Changing the Assessment Paradigm: Using Student Portfolios to Assess Learning from Simulations


  • Katrina A. Zalatan


Evaluating the complex mix of learning from computer-based simulations is a significant challenge. Most faculty employ traditional, teacher-centered assessment methods. In 1996, we changed our management curriculum from traditional lecture-based courses to a sequence of simulation-based courses, with simulation-related assessment accounting for 60 to 90% of students' course grades. Our evaluation methods, however, continued to be traditional. In 1998, we added electronic portfolios to every junior course for 20 to 30% of each course grade. Portfolios enabled students to demonstrate complex competencies learned from simulations regardless of their results. Students perceived increased engagement, increased responsibility, and better preparation for job seeking. Instructors gained more complete and more authentic information to assess student competence, and they observed increased reflection—a skill critical for lifelong learning and professional growth. Despite increased time and effort, both students and faculty overwhelmingly endorsed continuing course portfolios as part of the junior curriculum, expanding their use into the senior curriculum, and supporting the development of career portfolios.