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Popular belief in alternative assessment procedures suggests that the use of student portfolios can help learners successfully organize and integrate newly acquired scientific knowledge. This two-group comparison study documents the use of student created portfolios in an algebra-based, college-level, introductory physics course. Sixteen students were assessed primarily using a portfolio-style assessment procedure. Nineteen students were assessed primarily using traditional, objective examinations. Both groups were given the same cumulative, multiple-choice final examination. All students completed a pre- and post-self-report survey of achievement in physics. There were no significant differences in learner achievement between the two groups on the final examination or on the self-report of achievement given before and after instruction. Analysis of two focus group discussions did, however, suggest that students assessed by portfolios feel less anxious about learning physics, devote considerable time to reading and studying outside of class, internalize and personalize the content material, and enjoy the learning experience. The results of this study suggest that portfolio-style assessment procedures support student achievement at least at the same level as traditional assessment procedures and appear to have additional benefits.
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