The Effectiveness of Portfolios as Chemistry Teaching and Learning Tools

Takawira Kazembe, Emori Hungwe



The science student portfolio was used to replace the test book in the teaching and learning of O’level chemistry at a school in a high density suburb of Gweru, Midlands Province, Zimbabwe, throughout the first term of 2008. Data was collected through the portfolio, observations and interviews. The portfolios, constructed by the students with the help of the researcher, became the richest sources of data in this case study, giving information about students’ social and academic backgrounds, how students were learning, and how they were interacting with the portfolio as a new instructional tool. The students initially perceived the researcher as tough, strict and unkind, like the other chemistry teachers at the school. Chemistry was perceived as difficult, involving lots of mathematics, confusing experiments and reactions which were difficult to comprehend. Besides, students could not readily appreciate why the portfolio replaced the traditional test book. The negative perceptions, however, vanished as students realized that the portfolios provided appropriate platforms for motivation, opportunity for self-directed learning and self-reflection, responsibility for students’ own learning, goal-setting, and opportunity for research. It provided all stakeholders (parents, guardians, school administration) with a platform to participate in the students’ education. By the end of the term, the portfolio had emerged as an authentic means to identify students’ conceptions and misconceptions before and after teaching and learning situations. Comparison of forms 3E(portfolio participants) and 3D (control) test results made students, parents, guardians and the school administration wish the project could be extended to other areas of the school curriculum.


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