Proposal for Developing a Portfolio System in Laboratory Sciences

Written by J. Isabel and funded for Summer '95

I. THIS SECTION is cut from this version of the proposal.


This project will develop a portfolio method to assess communication skills for the Clinical Laboratory Sciences (CLS) program. The definition of a student portfolio is a purposeful collection of student work that tells the story of the student's efforts, progress and achievement in a given area. It must include student participation in selection of portfolio content, the criteria for selection, the criteria for judging merit and evidence of self-reflection. (Arte, 1992).

Since portfolio assessment has not yet been used by this program, a schedule of proposed communication related assignments by semester will be outlined for the 1995-96 academic year. The process will begin with a compilation of all 200 and 300 level CLS course assignments, both written and oral, and evaluation criteria. Respective faculty members will be asked to indicate desired communication related student outcomes with specific course assignments. These outcomes will serve as grading criteria when developing the scoring scale to be used by faculty assessing the portfolios. The scoring scale will be designed similar to the holistic scoring scale used by the English Department. The descriptors for the scale will be based on CLS faculty criteria for communication assignments. The purpose of the portfolio system design is to provide students and faculty with detailed instructions for compilation and evaluation of portfolios, such that upon review, portfolio contents will provide data for assessment of communication skills. Expected content of the portfolio will be planned by semester, consistent with current coursework, and will be evaluated at the end of the junior and senior years. The assessment data will be used at a later time to compare employer expectations of communication skills in entry level practitioners to outcomes achieved by program graduates. Information obtained by this project will be used to assess the development of communication skills as students progress through the junior and senior years and the role of course assignments in enhancing those skills. Curricular changes will be recommended to the program faculty when applicable.


Portfolios are being used as instructional tools to promote development and application of criteria, self-reflection, attention to audience and responsibility for learning.(Arte, 1992). They also can be used by faculty to generate new ideas about assignments and teaching. Portfolios give a way of measuring higher levels of cognitive processing and communication production skills that are difficult to measure in standardized tests. (Aitken, 1993). The purpose of this project is to structure a master plan for the CLS program to begin assessment of communication and critical thinking skills using the portfolio method. A portfolio is a collection of data about a student's growth and development of skills over a significant period of time. The CLS curriculum includes a 200 level introductory course which will serve as the cornerstone for this project. Students enrolled in this class will receive the guidelines and format, developed during the study period, for assembling the portfolio. Content will include the student's assignments from this class along with those of the required 300 and 400 level courses. Faculty will perform the assessment on each student's work according to the scoring scale of descriptors which will be developed as part of this project. Additionally, an instrument will be developed to be sent in the future to employers of CLS graduates to determine the correlation between the CLS curriculum and employer's expectations of entry level practitioners in communication skills.

The CLS program curriculum includes an Introductory course (AHLS 211) which is usually taken in the Sophomore year following the freshman core general education requirements. This course gives the student a preview of the indepth study which will follow in the next two years. The junior year, referred to as the PreClinical year, includes six 300 level courses, three each semester, focusing on specific Clinical Laboratory Science disciplines. With this controlled course progression, development of writing and communication skills can be tracked through multiple courses over a period of time. The senior year, Clinical, is spent at affiliated hospital Schools of Clinical Laboratory Sciences. Students earn 400 level credit for courses, and experience the role of the CLS in hospital practice. Communication skill development continues with an emphasis on the ability to express highly technical information in a clear manner to a variety of audiences, such as nurses, patients, physicians, administrators, and other health professionals. Activities promoting growth in cognitive, psychomotor and professional skills will be shared with faculty and fellow students at a required capstone Management/Education Seminar to be held the last week of the spring semester.A. METHODOLOGY

The subjects of this project will be CLS students who are taking AHLS 211: Introduction to Clinical Laboratory Sciences in the Fall of 1994 and those students who are continuing in AHLS 300, 310, 302, 310, 336, 344 and 400 level courses. The group of AHLS 211 enrollees will begin compilation of a portfolio which will be evaluated in May 1996. Each new group of CLS students thereafter will be given guidelines in the 211 class for the process of assembling the portfolio. There will be a maximum of 24 students each year who will be assessed in the spring semester of the junior and senior year. Guidelines will be refined as deemed necessary following the first portfolio review in May 1996.


1. Request CLS faculty to submit copies of all syllabi including written and oral assignments, evaluation criteria used for each assignment and its percentage weight on the course grade. Ask each faculty member to relate desired communication related student outcomes to specific course assignments.

2. Request Clinical Site Coordinators to submit a copy of all written and oral assignments, evaluation criteria used for each assignments and its percentage weight on the course grade.

3. Construct a timeline of assignments given each semester to aide the students in compiling the portfolios.

4. Develop a memorandum to hand out to each student stating the purpose and the exact procedures to be followed in compiling the portfolios.

5. Meet with CLS faculty to present the purpose and advantages of implementing the portfolio assessment design. Receive faculty input regarding the development of portfolio evaluation criteria.

6. Design a scoring scale with descriptors following the holistic scoring format that will be used by CLS faculty to evaluate the portfolios in May 1996 and each year thereafter.

7. Meet with students to explain the guidelines and criteria for portfolio assessment. Distribute folders to be used in assembling their writing assignments and self-evaluations.

8. Implement portfolio evaluation assessment for CLS junior and senior classes in May 1996.

9. Develop a survey instrument to be sent to employers of program graduates which will determine employee expectations regarding written and verbal communication skills.


Individual student portfolio assessment data will be compared with information gathered from employers by the survey instrument. Statistical Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) will be used to determine if there is a relationship between undergraduate communication and critical thinking assignments and employer expectations for communication skills. ANOVA will be used to compare other variables such as student gender, age, race, grade point average and enrollment status to portfolio assessment outcomes.


Today's health care environment is being shaped by economic, regulatory and technologic forces. (Mass, 1993). The delivery of laboratory services is changing and with it, the role of the Clinical Laboratory Scientist. To fulfill the new functions and roles, CLS must expand their knowledge and practice. The skill of effective communication is a primary requirement for disseminating diagnostic information, management, education, and consulting. Educators must teach the many facets of communication in both formal and informal ways. (Karni, 1988). Current writing across the curriculum (WAC) teaching strategies of the CLS program include giving assignments such as news reviews, memos, abstracts of scientific articles, oral presentations with outlines, test question development, laboratory procedures, case study analysis and problem solving. Over the past three years these assignments have been given to promote the development of student's communication skills. Individual faculty evaluations are made on each assignment, but to this date there has been no formal assessment of the overall communication skills of students, individually or as composite group. It is important that a model plan be implemented to determine the strengths or weaknesses of the writing/critical thinking assignments. This information will assist the faculty in designing objectives, future assignments, and teaching strategies. The current program goals for the critical thinking/writing assignments are as follows:


Advantages of using portfolios include student and faculty empowerment. For students, the educational function emphasizes the student's learning process, requires self-evaluation that leads to self-knowledge, increases self-esteem as a student compiles information about his/her growth and accomplishments and improves skills when a student recognizes his/her competencies that need improvement. Portfolios help students make sense of their education as they prepare for the future. For faculty, portfolios generate new ideas about assignments and teaching. They open up dialogue about strategies by showing concrete examples and are department controlled, program specific.(Aitken, 1993). A presentation of this project will be made at a CLS faculty meeting to explain the role of the students and faculty. Recommendations for a faculty review committee to assess the portfolios will be considered. Development of a written scoring protocol will ensure reliability of portfolio assessment. The faculty will be able to assess each student on his/her own merit, looking at the growth and initiative expressed in the portfolio papers. This model will provide a means for recognizing the degree of success with which the program is meeting the goals for developing communication skills. The outcome of this model will be shared with other CLS professionals through national meeting presentations and journals.


For the past three years I have been involved with WAC in the 300 level CLS courses. I have co-presented this topic along with a colleague at the state and national professional meeting. The process of developing this kind of assessment depends on negotiations and adjustments by program faculty. It also builds community by encouraging and emphasizing collaboration among faculty participants.(Roemer & Schultz, 1991). My responsibilities in the CLS department include managing the student laboratory. I have experienced cooperation between faculty members to accomplish this task and feel that implementation of the new assessment design will be positively received. I am also serving as Laboratory Director for the Tri County Community Health Center. This position has allowed for collaboration with faculty of the School of Nursing. Through conversations with Dr. Sara Barger of the School of Nursing and Dale Sullivan, WAC Coordinator for the English Department, the idea for a joint proposal, among all the health disciplines, looking at student critical thinking assessment, could lead to exciting interdepartment tracking of communication skills.


The portions of the project to be completed this summer are development of a timeline for the 1995-96 academic year focusing on content to be added to the portfolio from each course, designing a scoring scale to be used in the portfolio assessment, and development of a survey instrument to be sent to CLS graduate employers.


The applicant has become very interested in the role of undergraduate writing across the curriculum as an indicator of future career success. The program goals and objectives can be better obtained by incorporating what has already been done with the portfolio assessment method.

Portfolios promote high standards and consistency among teachers. Pilot studies done at the University of Cincinnati received positive responses from many students. (Roemer & Schultz,1991). They attested to the benefits of seeing their progress over time and developed a greater sense of responsibility and thoughtfulness about their own progress. The potential for student learning and program improvement outweigh any disadvantages there might be. The model design will be shared with other CLS professionals through manuscript for publication and professional organization presentations. The possibility of future collaboration projects with faculty of the School of Nursing will be investigated by the applicant.


The applicant is a new tenure track faculty member and has not previously applied for grants.


The applicant has not previously applied for non-University support.


Drafke, Michael (1994) Working in Health Care, What You Need to Know to Succeed. F.A.Davis, Philadelphia, PA. Contributor to Instructor's Manual.

Isabel, J.M. (1994, Aug) Sputum Collection Crossword-A Fun Way to Inservice. Submitted to ADVANCE for Medical Lab Professionals

Cearlock, D.M. & Isabel, J.M. (1994, June) Incorporating the Development of Traditional Composition & Reading Skills into the CLS Curriculum. Presentation given at the National Meeting of the American Society of Clinical Laboratory Scientists. Nashville, TN.

Cearlock, D.M. & Isabel, J.M. (1993, April) Incorporating Writing Across the Curriculum into the CLS Program. Presentation given at the Illinois-Missouri Clinical Laboratory Scientists Meeting. St.Louis, MO.


1. Arte, J.A. (1992, April). Portfolios in Practice: What is a Portfolio? Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association. San Francisco, CA.

2. Aitken, J.E. (1993, April). Empowering students and faculty through portfolio assessment. Paper presented st the Annual Meeting of the Central States Communication Association. Lexington, KY.

3. Karni, K.R. & Seanger, D.G. (1988). Management Skills Needed by Entry-Level Practitioners. Clinical Laboratory Science. 1:296-300.

4. Mass, D. (1993). Medical Technologists of the Future: New Practice, New Service, New Functions. Laboratory Medicine. 24:402-406.

5. Roemer, M. & Schultz, L.M. (1991). Portfolios and the Process of Change. College Composition and Communication. 42:455-469.

6. Arter, J.A. (1990). Using portfolios in instruction and assessment. Northwest Regional Educational Lab.

7. Stern, C. (1991, March). Writing portfolios: A resource for teaching and assessment. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Conference on College Composition and Communication. Boston, MA.

8. Belanoff, P. & Elbow, P.(1991). Using Portfolios to Increase Collaboration and Community in a Writing Program. Portfolios: Process and Product. In P.Belanoff & M. Dickson (Ed.) Portsmouth:Boyton/Cook. pp 17-36.

9. Hunter, L.L. & LoSciuto, L. (1993). Employer's Expectations of Career-Entry Competencies. Laboratory Medicine. 24:420-424.

10. Sullivan, A.M. & Chickering, E.J. (1990). Teaching Research Concepts in a Medical Technology Curriculum. Laboratory Medicine. 21:757-759.