Portfolio Assessment Guidelines

Masters Program in Science Education


          All students in the masters in elementary education program must submit and successfully complete a teaching portfolio.  This document is the primary, culminating measure of student outcomes for the program and is considered the university’s master’s degree comprehensive assessment.


What is a Portfolio?


A portfolio is a collection of materials—bound in a single document—that shows what students know and are able to do as teachers. It is a picture of professional competence–a detailed snapshot of students’ unique skills, understandings, and dispositions. All portfolios will be quite different, as they represent the distinct abilities of individual students. However, there are elements common to each. In the portfolio students must demonstrate their acquisition of competencies required by the Education Unit Conceptual Framework, Connecticut Common Core of Teaching, and respective professional organization in their field, namely the International Reading Association, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, the National Science Teachers Association, and the National Council for the Social Studies.


            The portfolio contains the following sections:


1.)     a cover page and table of contents,


2.)     a narrative,


3.)     a collection of documents samples of professional work, drawn from classes and teaching experiences, which demonstrate specific competencies.


            The documents comprise the largest section of the portfolio and may include such items as lesson plans, curriculum webs, constructed instructional materials, samples of students’ work, photographs of classroom activities, software reviews, resource files, and other artifacts that show students’ abilities. All entries in a portfolio are authentic–that is, they are drawn from real life situations and reflect students’ very best thinking and teaching. All entries will be captioned as explained later in this handbook.



How is the Portfolio To Be Used?


            The portfolio will be used in four ways:


1.)    It will be evaluated by faculty to ascertain whether each student has acquired all necessary competencies in the program.

2.)    It will guide self-reflection. As students make choices about portfolio entries and prepare the completed document, they must identify their own professional knowledge, understandings, strengths, beliefs, and dispositions and review their accomplishments during the program.

3.)    It will serve as the university’s master’s degree comprehensive exam. The narrative will be guided by questions developed and distributed by faculty and the Graduate School (explained below).

4.)    It will be used as a tool for presenting one’s professional competencies to future or current employers. Students will use their portfolios to demonstrate beliefs and abilities during job interviews. Once students are employed in teaching positions, their portfolio may serve as a starting place for on-going, life-long professional assessment. Many schools now use portfolios in the evaluation of teachers. The Connecticut State Department of Education requires a portfolio in the assessment of all new teachers (BEST).


Steps in Portfolio Construction


            The following are major steps in the construction of the portfolio:


            Step 1: Starting Early/Collecting Artifacts: The portfolio process begins at the time the student enters the master’s program. Students should identify a container–perhaps a large file box–in which to store papers, projects, and teaching materials from all courses and experiences of the program (as well as from any professional experiences outside the university). A good idea is to have six files representing the six strands of the Education Unit Conceptual Framework so as materials are collected students are organizing them by each strand and will therefore be able to identify areas of need. Later, these materials will be weeded and organized, but in this step all materials should be saved.


            Step 2: Photographing Work: The adage, “show, don’t tell,” is very apropos in portfolio development. As students begin to collect artifacts, they should take photographs of as many accomplishments as they can. Learning materials and projects developed for classes should also be photographed–particularly those items that are too large to place in a portfolio binder. Even in-class projects–bulletin boards developed with other students, for example, or materials and games constructed with peers within the classroom–can be photographed. All photos should be saved in the file box. Students should informally caption photographs to ensure that they later do not forget the activity or how it demonstrates their understanding/application of a standard.


            Step 3: Buying and Organizing a Binder: As students progress in the program, they begin to make decisions about which documents to include in the portfolio. It is suggested that they purchase a professional-looking, three-ring binder--no later than halfway through the program--and begin to place in it their very best examples of their teaching. As students choose items to place in the binder, they should keep in mind the required competencies. Over time, students will remove some items and replace them with others. They will continue to add new documents throughout the program.


            Step 4: Writing Preface Documents: In the program’s prerequisite courses, students should begin writing a philosophy statement. Furthermore, in each graduate course students should identify two (2) to three (3) documents that demonstrate their knowledge, understanding and use of at least one of the strands from the Education Unit Conceptual Framework.  These artifacts must also be captioned as described below.


            Step 5: Reviewing the Portfolio using the “Value Added” Principle: During capstone, students review and reorganize the documents in their binder, based on three criteria: 1.) Are all required competencies addressed in the portfolio? 2.) Is there at least one entry for each course of the program? 3.) Do all items adhere to a “value added” principle? This principal holds that each entry reveals something new and different about the student’s professional competence. If two items are found to show roughly the same thing about a student, one should be removed. In this step the portfolio should be transformed from a collection of many of materials, to a sleek, organized, focused expression of professional abilities.


            Step 6: Captioning Entries:  Throughout the program, students should be identifying and captioning possible portfolio entries. A caption is a two or three sentence statement, placed just before each item, that tells three things:


1.)    What the document is (e.g., a photograph of a science learning center, a lesson plan that shows adaptations for students with special needs, a review of developmentally appropriate software), and

2.)    What the document shows about the student as a teacher (e.g., her/his commitment to a constructivist theory, skill at adapting materials for students with special needs). The following is a sample caption: “This is a photograph of, and a written plan for, a technology-oriented classroom which I developed in my fifth grade classroom. It shows my commitment and ability to use technology in a constructivist environment,” and

3.)    How does the document demonstrate your understanding of one or more of the key elements listed under your professional organization’s standards such as IRA, NCTM, NSTA, and NCSS. 

The following is a sample caption:

(1)     This is a lesson plan with adaptations I developed to meet the needs of a student in my fifth grade classroom. (2) It shows my knowledge, understanding, and use of adaptations to allow for individualized curriculum.  (3) The adaptations to this lesson plan demonstrate my understanding of the key element of IRA/NCTM/NSTA/NCSS Standard (List the standard.).        


            Step 7: Graduate Portfolio Narrative:




Graduate students will write an in-depth narrative to accompany their portfolio entries. This narrative will be an elaborate statement of beliefs about teaching, learning, and development. It will show how students’ thinking has been influenced by current research and theory and the classroom discussions, activities, and assignments in their graduate program. The following are required features of the narrative:


1.   The narrative must be organized, well written, fully referenced in APA style, and of graduate-level quality.

2.   The narrative must be a thorough and thoughtful piece of writing that includes in-depth reflection on issues and topics in the field.

3.   The narrative must include ideas gleaned from all courses in the graduate program. (Direct reference to specific courses is encouraged.)

4.   The narrative must make reference to readings, including key works in science education. 

5.   The narrative must make reference to the artifacts that have been submitted. (In the text, direct reference should be made to specific items--e.g., “See the curriculum web in Appendix C for evidence of my understanding of the constructivist curriculum.”)


Guiding Questions


In the narrative, students will express their beliefs about teaching science, guided by the following questions:


1.      What is your philosophy of science education? What are the ultimate goals of science education?

2.      What kinds of connections do you see between the content (mathematics, science, social studies, or English) you learned at the undergraduate and graduate levels and the content you will be teaching in science education?  How do you utilize the university content knowledge to further scientific literacy in the classroom?

3.      How do students best learn about science? What are some of the major theories of learning that influence your beliefs about student learning in science?

4.      What are the relative roles of the teacher, the student, and the classroom environment in learning? How will you facilitate student learning in your classroom? 

5.      What are the major steps in curriculum development and assessment? What roles do the national and state standards play in curriculum development and assessment? How do students benefit from curriculum integration?

6.      How extensively and in what ways should classrooms, the curriculum, and teaching be adapted to address diverse needs due to students’ culture, language, ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status and challenging conditions?

7.      How do new technologies in science and the Internet influence your discipline and your teaching?

  1. What does it mean to be a professional? How can a science teacher collaborate with parents, family, community, school administrators, and other teachers to help every student reach their full potential? What are some supportive, respectful, culturally sensitive, and empowering methods of involving family members in school? How can positive relationships be established between school and society?
  2. Based on your reflection in the preceding questions (1 through 8), what conclusions can you draw from your overall learning experience at Eastern? What are your next steps?


Step 8: Evaluation of the Portfolio: Students will submit their portfolio to the faculty for review. Two faculty members will independently score the portfolio using the following rubric. Based on the outcome of this scoring, portfolios will be judged as: Distinctive, Acceptable (Pass), or Unacceptable (Fail).  The evaluation rubric is provided at the end of this document. 


Timeline for Completion


            Students will complete their portfolio following this timeline:



                        See your advisor.

                        Begin collecting projects, papers, and learning materials–from each class–in a storage box or file system. In each class you will identify and caption at least two artifacts that demonstrate your knowledge, understanding, and use of the Education Unit Conceptual Framework, the Connecticut Common Core of Teaching, and the disciplinary standards in your field.

Begin photographing projects and experiences in classes and work settings.

            Write a draft of philosophy statement.

                        Collect additional entries– from each class.       


By 15 Credits:

                        See your advisor.

            Purchase a binder and begin to place preliminary items in it.

Begin to weed and organize the portfolio, based on the “value added principle.”

                        Revise the philosophy statement.

            Continue captioning items.


During Capstone:

            Create an outline for the narrative.

            Complete the organization and weeding of entries.

            Continue to write, revise and polish captions.

Prepare a cover page and table of contents and make tabs for sections of the portfolio.


After Capstone:

                        Write the narrative and submit completed portfolio for evaluation.



Portfolio Evaluation Rubric


Target (Score 3: Evidence of exceptional performance, beyond what one would typically expect of a graduate student.)


The student demonstrates: a.) extensive knowledge and understanding of the area addressed in the guiding question, which is fully grounded in current research drawn from readings and courses, b.) an ability to reflect deeply on and communicate clearly, logically, persuasively, and passionately about this area, c.) an ability to readily, effectively, and creatively apply their understandings in professional practice, d.) an excellent documentation of high quality materials such as classroom photographs, student work, excerpts from lesson and unit plans with clear, logical, and meaningful captions, and e.) an ability to use APA formatting consistently with no spelling and grammar errors.   


Acceptable (Score 2: Evidence of satisfactory performance and above.)


The student demonstrates: a.) solid knowledge and understanding of the area addressed in the guiding question, which is grounded on research drawn from readings and most courses, b.) an ability to reflect on and communicate clearly and logically about this area, and c.) an ability to effectively and creatively apply their understandings in most planning and teaching experiences, d.) documentation of materials such as classroom photographs, student work, excerpts from lesson and unit plans with clear, captions, and e.) an ability to use APA formatting with minor spelling and grammar errors. 


Unacceptable (Score 1: Unsatisfactory performance)


The student responds to the standard in a way that shows: a.) a knowledge base that is out-of-date and/or lacks a sound foundation in research, b.) an inability to reflect on or articulate ideas about many topics or issues in this area, and c.) a failure to apply key concepts in the field in many planning and teaching experiences, d.) a lack of documentation of portfolio materials and captions, and e.) inability to use APA formatting with significant spelling and grammar errors. 


Missing (Score 0: Unsatisfactory)


Two faculty members will evaluate the student portfolio using the following scoring rubric.  They will discuss their ratings and negotiate a compromise score. 

Scoring Rubric


Guiding Questions

Target (3)

Acceptable (2)

Unacceptable (1)

Missing (0)






Content Knowledge





Learning Theories





Role of the Teacher





Curriculum Development and Assessment





Adapting to diverse needs





Use of Technology










Overall Learning Experience





Readers’ Overall Impression





                                                                                                                                             Total Score:              /30



Evaluation of the Full Portfolio:


Based on the above scores, the full portfolio will be assigned one of the following designations:


Distinction (Score of 29-30): Recommended for master’s degree in elementary education


Pass (Score of 20-28) but no scores of 0 or 1 in more than two indicators: Recommended for master’s degree in elementary education


Fail (Score below 20) or score of 0 or 1 in more than two indicators: Not recommended for master’s degree in elementary education


Student unable to pass the portfolio may revise and resubmit no sooner than one semester after the original evaluation.