Text Box: Return to previous pageChristina von Mayrhauser, Anthropology, California State University, Northridge

Payton Phillips, Social Studies, Monroe High School

Ian Barnard, English and TNE Faculty, California State University Northridge


Teachers for a New Era at CSUN: Objective 031

Proposal for Reciprocal Action Research Project






This qualitative pilot study investigates how student portfolios might be used to help students meet high school and introductory-level college course objectives and standards.


The study, co-directed by Payton Phillips of Monroe High School and Ian Barnard and Christina von Mayrhauser of CSU, Northridge, will gather preliminary data on one orienting research question, three key research questions and three sub-questions that relate to English Language Learners in particular.The co-investigators will use the preliminary data gathered from Phase One of this study to generate a list of hypotheses that may be used to guide larger-scale investigations in the future.



Research Questions


Orienting Research Question:How can we use learning portfolios to help students meet State standards (in the case of Monroe students) or departmental/instructor-specific Student Learning Objectives (in the case of CSUN students)?


Key Research Questions and Sub-questions Pertaining to English Language Learners:


  1. What are some of the issues that arise when students attempt to fulfill the requirements of different kinds of learning portfolios?
    1. Sub-question for ELL: What particular issues arise for English Language Learners as they work on learning portfolios?
  2. What methods of portfolio self-reflection are most effective for student learning (US History/Anthropology/Composition)?
    1. Subquestion for ELL: What types of assignments help English Language Learners engage with subject matter most effectively while also learning English?
  3. What is the most effective way of assessing portfolios?
    1. Subquestion for ELL: Do specific methods of assessment have benefits or drawbacks for English Language Learners in particular?



Possible Evidence to be Used to Answer the Above Questions:


  1. Student work samples (especially student portfolios; in some cases portfolios will include written rubrics and written student self-reflections on the materials in the portfolio)
  2. Rubrics for assessing portfolios (if not included under 1 above)
  3. Written teacher reflections
  4. Interviews with teachers
  5. Interviews with individual students
  6. Student focus groups
  7. Socratic seminars
  8. Class discussions
  9. Student surveys
  10. Class syllabi
  11. Course assignments
  12. Documents articulating State standards and Student Learning Outcomes
  13. Teachersí logs of student inquiries regarding the portfolio process
  14. Written student reflections on the portfolio process



Methods and Procedures of Data Collection and Analysis:


Co-investigators will use qualitative methods of data collection and analysis found in the fields of English (IBís field), Social Studies/Education (PPís field), and Anthropology (CvMís field). These will include assessment of written and oral information elicited from students and written materials generated by the teachers and their respective administrators.


PP will test a standards-centered portfolio in one of her US History classes (the larger class) and a portfolio focused on studentsí learning processes in the other US History class (the smaller class).The first type of portfolio will cover 4 standards.Each studentís portfolio will include four samples of her work for each standard plus one reflective piece for each standard (i.e., each portfolio will include 20 documents:16 work samples plus 4 reflections).In the case of each standard, the student will select the four samples from all the assignments completed for that standard.Each reflection should explain how the 4 related work samples demonstrate the studentís fulfillment of the corresponding standard.Details of the second type of portfolio are still to be determined.


CvM will also test two different types of portfolios in the two sections of her Anthropology 152 course (Culture and Human Behavior).In one section, students will develop portfolios that include individual work (exercises, homework, reading and film reactions, papers, etc.) completed for each unit of the course, as well as periodic self-reflections. Each student will complete one self-reflection at the end of each unit.Students will use the self-reflections to describe how they feel their work included in the portfolio for a particular unit demonstrates that they have mastered the Student Learning Objectives associated with the unitThese portfolios will follow the model of PPís standards-centered portfolio above in that CvMís Student Learning Objectives, being university classroom equivalents to PPís Standards, are the outcomes that student learning activities are designed to address. In the other section, each student will also compile a portfolio that includes work completed for all units of the course. Rather than writing periodic self-reflections as they move through the course (i.e., after each unitís completion), each student will write a cumulative reflection at the end of the portfolio. This reflection will take the form of a short essay in which students discuss how their portfolios demonstrate or do not demonstrate that the students have satisfied the SLOs for the course.


IB will test a different type of portfolio from the above models in his section of English 155 (First Year Composition).Studentsí portfolios will not be collected periodically during the semester, and will only be turned in once at the end of the semester.Also, while drafts of papers will receive instructor feedback,the major portion of the course grade will be determined by the portfolio turned in at the end of the semester (including the paper drafts and revisions of the papers). Students will have some choice in terms of which samples of their work to include in the portfolio: not as much latitude as PPís students, but more latitude than CvMís students.†† Another distinction between these portfolios and those of PP and CvM lies in their focus on the writing process: since these portfolios will include drafts and revisions of the same student papers, theywill showcase the revision process as a way of emphasizing that students are expected to engage in this important part of the writing process and that students are expected to show improvement in their work over the course of the semester


In addition to pursuing the individual plans for portfolio development mentioned above,all three instructors will have their students complete a reflection on the process of developing the portfolio at the end of the semester.The three instructors will collaboratively develop the prompt for this reflection, and all students will respond to the same prompt.These reflections will be anonymous, although checkboxes on the back of the form will ask students to answer demographic information (including information pertaining to English Language Learners) and to identify the class in which they are completing the reflection.The anonymity of the reflections themselves will enable the three instructors to read all the reflections without knowing which reflections are written by whose students.





After the completion of data collection, the three co-investigators of this Portfolio Study will analyze the multiple data strands that they have collected for the purpose of developing a list of preliminary answers to the major research questions enumerated on page 1 as well as the sub-questions that pertain to English Language Learners in particular. Co-investigators will use the preliminary answers to generate a list of hypotheses about the impact of different portfolio types and assessment, and portfolio-related learning processes on student learning. These hypotheses may then be tested more systematically in a follow-up phase of this study.


The larger aims of this reciprocal research action project, in keeping with the goals of CSUN TNE Objective 031 are to explore ways of effectively involving CSUN faculty in work with clinical sites, including work with teachers at clinical sites on professional development projects; to assess the feasibility, efficacy, and desirability of such collaborative work; and to determine possible protocols for such collaboration if it is to take place. Our final report on this project will include discussion of these questions as well.





Barton, James, and Angelo Collins, eds.Portfolio Assessment: A Handbook for Educators.Menlo Park, CA: Addison-Wesley, 1997.


Cole, Donna J., Charles W. Ryan, and Fran Kick.Portfolios Across the Curriculum and Beyond.Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, 1996.


Easley, Shirley-Dale, and Kay Mitchell.Portfolios Matter: What, Where, When, Why and How to Use Them.Markham, Canada: Pembroke, 2003.


Hebert, Elizabeth A.The Power of Portfolios: What Children Can Teach Us About Learning and Assessment.San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2001.


Jenkins, Carol Brennan.Inside the Writing Portfolio: What We Need to Know to Assess Childrenís Writing.Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 1996.


Jervis, Kathe.Eyes on the Child: Three Portfolio Stories.New York: Teachers College Press, 1996.


Johnson, Nancy Jean, and Leonie Marie Rose.Portfolios: Clarifying, Constructing, and Enhancing.Lancaster, PA: Technomic, 1997.


Porter, Carol, and Janell Cleland.The Portfolio as a Learning Strategy.Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann-Boynton/Cook, 1995.


Seidel, Steve, et al.Portfolio Practices: Thinking Through the Assessment of Childrenís Work.Washington, DC: NEA, 1997.


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