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Rubric for Assessing the Use of Portfolios for Assessing Program Learning Outcomes

Developed by the WASC Senior College and University Commission.


Portfolios can serve many purposes besides assessment; in fact, these other purposes are actually much more common. Portfolios may be compiled so students can share their work with family and friends. They may be designed to build students’ confidence by showing development over time or by displaying best work. They may be used for advising and career counseling, or so students can show their work during a job interview. The first thing a team needs to do is determine that the portfolios are used for assessment, and not for another purpose.
Conclusions about the quality of the assessment process should be based on discussion with relevant department members (e.g., chair, assessment coordinator, faculty, students) and a review of the program’s written portfolio assignment. Two common types of portfolios are:

  • Showcase portfolios—collections of each student’s best work
  • Developmental portfolios—collections of work from early, middle, and late stages in the student’s academic career that demonstrate growth

Faculty generally require students to include a reflective essay that describes how the evidence in the portfolio demonstrates their achievement of program learning outcomes. Sometimes faculty monitor developing portfolios to provide formative feedback and/or advising to students, and sometimes they collect portfolios only as students near graduation. Portfolio assignments should clarify the purpose of the portfolio, what kinds of evidence should be included, and the format (e.g., paper vs. e-portfolios); and students should view the portfolio as contributing to their personal development.