an introductory chemistry class at the Kansas State University - College of Technology and Aviation, 37 had a moderate to strong preference for learning information kinesthetically1. This contrasted with only 22 students having moderate to strong preference for learning from written material. (Most students had multimodal learning preferences.) Outcomes assessment of these students must incorporate a hands-on component in evaluation or risk missing the most effective learning method for many.

Portfolio assessment is one tool which can evaluate student learning in a variety of ways, incorporating experiences which are written, visual, and kinesthetic into a final product which is amenable to evaluation and comparison. Student work representing a variety of formats can be included. Depending on the format and objectives of the portfolio, applications in all areas of engineering technology can be evaluated for technical merit, practical applicability, or any other criterion of interest to the instructor or college.

Along with achieving program goals for assessment of student learning, portfolios support students in developing awareness of their strengths and weaknesses. In a good portfolio program, students collect their work, choose representative pieces, and reflect on this work in the final presentation of the portfolio. In this process they can address questions such as: Why was I successful with this project? What makes a good design? How did I perform in group tasks? What else am I learning that builds on this information or skill? How can I change my performance to better enable me to succeed?

In 6 semesters of using portfolios with engineering technology students in required (and often dreaded) chemistry classes, I became an avid fan of this assessment tool. Many student portfolios evaluated the connections between chemical principles and their laboratory applications. Some made connections to engineering projects they were doing in other classes. Students also reflected on their own abilities and performance. Chemical and environmental engineering technology students completed a minimum of 3 semesters of chemistry courses, and the longitudinal portfolios which they developed highlighted their increasing ability to understand both the principles of chemistry and themselves.

Handley, M. K. (1999, June), Portfolio Assessment As A Measure Of Student And Program Success Paper presented at 1999 Annual Conference, Charlotte, North Carolina.

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