Green Squiggly Lines:

Self Assessment, Reflection, and a Wider Audience

A number of colleges have been experimenting with assessment programs that use web technologies to distribute students' writing to a wider audience. These programs use portfolio-based assessment as a way of documenting student progress over time and as a way for students to reflect upon their work. The various evaluations are incorporated into the student's portfolio so that the assessments are contextualized within the student's academic development. For instance, Kalamazoo College in Michigan uses a system of electronic portfolio assessment that reaches over time (throughout a student's four years at the college) and incorporates responses from a variety of readers (Kalamazoo, 2000).

The "K" Portfolio starts before orientation with a "Foundations Essay" and culminates with a final "Senior Connections" response to four years at "K" College. Along the way, in eight required gateway points, students create their own home pages, link their best work, summarize their academic goals and plans of study, write about the choice of a major, capture their intercultural experience on paper, reflect on their career readiness, and discuss their plans for their Senior Individualized Projects. Many departments link significant course work to the Portfolios of their majors. (Kalamazoo, 2000)

The Kalamazoo example shows one way in which electronic portfolio assessment is linking writing with students' academic development across time and across disciplines. Writing becomes a means for students to communicate about and reflect on their academic progress and intellectual development. For Kalamazoo, the electronic portfolio demonstrates that academic progress and intellectual development do not occur in isolation. That is, they do not occur between the student and a single faculty member in a single course, but rather develop over time. The distribution of assessment to a variety of readers in the "K" Portfolio marks a significant step in American higher education toward not only acknowledging that different readers read texts differently but also actually building a workable system that incorporates that distribution into the process of assessment.