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English for Teaching 3

Module 14: Tried and tested Trainer book

Appendix 6
5.2 Using portfolios for assessment
Language Portfolios are made up of three parts:
1. The Passport
This contains information about the language learner and gives a history of the learners language
learning experiences.
It may also contain any certificates or qualifications that show the learners level in a way that might be
called international. For our young learners this may mean a certificate they received from a summer
camp they attended, or a qualification they got from taking an English exam at school or in any other
English language centre. It may also include a ticket to a theatre production in English, a film they saw or a
trip abroad to an English-speaking country.
2. The Language Biography
This is a personal history of the learners language learning experience. For example, it may include a
short narrative about the summer camp which they went on and for which they have included the
certificate in their passport section.
It also includes self-assessment materials, such as the learner checklists and any aims that learners have
for the future. These aims might be passing a specific exam, attending a course and feeling well prepared
for it, or being able to speak English to a visitor. Peer assessment may also be part of it.
3. The Dossier
This is a collection of coursework that shows the learners level of English. It may include corrected class
or homework, tests and exams, or any other piece of work which shows where the learner is. In this part a
learner may include voice or video recordings or any part of project work that they have done.
Advantages of using portfolios
There are many advantages for teachers and learners.

They increase learners motivation by providing something personal and realistic which they can build
up and develop over the course.
They help learners to reflect on their own learning and achievement by asking them to make choices,
review, compare and organise their own work.
They enable learners to look for new cultural experiences by opening their eyes to the possibilities
available to them. Part of portfolio work involves show and tell sessions where learners talk about
their experiences and look at other portfolios.
From a teachers point of view, portfolios lead to greater learner autonomy since they involve selfassessment, learner responsibility and parent involvement.
Learners can work in their own time on different sections.

The problems with Language Portfolios


In my experience there are a couple of considerations when using portfolios.

First of all, with large groups storing portfolios can be problematic. Of course, learners can look after
them themselves but this always means there are lots of students who forget or lose their portfolio. I
have found it is better to store them in class and only allow them home occasionally throughout the
year. In this way it means they are readily at hand for parent interviews and, of course, class time.
Secondly, as a teacher, portfolios involve the provision of the folder and the organisation of the
contents, which can be quite time consuming. However, once I had made templates for the three
sections, found an attractive folder and decided on the topic to work on, learners could work at their
own pace and the sessions ran themselves.

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English for Teaching 3

Module 14: Tried and tested Trainer book

Using Language Portfolios with young learners


I have always had very positive feedback from parents who have shown great interest from the start.

Whenever working on portfolios I have sent a letter to parents at the start of term, briefly explaining
what an LP is and the reasons for working with them.
I have asked parents to look for any realia that their children could bring into class which would help
them talk about a language/cultural experience. Children have brought in photos, leaflets for
interactive museums, theatre tickets and magazines and comics in English.
Obviously not all children get so involved and by the end of the course there can be quite a
difference in the contents of LPs. However, I always make time in portfolio sessions to help individuals
who have been absent or fallen behind in their work so that each LP is reflective of the level of its
owner. Other learners can finish off pieces of work or start on new topics.
Throughout the course, learners have personalised their LPs by including photos, decorating the front
cover and preparing an individual passport page. In this way the notion of ownership has been a
motivating force.
Finally, at the end of term students take their LP home where they can be kept intact or used the
following year to build on and update.

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