Understanding Assessment as Learning in Writing Classrooms: The Case of Portfolio Assessment

Document Type: Original Article


Department of Education Studies, Hong Kong Baptist University


In response to global assessment reforms, using assessment for learning (AfL) in various education jurisdictions is on the rise. However, using assessment as learning (AaL) appears to enjoy a low profile in language learning in general and in L2 writing in particular. To this end, the paper intends to describe what AaL is in relation to AfL, argue for its pedagogical values when applied in L2 writing classrooms, and propose suggestions on how to include AaL into existing curriculum and policy. The paper has three constructive outcomes. First, it provides scholars with a unifying and explicit notion of AaL. Second, it adds new insights to research that AaL is theoretically sound and pedagogically viable in the writing assessment landscape. Third, AaL is considered a much-needed twenty-first century study skill for life-long learning.
The paper is structured into five sections. The first part introduces the origin, features, purposes of AaL in relation to AfL, followed by the aim of the paper. The second part discusses the theoretical underpinnings of AaL using the theories of formative assessment and self-regulated learning, emphasizing the significance of internal feedback in learning writing. The third part delineates various writing assessment trends, depicting a paradigm shift from large-scale to individualized assessments. The fourth part adopts portfolio assessment of writing as a case, describing its definition, application, characteristics and examples of putting AaL into practice, and addressing issues when portfolio assessment is utilized to promulgate AaL. The final part of the paper revisits whether the goals of the paper are fulfilled, and proposes how to improve teaching and learning of writing by synergizing assessment of learning (AoL), AfL and AaL.