Category Archives: Assessment for Learning

Look no further than Google Apps for eportfolios?

Helen Barrett in her latest blog entry has made a big claim regarding Google Apps, formative assessment and eportfolios.

I am now convinced that in GoogleApps (Sites, Docs, etc.) I have found the best free Web 2.0 tool for maintaining an online personal learning environment that can be used for formative assessment in education.

I have a lot of respect for Helen Barrett and have used and referenced her work and research many times. However on this occasion, I do not fully agree.

Google Apps are fantastic. They continue to offer new apps and improve on existing ones all for free. I would be lost without my gmail, docs, calendar and reader. If you were to take a snapshot of my personal learning environment (PLE) and time spent in various web 2.0 tools, GoogleApps would far and away take up the largest slice of the pie.

However, my experiences with Google Sites as a means for pulling together all the strands of an eportfolio for the students at our school, were not entirely successful. I base these thoughts on the set of criteria we developed in order to select the eportfolio tool that best fit what we required to support teaching and learning.

If I take one of the criteria, based on the concept that viewers should not have to click links and download files, it should just be there, embedded waiting for the play button to be clicked…

Ability to demonstrate learning: The ePortfolio solution needs to be able to display (show within the portfolio not provide a link to file) all the possible media that the students will generate or want to share. This includes but is not limited to: podcasts and movies (m4v, m4a, mov), documents (pdf), images (jpg, png, gif) and embedding Web 2.0 content.

In my experiences with Google Sites, this is not possible. Embedding Web 2.0 content just doesn’t seem to work, apart from Google related products. This has caused me many frustrating moments as the embed code is stripped for other content. Again, Google Sites is a great product but are we trying to fit an eportfolio in a package that doesn’t really work?

Regarding the statement of GoogleApps and formative assessment, any tool that supports feedback, reflection and commenting can theoretically support formative practice. However, when one looks at Barrett’s process for developing eportfolios using Google Sites, what I believe is one of the most important aspects of a formative eportfolio, the student acting on feedback and their own assessments to improve their learning, only gets a passing comment at the very end.

The portfolio developer should be given the option of updating the work, based on the feedback and the rubric.

I see formative assessment as being cyclic in nature with the student action as I described above central to the process. After all, self-direction and self-regulation by the student are two very important outcomes. The following diagram (click for larger version) was developed to reinforce this point as part of the big picture of developing eportfolios for learning.

So what do you think? Is the student action component as important as I believe? Are the GoogleApps really the best solution despite my reservations? Let me know!

eLearning and ePortfolios

I presented to a group of Hawke’s Bay principals today on how how my research and implementation of eportfolios is beginning to effectively pull together the strands of elearning, assessment for learning and the NZ Curriculum. This will be increasingly so as the process of facilitating learning through eportfolios is increasingly embedded in the teaching and learning process.

eLearning ePortfolios

View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: assessment formative)

When putting this presentation together I used the coloured pencil as a visual metaphor for the themes and elements of elearning, assessment for learning and the NZ Curriculum. There are lots of different coloured pencils out there just like there are lots of options for designing your schools curriculum delivery model…

Developing Digital Portfolios

I have just read this article:

Developing digital portfolios: investigating how digital portfolios can facilitate pupil talk about learning.
Kate Wall, Steve Higgins, Jen Miller and Nick Packard
Centre for Learning and Teaching, University of Newcastle, UK.

Technology, Pedagogy and Education
Vol. 15, No. 3, October 2006, pp. 261-273

As part of this research project I read a lot of articles in the areas of eportfolios and assessment for learning. Like anything you read, be it a magazine article, novel, or newspaper, as you are reading you can immediately connect (or not) with the text and message. This article was one of those. Throughout reading it I found myself nodding my head and murmuring consent to the ideas and concepts it was discussing as they mirrored some of the central aims of my research.

If you are interested in eportfolios, assessment for learning and thinking skills I thoroughly recommend you source a copy of this article.

Some ideas the conclusions that grabbed the attention of my highlighter:

The combination of a digital portfolio and thinking skills has been revealed to be a powerful one with plenty of scope for development in the primary classroom.

The reflective nature of the pupils’ comments regarding their learning and achievement as part of the digital portfolio gives valuable evidence to support formative assessment theory.

…a digital portfolio has the potential to create independent learners who are responsible for the collection of their own evidence of achievements across the curriculum and this process has impact on the pupils and how they perceive themselves and their learning.

Another couple of reasons why this research interested my was that it included many quotes from students. The students’ voice really gave the article added authenticity for me and less academic blah.

Finally, the fact that this research was undertaken with primary aged children was a breath of fresh air as the majority of research and published articles are predominantly secondary of tertiary education based.

AtoL – Assess to Learn

The Assess to Learn Professional Development Project (AtoL) is designed to provide in-depth professional learning to teachers and leaders in the principles of assessment for learning.

A publication, National Education Findings of Assess to Learn (AtoL) Report, has recently been released on the Education Counts web site, describing the impact of the AtoL project.

As this research project and blog (Russell Street School ePortfolios) is based on enhancing assessment for learning through ePortfolios, the outcomes of this study are both valuable and interesting.

The four key outcomes of AtoL are to:

  • • improve student learning and achievement
  • • shift teachers’ knowledge and assessment practice
  • • develop coherence between assessment processes, practices and systems in classrooms and in schools so that they promote better learning
  • • demonstrate a culture of continuous school improvement.

To briefly summarise the findings…

1. Improving student learning and achievement:

Students whose teachers had focused their professional learning on reading and writing showed achievement shifts that were greater than the national expectations…

Students became more confident in understanding what they were learning and why. They were able to articulate learning intentions and success criteria. In many classes, students were also becoming more aware of self and peer assessment.

2. Shifting teachers’ knowledge and assessment practice:

Teachers gave targeted feedback to students. They relied less on praise alone and increased their emphasis on giving feedback that focused on the learning and next steps. Teachers became more focused on differentiating learning for individual students.

3. Develop coherence between assessment processes, practices and systems in classrooms and in schools so that they promote better learning

 …most teachers were clearer and more precise about what they were teaching and regularly reflected with students about their learning and progress. Teacher feedback to students specified achievement related to criteria, next steps and why the learning was relevant and worthwhile. Teachers demonstrated clear links between planning, learning and formative assessment.

4. Demonstrate a culture of continuous school improvement.

The combination of staff meetings, team meetings, classroom observation and one to one support, along with input from professional readings, ensured that schools were able to make significant shifts in teacher knowledge and confidence in the use of formative assessment practices. 

The report end by stating,

Involvement in AtoL resulted in significant shifts in learning and achievement for the majority of students, and shifts in professional learning and pedagogical practice for most teachers involved.

Great! I am pleased to hear that as that gives more substance and authenticity to what we are trying to achieve with our ePortfolio project.

Download the full report here to get further more detailed information and analysis.

What’s in a name?

Using the term portfolio or eportfolio carries with it certain connotations. Historically, portfolios were the domain of the artist or designer who would showcase their best work. Unfortunately, I still feel that that concept of the portfolio still exists in education as their sole purpose. While the ‘best work’ portfolio certainly has a place, and you will certainly see some best work demonstrated in our portfolios, the purpose of the portfolio is far deeper.

Literature will describe portfolios as developmental, assessment or showcase, or additionally personal, feedback, accountability or presentation portfolios. The understanding that portfolios, especially in the context of primary education as ours are, facilitate assessment for learning as opposed to assessment of learning is paramount to their implementation. The developmental, personal or feedback portfolios described above certainly describes the desirable attributes of active reflection and collaboration that supports learning through portfolios. But still the idea of the portfolio ‘construction’ process being more beneficial than the product is still a mystery to some.

So are our concepts of portfolios tied to the name?

In a recent discussion with other teachers, one of them mentioned that the name eportfolio didn’t really describe the examples of student eportfolios he had seen on his visit to our school. I am starting to agree with that more and more.

So how else to label them? Here is a selection of current terms.

  • ePortfolio/e-Portfolio
  • webfolio
  • blogfolio
  • eJournal/electronic journal
  • learning log
  • PLE
  • digital portfolio
  • eSelf
  • digital archive
  • My E
  • digital repository
  • eDOL

Do any of these sum up the purpose? Do they imply the integration of tools such as tags and RSS? Do they reinforce traditional concepts? How do you refer to yours?

My goal is to come up with the most appropriate term to name our learning and reflection contained within our WordPress site, currently named ePortfolios. Ideas?

ePortfolio Presentation

Today the Wellington Apple Bus Tour visited Russell Street School as part of its tour of Wellington, Masterton and Palmerston North schools to see ICT in action.

It is always a pleasure and an honour to share and discuss what we value in our school and also give the students the opportunity to present their learning to a new audience.

I had the responsibility of sharing the school’s background and development in ePortfolios, where this may be headed in the future and an overview of my research – all in no more than 20 minutes!

I remembered this post from Ewan McIntosh’s blog:

…so in future TeachMeets the rule of No PowerPoints will stand, of course, but be coupled with “anything you want to show must be online and linked to from the TeachMeet wiki page“.

A great concept and one that more conference organisers and speakers should adopt. So here is the presentation… sorry no audio commentary.

Let me know if anything needs further explanation.

Portfolios and Assessment for Learning Quiz

When discussing my research with interested people one of the easiest ways for me to demonstrate a concept we are trying to achieve with the ePortfolios can be best illustrated by comparing portfolios that are assessments OF learning against those that are assessments FOR learning.

Dr Helen Barrett discusses this in her publication White Paper: Researching Electronic Portfolios and Learner Engagement.

To engage an audience in this concept I often ask them to complete a quiz based on Dr Barrett’s comparisons.

While usually I would use Hot Potatoes for this, I have been experimenting with various other online quiz solutions.

Here are a couple to get you started. How well do you know the difference?


Assessment OF or FOR Learning? from MyStudiyo


Assessment OF or FOR Learning? from PurposeGames


Assessment OF or FOR Learning? using J-Match from Hot Potatoes