The Effect of Portfolios on Students’ Learning: Student Teachers’ Views

May. 01, 2011

Source: European Journal of Teacher Education, Vol. 34, No. 2, May 2011, 161–176.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This study was conducted to reveal how students perceived their experience of preparing portfolios and the effects of the portfolio process on their learning.
The research question for this study was: What are student teachers’ views of the effects of using portfolio on their own learning?

The participants were 35 fourth-year biology student teachers enrolled in the course ‘Assessment and evaluation’ in the Faculty of Education at Karadeniz Technical University, Turkey. Out of 35 student teachers, 21 were female and 14 were male.

Study Environment and Module
The module aims to educate students on the theory and practices of traditional and alternative assessments.
Each student was assigned to prepare a portfolio documenting the evidences concerning his/her learning and understanding about the topics covered in the compulsory module ‘Assessment and evaluation’.
The data to document this journey were collected using the self-reflective reports in the portfolios.

Results and Discussion

Five themes could be drawn from the analysis of the students’ written reflections in their portfolios, regarding how they perceived the portfolio process and its effects on their learning.

Theme 1: Sounded like a difficult and unnecessary process at the beginning
In their reflections on the first lesson, almost all of the students indicated that the process would be difficult and demanding. However, as they involved themselves more in the process, such negative feelings faded and changed in a more positive direction, indicating how useful the process was for their learning.

Theme 2: Encourages/helps learners to study regularly
The students indicated that the portfolio made them study regularly and take remedial action to close the gap concerning problems they had encountered.

Theme 3: Portfolio provides self-awareness and, thereby, a chance to improve
Another common theme emerging from the students’ reflections was that the portfolio process helped them notice their own strengths and weaknesses about their learning. Reflecting on their experience while writing weekly journal entries and the feedback from weekly tests in turn raised students’ self-awareness.

Theme 4: Portfolio increases retention, and results in better learning
The students pointed out different aspects of the portfolio process as increasing retention. One aspect they mentioned was developing regular study habits.
Students also pointed out that portfolio promoted higher-level thinking or thinking about the applications of knowledge in real-world situations, which resulted in better learning.

Theme 5: Yields in positive affective learning outcomes
In addition to the positive cognitive outcomes and increased self-awareness, positive affective outcomes were also evident in many of the students’ comments. The affective outcomes cover the feeling that students experience while preparing their portfolios.

Conclusions and Suggestions

The results of the study support the belief that portfolio is a useful tool both to direct and to enhance students’ learning. There are two components of the portfolio process that make a portfolio a valuable learning tool; one is self-reflection and the other is continuous and immediate feedback through the weekly tests.

To conclude, in this study, reflective portfolio coupled with frequent testing resulted in positive outcomes in terms of both cognitive and affective learning. Therefore, it is suggested that the use of portfolios in teacher education should be promoted.

Updated: May. 07, 2012