The students of the primary school of Ancient Olympia have always been assessed in the subject of English through paper-and-pencil tests. The purpose of the assessment has been mostly summative, in order to allocate marks at the end of each school term. The tests constructed by the teacher employ mainly second-generation techniques. As a result adequate information related to students’ process and product of learning cannot be obtained. Moreover, the use of second-generation tests clashes with the teacher’s communicative approach to learning (Tsagari & West, 2004· Baroochi & Keshvarz, 2002, in Tsagari & West, 2004). In addition, it has been observed that tests have a negative washback effect on students. Many of them have lost their self-confidence, while others exhibit signs of anxiety or boredom and they rarely participate in the classroom.
Taking all of the above points into consideration and in order to provide equal opportunities for all the students, especially those who have been diagnosed with learning difficulties (Tsagari & West, 2004, p.127), the teacher has decided to use the Portfolio as a method of alternative assessment. The language she wishes to assess is part of the syllabus and it concerns the use of the present Simple to talk about habits as well as writing an interview with a famous person.
The teacher has decided to set up a Composite or Group Portfolio to improve the students’ writing skills (specific focus portfolio). The choice has been made based on the learning goals set by the teacher along with an analysis of the students’ needs (Appendix I, p. 5) (Barabouti, 2012, p. 134) before implementing the classroom-based portfolio (Tsagari & West, 2004, p.198). The results of the survey of writing interest and awareness revealed that the majority of the students like working in groups since they think they learn better and they prefer writing in the classroom.
It is made obvious that the portfolio can address students’ needs, especially of the weak ones, since, according to Brown and Hudson (1998), they can capitalize on work that happens in the classroom to improve their writing and language skills. Also, students get motivated since they have to perform authentic tasks and students-student collaboration is fostered as it constitutes a real life skill. Moreover, it focuses learners’ attention on learning processes and students are encouraged to use metalanguage o talk about language growth (Brown & Hudson, 1998).
To record such information the teacher uses both checklists with two alternatives (YES/NO) and rating scales for documenting the degree of writing skills and language proficiency after students have finished the tasks. Both tools were chosen for two main reasons:
- The class consists of 23 students
- Both rating scales and checklists are easy to administer and are an advantageous form of assessment since students are asked to perform the same tasks (Tsagari & West, 2004, p. 288).
Also, the teacher employs an analytic rating scale (Barabouti, 2012, p. 133) (Appendix II, p. 6) which consists of four criteria, which she presents to the students, who should take them into consideration while working on their writing tasks.