I have spent the last three days working with the Nga Tii Roa Learning Cluster in the Bay of Plenty. The schools involved (Otamarakau, Pongakawa, Rangiuru, Te Ranga, Pukehina and Paengaroa) are currently part of an EHSAS cluster focusing on enhancing writing standards and assessment for learning. They are interested in using eportfolios to help facilitate this development.
This was a follow up visit from a teacher who attended my ULearn08 workshop last month. We began with an after school session for the whole cluster and then day two was spent with lead teachers and those with a particular interest in developing eportfolios within their schools. A couple of teachers also joined us from Lynmore School.
This proved to be a valuable session with lots of discussion about the purpose of the eportfolios and looking at the best tool for the job. I used the following slides to generate a discussion on how an eportfolio has multiple purposes due to the different perspectives that the stakeholders bring. Before you can select the appropriate tool you need to make sure it meets all of the purposes. Fit the tool to the purpose not mould your purpose to fit the tool. The third slide shows the criteria we used when selecting our eportfolio tool.
This all came from several other discussions I have had when talking about Dr Helen Barrett’s portfolio characteristics. Here she describes portfolios that have characteristics of assessment for learning or those of assessment of learning. She advocates in this white paper that in order for a portfolio to be formative the:
Purpose of portfolio agreed upon with learner.
I argue that it is not this concise and that the purpose of a portfolio is multi-dimesional. The purpose of a portfolio for a parent can be significantly different than the teacher and students. This is particularly so with younger students who see the purpose of the portfolio to, “Show Mum and Dad what I have been learning.” Trying to negotiate and agree on the purpose of the portfolio as being an embedded tool that helps them to become self-regulating and self-directed in their learning is a little to abstract for them.
Our eportfolios fulfil a number of purposes and not all of these the student can articulate but this does not make them less formative. They are still student-centered and student-directed and feed forward to improving student learning. They are eportfolios that facilitate assessment for learning despite the fact that the purpose is not necessarily agreed upon with the learner.
Was is important is that the teacher, who facilitates the process, bases what is happening on sound pedagogical strategies and while the student may not understand or see this purpose until they are older and more aware of their learning, it under pins the whole process.
One thing that is certain is that Barrett’s comparison of digital portfolios that are either formative or summative never fail to generate a good discussion.
I also had the opportunity to work with the Te Puke Principal’s Association giving them an overview of my research and the outcomes. We had difficulty establishing an Internet connection on their machines so we used a Hot Potatoes quiz I had saved locally instead of a Google Docs form. Some of them wanted to use this with their staff so here it is.