n Education as Change - Portfolio assessment : its role in supporting assessment for learning in schooling

Volume 9, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1682-3206
  • E-ISSN: 1947-9417
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Educational assessment in South African schools is in a process of transformation. With the implementation of the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) Act of October 1995, assessment moved away from the traditional examination driven approach to an alternative approach that is seen to have greater educational value in terms of the kind of teaching and learning it encourages. Traditional approaches to assessment such as pen-and-paper tests are seriously questioned and alternative approaches are proposed by the Department of Education (DoE, 2000:8). These include open-ended questions, exhibits, demonstrations, projects, performance assessment, hands-on-experiments, computer simulations and portfolios (Herman, 1992:74; DoE, 2000:8). Experimenting with alternative measures of assessment, in which learning and assessment do no longer exist in separate vacuums, involves serious questioning as to whether new approaches to assessment promote the quality of learning. One important aspect relating to quality refers to the extent to which assessment promotes the motivation and desire to learn and to continue learning (Herman, 1992:75). Educators and educationists therefore need to examine the alluring promise that many of the alternative assessment approaches hold against their potential to rise to the challenge of promoting assessment for learning. The new South African school curriculum, Curriculum 2005, places a strong emphasis on assessing learning progress by means of portfolios. Portfolios represent continuous assessment of learner progress, possibilities for integrating assessment with instruction and learning, the nurturing of higher-order thinking skills and a collaborative approach to assessment that enables teachers and learners to interact in the teaching, learning and assessment process. Through the utilization of portfolios in the assessment process, learners should develop the skills and understanding they need to learn and to continue in the world of further education and training and work. In short, learners need to become expert learners: strategic, self-regulated and reflective.

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