The Portfolio-Based Language Assessment (PBLA): Suitable for Adult Learners?

Calisto Mudzingwa


The Portfolio-Based Language Assessment (PBLA) literature explicitly states the suitability of using PBLA in English as an additional language (EAL) learning contexts. An underlying assumption is that it is also suitable for adult learners. This paper tests this assumption by comparing PBLA against the assumptions and principles of andragogy—a theory of adult learning. Andragogy was chosen as the yardstick because it created a portrait of adult learners and adult learning that is still considered a cornerstone of the best practices in adult education (Merriam, 2001). Akin to andragogy, which states how adults need to be involved in the planning and evaluation of their instruction, PBLA involves participants in the planning and evaluation of their learning via needs assessments, peer- and self-assessments, goal-setting, and student-teacher progress conferences. Furthermore, like andragogy, which highlights how adult learners want to learn things that have immediate application, PBLA assesses participants on content that is of immediate relevance to their personal lives. Finally, similar to andragogy, PBLA allows participants to draw from their life experiences during the learning process. After comparing PBLA and andragogy, the conclusion is that in its totality, PBLA is consistent with andragogy—and therefore suitable for adult learners.


Portfolio; Portfolio-Based Assessment; LINC; ESL; EAL; Andragogy; Adult education;

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