Portfolios of Progress: Evolving from product based to process based

In my assessment of student learning, the actual end-product is of lesser concern than the process. Thus, sequential and cumulative evaluations are used to assess student progress. Whether we intend it or not, what ends up assessed is what ends up being valued in the classroom (Svinicki & McKeachie, 2011). In studio courses, the assessment is almost entirely centered on the final garment(s) or the best work produced by the students. In assessing only the final product, we are only placing value on the technical and aesthetic skills of the student designers, whereas the course objectives may have wider aims. Other course learning objectives such as, preparing students for a career in the field are often left unmet through this assessment.


In studio courses, whether it is computer-aided design, product development, or a seminar on collaboration the desired goals include developing a greater curiosity of design process, appreciate the possibilities of group design, and bring industry partnerships into the classroom. To get at this, I emphasize the process of design in studio courses by assessing their entire portfolio of work developed throughout the semester. Elbow & Sorcinelli, (2011) suggest that grading on the basis of portfolio, we are 'drawing on a more trustworthy picture of the student's ability or learning, thus 'validity' is enhanced." For example, first and second muslins make salient the challenges and accomplishments of the students that the final garment may otherwise mask. Much like drafts of a paper, the muslins act as low-stakes assessment points where feedback can be delivered. To develop self-awareness and self-evaluation skills, I require the portfolio to be annotated and include descriptions on how the work helped her/his development. Portfolio assessment helps both the student and the instructor see their progression (Svinicki & McKeachie, 2011).

Group Work - A Necessary Evil?

Group work, has a stigma of being unfairly assessed. Since the aim in my classes is to evaluate the process, I have devised a group assessment rubric that determine the ways in which students work together, focusing on group development. Assessment is centered on the way in which students are developing in the group, focusing on group process and teamwork more than on content learning (Svinicki & McKeachie, 2011). To assess content learning, individual assignments such low-stakes weekly papers (reports) can be used to measure individual learning within the overall group structure. 

The annotation of my rubric addresses more specifically how group work is assessed to ensure adequate contributions of team members, fair decision making, skillful planning, adaptability within the group, and fosters communication. Svincki & McKeachie (2011) recommend group members to describe (without judgement) work provided by other members. Group members' descriptions of each members' contribution can be compared to get a more accurate picture of what each individual contributed. Group rating forms that list key contributions each group  member should make are outlined in the rubric. 

Assessment Closes the Feedback Loop

Efficient, systematic, and consistent assessment is a way to communicate with students. Whether the assessments are  traditional (quizzes and tests) or informal (feedback on minute papers), they are tools to generate a conversation about the student's  and instructor's performance. Assessments set throughout the course allows me to communicate my goals to students so they can learn more effectively. Strategically placed assessments allow me to identify misunderstandings that will help me teach better by pacing the course and assigning grades (Svinivki & McKeachie, 2011). 


Course Evaluations

The final form of feedback from students is through course evaluations. Although I do not have any current evaluations to share, I will use this forum to share and synthesize feedback from students about individual courses and my overall performance as an instructor. Each semester I will share the scores, the message, and reflect on how it will impact my future teaching. 


Elbow, P., & Sorcinelli, M. D. (2011). Using High-Stakes and Low-Stakes Writing to Enhance Learning. In. M. Svinicki & W. J. McKeachie (Eds.), McKeachie's Teaching Tips: Strategies, Research, and Theory for College and University Teachers (213-234). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth. 

Svinicki, M., & McKeachie, W. J. (2011). Assessing, testing and evaluating: Grading is not the most important function. In. M. Svinicki & W. J. McKeachie (Eds.), McKeachie's Teaching Tips: Strategies, Research, and Theory for College and University Teachers (72-82). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth. 

Last Updated: 5/14/2014