Abstract 389

An Examination of Portfolios as Alternative Assessment Tools in EAL Programs

Presentation:  Shahid Abrar-ul-Hassan

Session F | 11:50- 12:30 | Location: Room 310


Since portfolios emerged in response to calls for alternatives in assessment, they have expanded the scope of assessment by making it interactive, multiform, instructionally-­‐relevant, and learning-­‐oriented as opposed to merely measuring learners’ achievement. Both as a product and as a process, a portfolio is comprised of a variety of academic products that not only comprehensively reflect learning outcomes but also lead to learner inclusiveness. A review of research on portfolios indicates a positive impact on learning and teaching as the case of ESL for new immigrants in Canada also testifies.

A number of challenges related to traditional language assessment have been identified in research. For instance, raters’ bias, fairness, and the effect of test takers’ characteristics, such as anxiety and disability, have been documented. In recent years, the power and role of traditional tests has increased a great deal such that these tests have become a major source of worry for students, parents, and teachers alike (Turner & Purpura, 2015). This upshot of traditional assessment is also a source of negative washback effect as teachers tend to narrow the curriculum to overly focus on test preparation, test-­‐taking strategies, and
specific/limited grammatical and lexical content. There have also been calls for a focus on the learning aspect of assessment, which is using assessment for learning, instead of being a monfocal measurement of student’s achievement.

Focusing on learner inclusion, this session examines portfolios in terms of usefulness by using Bachman and Palmer’s (1996) test usefulness framework portfolio assessment in EAL programs. The prospects and challenges of portfolios in EAL programs will be assessed. and the pedagogical implications of how portfolios representing students’ learning evidencing the breadth of learning experience both in terms of content or academic products as well as the trajectory of learning over time.

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