Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Are portfolios necessary for good writing instruction?

Susan Weston of the Prichard Committee says the following, under the heading "Why portofolios matter":
"A writing assignment orders your thinking."

Representative and Former Speaker Jody Richards, ninety seconds ago, and so right!
But how do we get from "A writing assignment orders your thinking" to the fact that portfolios matter? And how does this comport with the fact that there were writing assignments and programs (good ones, in fact) before portfolios were even invented?

The idea that portfolios are somehow necessary for good writing instructions has absolutely no basis in reality. In fact, I'm trying to think of one great writer who learned to write through a program that emphasized portfolios.

Maybe Susan could name one.

1 comment:

Susan Weston said...

Martin,

Writing is necessary for good writing. Sustained writing work, with time for feedback, reflection, and revision, is essential for polished writing. Writing as a learning tool is irreplaceable as a way to develop organized mastery of a body of knowledge. And accountability is crucial to building an efficient system of common schools that can equip Kentucky's children with those skills.

The portfolio remains the best proposal on the table for that accountability. Multiple choice and on-demand, by themselves, point away from that kind of writing even being tried. The program review idea is only as credible as the legislature's willingness to fund and monitor it.

That doesn't mean the portfolio is ideal or sufficient to get what we need: my discontent is spelled out in detail at http://prichblog.blogspot.com/2009/02/viewpoint-portfolios-alone-wont-get-us.html.

It does mean, though, that I'm not going to advocate replacing a partial system with an even weaker one.

As for great writers, I happily recommend Molly Weston, Mason Scisco, Rachel Beckman, Hannah Kagan-Moore,and Nora Weston.