Tag Archives: commenting

ePortfolios: Parent Engagement 2

As I see it, trying to get more parents on board and participating in commenting and providing feedback in their child’s eportfolio has two distinct parts.

Firstly, and certainly a prerequisite to anything else, is getting parents online. Once they are online and viewing learning, then leaving any kind of comment is the first step. Then and only then can we begin to work on developing quality comments that provide feedback for improving learning.

Developing quality feedback in parents is the second part of the equation. Is it realistic? Achievable? Involving parents in elearning to support achievement has certainly been discussed in many reports and publications including Enabling the 21st Century Learner: An e-Learning Action Plans for Schools (PDF);

Research shows that parents who are involved in their children’s learning, and encourage their children to be the best they can be, make a real and positive difference to how their children learn.  The influence and involvement of parents and whanau, in addition to effective teachers, has a significant positive impact on how well students achieve.

It goes on to stay;

Schools need to work with families, whanau, and their communities to foster understanding of how to use ICT effectively in learning. ICT provides new possibilities for following students’ progress and engagement…

So the justification is there, and it perfectly compliments the principles of formative teaching and learning which is alive and strong in our school.

So where now? My first approach will be to use the students as teachers. By utilising their technical know-how, their understanding of the purpose behind the learning and the crucial component of them being their to sharing their learning with their parents, they are in the prime position for facilitating the change and making a difference. Here’s some of what I plan to do to make it happen.

  • Specifically plan for increased peer/buddy/critical friend written feedback in eportfolios. These strategies are well used in class already but making a conscious effort to plan for and make time for it to take place is necessary. Students (and teachers!) need plenty of practice in writing and giving quality feedback. If the students are going to guide their parents with this they need to be giving prompts, asking questions and other feedback strategies.
  • Continue to model effective teacher feedback on learning in class and through eportfolios. My role is ever important and as I model commenting and giving quality feedback this will set an example for both parents and students to follow and use when constructing their own feedback. Just as we use quality exemplars of learning to guide students to success in their learning, effective modeling will set the expectations for others to follow.
  • Facilitate/build capacity for students as teachers/guides in process. This is where I am aiming and the two previous points contribute to this. However I think more deliberate discussions around feedback, parent involvement, knowing how to get better at what you are doing, and students becoming teachers themselves will really build capacity in this area.

That’s what rolls off the top of my mind at the moment. Hopefully no glaring gaps in my thinking…

One thing I have failed to mention so far is that last year while I was completing my research, an honours student was simultaneously carry out a research project around our eportfolios and how they were involving parents in the learning of their children. This research may well answer some of the why questions relating to parents engagement. I have not read the final copy of this research but will hopefully grab a copy of it in the next week and post some of the results. Should be interesting reading.

Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/torres21/

ePortfolios: Parent Engagement

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/