Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Russell L. French

Committee Members

Janet Atwill, Ralph Brockett, C. Glennon Rowell


The primary focus of this study was to identify the commonalities of portfolio-based writing practices as occurs in existing literature; to determine how portfolio assessment is used in postsecondary English programs; to assess whether portfolio-based writing produced improvement in student knowledge and skills; and to determine the impact portfolio-based writing assessment has had on departmental practices. To achieve this end, the researcher designed and administered a questionnaire and conducted follow up telephone interviews with Writing Program Administrators (WPAs) at colleges and universities with established portfolio-based writing assessment programs. Follow up mailings of questionnaires, electronic mailings, and telephone calls were undertaken by the researcher. The data gathering phase included coding, analyzing, and reporting of the findings.

As a result, the conclusions of the study are as follows: postsecondary institutions participating in these studies are using portfolios for pre-placement and placement in Freshman English as an exit examination from Freshman English and for assessment of the departmental program.

Despite all of the mentioned uses of portfolio-based writing assessment in colleges and universities, the questionnaire revealed that ninety-nine percent (99%) of the respondents were unable to provide a definitive definition of portfolios. Rather, respondents provided two types of descriptions. First, respondents gave detailed descriptions of content, including the number of entries presented for final evaluation. Second, respondents explained how assessment teams used rubrics to certify writing competency.

Based on the results of the study, the researcher offers the following recommendations for portfolio development and research:

Portfolio Development

1. Formulate, articulate, and publish course objectives, and learning outcomes for freshman composition.

2. Afford students more active involvement in determining standards of performance.

3. Involve faculty members across disciplines to establish program policies to promote collegiality.

Portfolio Research

1. Design studies that assess the impact on departmental goals.

2. Plan and implement a series of longitudinal studies at three year intervals to determine the effectiveness of portfolio-based writing assessment.

3. Assess and evaluate results from longitudinal studies to improve portfolio content and process.

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