The “A” Word-Using ePortfolios

In how people learn on November 26, 2010 at 8:57 am

The “A” word is Assessment. I blogged about it a couple of days ago and noted that I’d talk about my foray into ePortfolios.

I am reminded of the saying “something old is new again” (although I can’t recall it’s source….). At one point in my children’s education, portfolios was popular.  Some of  you may recall that period. My children were asked to collect their papers to present to teachers and outsiders to evaluate their work. I recall at least one of my children had a porfolio filled with crumpled papers that demonstrated that he wasn’t as concerned with appearance as content!

ePortfolios are based on similar principles. In October, 2010, I had the opportunity to attend a conference at which Dr. Helen Barrett, preeminate expert on ePortfolios, made a presentation.  ePortfolios can be used as formative and/or summative assessments. Dr. Barrett summarizes ePortfolios as ” an electronic collection of evidence that shows your learning journey over time. Portfolios can relate to specific academic fields or your lifelong learning. Evidence may include writing samples, photos, videos, research projects, observations by mentors and peers, and/or reflective thinking. The key aspect of an eportfolio is your reflection on the evidence, such as why it was chosen and what you learned from the process of developing your eportfolio.”

I used ePortfolios during a one year period and hope to use them again in the Spring 2011 semester in at least one class. I used Mahara, an open source ePortfolio system. I used the ePortfolio to (1)encourage student self reflection on their learning as related to the course learning outcomes and (2)encourage student reflection on the work in my course and other courses as they related to the overall mission of the school. I’m currently compiling the results of that use, but the results were mixed, as indicated by the following table.

Table-ePortfolio Student ReactionI still have a great deal of work to do to use ePortfolios to more effectively support assessment, self-assessment and metacognition. But I have great hopes that they can be used, in conjunction with other assessment tools, to reliably and validly assess learning.

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