In this article, Elbow and Belanoff discuss the why and how of portfolios that the authors were experimenting with at Stony Brook. Elbow and Belanoff acknowledge that there are some difficulties in using the portfolio system, especially for teachers who are using it for the first time, but they really like how portfolios contrast the “plastic” and “safe” proficiency exam. The portfolio system encourages students to “show some genuine thought and investment” in their writing, while the proficiency exam encourages them to stick to tropes and formulas. Elbow and Belanoff also tout the positive effects that portfolios have on teachers and grades. Instructors “retain almost complete power” over their students’ grades, but other instructors are given a little bit of suggestion in assessment. The authors say that this dynamic allows instructors on both sides to give better feedback to students, because they’re worried less about grades and more about the student improving.
Elbow and Belanoff: “Portfolios as a Substitute for Proficiency Examinations”