Accommodating innovation: The evolution of a department-wide portfolio program

Jerie Ruth Weasmer, Purdue University


The purpose of this study was to describe (a) the development and maintenance of a department-wide secondary English portfolio program and (b) the teachers' views of the efficacy of portfolio implementation on instruction in the school. At the study site, a large Midwestern high school, the English department introduced and maintained a portfolio program, beginning with a pilot group and eventually expanding to include the entire department. Information was acquired through (a) a survey distributed to English faculty, (b) formal 30-minute interviews with each of the original 26 English teachers, and (c) documents from teachers' meetings and from student guidelines.^ Analysis of the data served to identify the factors the teachers perceived to be important in developing and implementing a department-wide portfolio program. Identified external supports were (a) financial support, (b) an expert to present information at the outset, (c) a consultant to address concerns as they arose during implementation, and (d) administrative support. Internal supports they acknowledged as necessary were (a) a gathering place for ongoing interaction during the change process, (b) a pilot group which modeled portfolio implementation, (c) a collegial group open to change and willing to work collaboratively toward that end, and (d) personal investment from every participant.^ Also they described the shift to maintaining documentation of students' growth as writers and to assessing a collection of student writing in progress rather than as isolated documents. They perceived that the role of the teacher in their portfolio program was altered from teacher as evaluator to teacher as collaborator.^ The reported successful accommodation of a department-wide portfolio program provides ideas for change agents from classroom teachers to administrators to legislators wishing to introduce portfolios into the curriculum. Further research in the successful accommodation of portfolios would aid not only schools moving toward mandatory or voluntary portfolio use, but also in the implementation of future educational innovative practices. ^




Major Professor: Beverly E. Cox, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Education, Language and Literature|Language, Modern|Education, Teacher Training|Education, Secondary

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