If we wind the clock back to last year, I discussed parent involvement through commenting in eportfolios in my research report…
Having parents comment and provide feedback is one of the main benefits described by the teachers … they expressed their disappointment in the lack of comments from some families. In particular the parental involvement from the year 5 and 6 parents was on the whole significantly lower than the year 3 and 4 parents. As of the end of the second term of using the web based eportfolios, the year 3 and 4 parents commented a total of 100 times contrasting to the year 5 and 6 parents who commented only 55 times.
What is most significant is that 34 of 55 year 5 and 6 parent comments were for 3 students only and 14 students had no comments at all. In the year 3 and 4 class, 6 students had received no parental comments.
Jumping forward to 2009, little has changed. As of today, only five out of my 30 students have received comments about their learning from their parents. While I will be the first to admit that I have not actively facilitated this so far, I was hoping for a natural increase from last year due to the an increased awareness and familiarity now with the online portfolios. We have sent home a letter, outlining the student’s URLs and login details but it seems that this had little impact.
Why is this? The authenticity and immediacy of sharing learning as it is created and receiving feedback from the stakeholders in the student’s learning has often been discussed at our school as one of the main benefits of online eportfolios. But if it is not happening, what are the possible reasons?
- Do parents have the time to sit down and view the shared learning? Having access 24/7 from anywhere only contributes to more time and flexibility. One would think this is increased due to learning being uploaded as it happens rather than all at once at the end of the term when traditional portfolios are ‘sent’ home.
- Do parents have the technical knowledge to leave a comment? My belief is that the parent should always view the portfolio with their child. While parents can and do look at the learning independently of their children, the true value comes from it being a social experience. Asking questions, probing for deeper understanding, praise etc and give some constructive feedback in the form of a comment. The student can act as a teacher and guide their parents through the process of leaving comments removing this possible barrier.
- Do parents know how to give quality feedback? Parents are great at praising their child’s learning but are they knowledgeable about how to give feedback that leads to improved learning? The comments received to date, including last year, support the idea that parents do not or don’t know how to feed forward. Do they understand the purpose of the learning that is being demonstrated?
- Are parents of Year 3/4 students generally more involved in the learning of their children than Year 5/6? The data would support this claim but perhaps it is a bit early to make a definitive call. Will closely monitor this data but always mindful of the quantity vs. quality of comments.
- Is access to computers and broadband inhibiting parents ability to fully view and leave comments? I know this is the case for a few families but not all.
- Are parents just not as excited as I am in the potential of these online environments to enhance learning? Quite possibly! But I believe strongly in this so I will persevere!
The good news is that this issue forms the basis of my teacher inquiry for the year and already a few strategies are planned for Term 2. I will post more thoughts in the next day or two.
Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/torres21/