Reading Notes

Edward M. Write’s “Using Portfolios” in Assigning, Responding, Evaluating: A Writing Teacher’s Guide

White, Edward M. “Using Portfolios.” Assigning, Responding, Evaluating: A Writing Teacher’s Guide. 4th ed., Bedford/St. Martins, 2007. 

Summary: In this chapter, White provides an extensive overview of portfolios and how to use them. He provides a history of portfolio assessment, explores challenges of a portfolio system and how to respond to these challenges, the content of portfolios–including the reflective cover letter–and how to score/assess the content of portfolios.

Keywords: portfolio, assessment, cover letter, goal statements, holistic scoring


  • “A great advantage of portfolios for writing assessment is that they can include numerous examples of student writing produced over time and under a variety of conditions… / And if one requirement of the portfolio is a self-assessment or reflective essay, students wind up taking responsibility for their own learning” (163-164).
  • “Portfolios appeared to revolve many of the problems that had become evident with essay testing: they validity problem of using only one (or at most two) impromptu writing samples; the absence of opportunities for the writer to reflect and revise; the lack of context or audience for the writing; inappropriate or banal writing problems, and so on” (165).
  • “Portfolios supported teaching . . . portfolios have now achieved standing as the writing assessment method of choice ” (165).
  • “… the portfolio is the only assessment devise that can evaluate a student’s ability to understand revision processes” (171).
  • “A portfolio presented for assessment is essentially a set of evidence for an argument, in the rhetorical sense” (178).
  • “The [portfolio] reader essentially grades the reflective letter, and the portfolio as evidence in that letter, as the portfolio grade” (182).





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