Department of Teaching, Learning and Teacher Education


Date of this Version



Published in Meeting New Challenges in the Foreign Language Classroom: Selected Papers from the 1994 Central States Conference, ed. Gale K. Crouse (Lincolnwood, IL: National Textbook Company), pp. 103-114.


Copyright © 1994 Central States Conference on the Teacing of Foreign Languages


There has been an explosion of studies and research attempts to find viable alternatives to the practice of assigning students a single letter grade in each subject in school (Jongsma 1989; McLean 1990; Stiggins 1991; Wolf 1988, 1989). It is argued that aspects such as effort, progress, and achievement are often ignored in the single grade and that letter grades indicate neither what students know and can do in a subject area nor the student's strengths and weaknesses. Innovations in curriculum and instruction such as whole language, cooperative learning, and outcome-based education call for a more flexible approach to reporting achievement (O'Neil 1993). Developing abilities should be measured frequently with a multidimensional variety of tasks. Students are encouraged to take risks in the new teaching practices to help them build confidence and encourage creativity. To assign a grade defeats the purpose of the class and can undermine new teaching practices. Because of the limitations that a single grade imposes, several educators have examined the value of using portfolio assessment as an alternative form of evaluation in classrooms (Camboume and Turbill 1990; Paulson et al. 1991; Valencia 1990; Wolf 1989).