Inquiry Learning – just good 'old fashioned' effective pedagogy…

I am a big fan of inquiry learning and welcomed the opportunity to attend a full day workshop with Kath Murdoch last week.

I unreservedly support an inquiring classroom… however I am not a big fan of inquiry models. I am sure you know what I am referring to, normally some kind of cyclical or linear process to follow and guide inquiries in learning.  It may seem a bit contradictory, how can you ‘do’ inquiry without a model, but the workshop with Kath only reinforced this for me.

To support my point of view I am going to refer the notes that I made during the workshop but I am going to remove any reference to inquiry. When you do this the essence of what you are talking about is simply effective learning and effective pedagogical approaches.

Kath discussed four main areas which to her are the foundation of an effective inquiring classroom. My take on these were; relationships, student voice and choice, how are we learning what we are learning? and provoking curiosity. Let’s briefly unpack them:

Relationships

  • Know your students
  • Students finding out about each other
  • Students valued for who they are
  • “Do you know me well enough to teach me?”
  • Respectful connections: student/student, student/teacher
  • Vital in order for students to take risks and colborate
  • Becomes the fabric of an effectively functioning classroom

Student Voice & Choice

  • Students involved in decision making around their learning
  • Students co-constructing learning
  • Different options are provided for learners and their learning
  • Rich learning conversations with prompts for deeper thinking
  • Listening/responding/conferring/prompting
  • Inclusion of ‘passion’ type projects directly related to student curiosities
  • Student voice/choice is deliberately planned for, regular and authentic

How are we learning what we are learning?

  • Visible student goal setting and action plans
  • Clear learning intentions and success criteria
  • Rich in the characteristics of the Key Competencies
  • Looks like: participation, planned, focused, reflective, open minded, questioning,note making/taking, making connections to known/unknown

Provoking curiosity

  • Using objects/resources that provoke curiosity and trigger further learning: fascinating images, compelling texts
  • Deliberate questioning: What are you wondering about? What are you curious about?
  • Making use of any opportunity to ask and answer questions
  • Planned opportunities to model and record curiosities
  • Planned opportunities to reinforce processes, follow-up actions and how to’s

When you look at these characteristics of learning there are a number of elements that I believe are the foundations of effective learning and teaching. There is a clear alignment to the characteristics of assessment for learning through co-construction, learning intentions, success criteria, goal setting and reflections. The concepts of a differentiated and personalised approach are captured by involving students in decision making, having different options and outcomes for learning and allowing students to ask questions and follow their own curiosities. The richness of student voice clearly positions the learner in the middle with their learning built round them as opposed to learning being done to them. Building relationships “knowing where students come from and building on what students bring with them” (Ka Hikitia) is central to a trusting and healthy learning environment.

I would argue that an inquiry model takes the focus away from these attributes of effective pedagogy. It puts the focus on packaging learning up into a formula to be followed. If you were to ask teacher’s what is inquiry learning, what answers would you get? Would you get, “An approach to learning that is rich in student voice, relationships and student understanding of how we are learning what we are learning” or would the responses more likely be, “When students ask questions and find out the answers to their curiosities… oh and there is an action, a social action at the end.”

I am being deliberatley provocative but I think there is substance in the claim that inquiry models blur the essence of what an inquiring classroom is all about. Inquiry to me is just good ‘old fashioned’ effective pedagogy and I don’t need a model to tell me what that looks like.

ePortfolios in the news

There has been a few interesting references made to ePortfolios that have landed in my Reader inbox over the last week or so.

A good contrast too from;

E-portfolios have taken up more conference time and wasted effort than almost any other learning technology topic I can recall.

to

What the portfolio provides is something richer than just a number or a grade… It provides a depth of understanding for both the learner and the observer.

Here’s a selection:

1. E-portfolios – 7 reasons why I don’t want my life in a shoebox

An interesting and provocative blog post outlining some of the reasons why eportfolios have not had any real impact within education and beyond taken perhaps from a narrow point of view. The ongoing discussion in the comments section is great and adds another valuable dimension for using this post to reflect on and ask questions about your eportfolio use and purpose. Well worth a read.

2. E-Portfolios Evolve Thanks to Web 2.0 Tools

On the flip side this article from the Education Week promotes the use of eportfolios as a method of showcasing student progress. It discusses the authentic nature of eportfolios allowing students to showcase their skills and intelligence, discusses the challenges (time and access) and gives examples of Web 2.o tools being used. Perhaps nothing new here but a good affirmation for those practitioners with similar goals and methods.

3. Creating Student e-Portfolios with Google Sites

This resource came through the K12 Eportfolios Google Group, which you may like to consider signing up for. It is a 5 unit Moodle course on creating students eportfolios using Google Sites. Written by Jen Hegna, it is released under a CC Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. Each unit has a Read, Discuss, Activity, Reflect, Evaluate, Checklist learning design sequence and a wide range of relevant and excellent material is used and referenced throughout. A great resource.

4. Do e-Portfolios make a difference to student outcomes?

An interesting question has been posed in the VLN ePortfolio group:

We are wondering what/if any data schools are using to see if an e-Porftfolio is making a difference to student outcomes. Some our teachers are beginning a Teacher Action Inquiry and need some baseline data so we can see if they have make a difference. Any thoughts?

It would be great to see some responses in there to this question. If you are not a member of the Virtual Learning Network (VLN), consider joining and participating in this and other discussion about teaching and learning.

5. Eportfolios – J’accuse

Similar in some ways to the 7 reasons why above, this post from The Ed Techie unpacks a number of issues around institutionalised and over complicated eportfolios. A strong case is made for blogs being a better means of achieving eportfolios than specific eportfolio systems. Also, like above, the comments section is hugely valuable where different points of view are offered and counter arguments reinforced. Another worthwhile read.

Enjoy.

Software agreements for NZ schools and mobile devices

Had a good discussion recently with my old principal at Russell Street School. We were talking about where to next for the school in regards to elearning and supporting infrastructure.

Like many schools, Russell St is exploring the potential of iPod Touches and iPads to support learning. An interesting question was raised in relation to the current and future software agreements. For those of you who are not sure what the agreements are all about, the Ministry of Education negotiates on behalf of schools in NZ, licenses with software vendors, to provide schools with computer operating systems, office suites, anti-virus and web filtering software at no cost to the school.

Before the question is posed, let’s take a moment to look at the anticipated changes to the tools that students and teachers will learn with, moving away from desktops and laptops to smaller mobile devices and increasingly BYOD.

The Horizon Report:

Immensely portable, tablets serve as e-readers, video repositories, and web-browsing devices with instant access to thousands of apps…

CORE’s Ten Trends:

The available choices for staying connected while on the go are many — smart phones, netbooks, laptops, and a wide range of other devices

UNESCO:

…it is likely that mobile devices with internet access and computing capabilities will soon overtake personal computers as the information appliance of choice in the classroom.

So the question is…

When the next software agreements are negotiated, will the increased use of mobile apps be recognised and included in the deal?

Why? Let’s put that question in a context:

A school has trialled the use of iPads and iPods in their school, has realised the potential, seen the impact on teaching and learning, and has aligned their strategic plan and infrastructure purchasing around this. The purchasing over the next 3-5 years will take the school to a position where these devices out number the desktops and laptops in the school. They would like students to be using iMovie, GarageBand, Pages, Numbers & Keynote on these devices (totalling NZ$54.95) i.e. the mobile app equivalents for the same applications the school receives now for no cost  under the current software agreements.

What do you think? The solution of course is complex and is simply not a case negotiating with the Apple reseller here in NZ. Issues already surround  licensing of any apps for NZ schools with a lack of volume licensing among other things, ably outlined in this blog post by CORE colleague @warrenhall.

I know that plenty of you out there will be saying things like AndroidGoogleopen source… and fair enough to in a number of respects.

The point is, new software agreements should reflect current and planned usage and recognise what is clearly an increased use of mobile devices in NZ schools, especially the iPad and iPod Touch.

Appreciative Inquiry

As a national facilitator for the ICTPD programme, I am in a privaledged position, seeing the best of what is happening in schools around NZ. In most schools, teaching as inquiry is used to guide practice, in varying degrees, from the casual “our teachers are constantly inquiring into what they do” to the formalised approach and expectations that the inquiry is documented, mentored and reflected upon.

I favour the formal approach, prioritising teaching as inquiry and embedding it within a schools PLD programme. We know that the NZC outlines teaching as inquiry as being integral to effective pedagogy, well supported by research and it shouldn’t be left to chance.

As teachers inquiry into their practice they focus on 3 questions:

  1. What is important (and therefore worth spending time on), given where my students are at?
  2. What strategies (evidence-based) are most likely to help my students learn this?
  3. What happened as a result of the teaching, and what are the implications for future teaching?

Often this is interpreted as a deficit model, looking at under achieving students or a weak curriculum area within a class or school. Without question these students are priorities for any school and the responsibility to progress these students is non-negotiable.

However, an alternative approach to this is appreciative inquiry, which when embedded in classroom practice has the same intent of raising achievement and outcomes, but takes a different approach:

AI is based on the assumption that organizations change in the way they inquire — an organization that inquires into problems or difficult situations will keep finding more of the same, but an organization that tries to appreciate what is best in itself will find more and more of what works well. Source

AI is framed around a four step process…

  1. DISCOVER: The identification of organizational processes that work well, focusing on strengths, best practices, and values.
  2. DREAM: The envisioning of future states and processes that could work well in the future, given the nature and capabilities of the organization.
  3. DESIGN: The planning, design, and prioritizing of processes and aspects of the organization that could realize the dream.
  4. DESTINY: Implementation planning of the proposed design and action planning to strengthen the capability of the system to sustain ongoing positive change. Source

This table compares a problem solving approach/deficit model to a AI approach, adapted here from a Wikipedia entry. The difference is in the way questions are asked about a situation, envisioning the future and building on what works rather than fixing what doesn’t.

Problem Solving Appreciative Inquiry
Felt Need: Identification of problem/s Appreciating: Valuing the best of what is
Analysis of causes Envisioning what might be
Analysis of possible solutions Dialoguing what should be
Action planning (treatment) Innovating what will be
Basic assumption: A problem to be solved Basic assumption: A miracle to be embraced

What could this mean for you as a teacher or school leader?

  • Both approaches of inquiring into practice have the same intent of improving achievement for both student and teachers.
  • Elements of AI can be embedded into a traditional inquiry into practice where  teachers identify their course of action i.e. What strategies (evidence-based = the best of what is… successful…) are most likely to help my students learn this?
  • AI is known primarily as a process for managing institutional change, so look at the potential of using it beyond classroom practice to the greater goals of the school i.e. appreciative inquiry could work brilliantly when visioning and looking at long term strategic direction for a school, complimented by classroom based teacher inquiries.
  • If you are a high functioning school and consistently have great achievement data try AI to really focus in on why this is happening and how you can build in it
  • Consider trying an alternating scenario where you have a more common deficit inquiry approach one year followed by an appreciative approach the next, or any similar schedule
  • Are your teachers lacking motivation or engagement in unpacking what they are not doing well…? Celebrate success through an AI approach to professional knowledge building

One ICTPD cluster has shared its approach to appreciative inquiry and drafted templates to mould the NZC teaching as inquiry into an AI framework. Have a look on the Te Apiti cluster site to find out more.

This post has only skimmed the surface of what is a really interesting and relevant context for approaching teaching as inquiry with direct links to effectively pedagogy. I would encourage you to explore it further.

Delicious is always a great place to start your search. Try the tags appreciativeinquiry, appreciative_inquiry and appreciative-inquiry & watch the video below:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BqHeujLHPkw

More on Registered Teacher Criteria and Professional ePortfolios

In a previous post I discussed some initial thoughts around a potential relationship between the Registered Teacher Criteria and professional eportfolios. I mentioned teaching as inquiry in the post but not in any great detail about how it might work and look.

So inspired by conversation, feedback and other people’s thinking let’s make that step by taking the Teaching as Inquiry framework, central to effective pedagogy as outlined in the NZC to underpin the process. By starting with teaching as inquiry (TaI) and using it as the foundation for professional appraisal and teacher registration, we are reinforcing the core focus of teaching (and therefore the appraisal & portfolio) to achieve improved outcomes for all students.

Inspired by how Rocky mapped her thinking out I have played around with how the 12 criteria align with teacher inquiry shown below using the graphic from Timperley’s Teacher Professional Learning and Development: Educational Practices Series, p. 26-27). The orange text boxes are the original cycle, with the pink boxes the 12 criteria matched to the best fit stage of the inquiry. The exception being criteria 1, 2 and 3 which to me are more global and integrate throughout hence how they form a mini-cycle in the middle. (I like this graphic over others as it includes specific reference to role of leaders in schools.)

 

Secondly below using the slightly different cycle graphic from Teacher Professional Learning and Development: Best Evidence Synthesis Iteration (BES). Both of these examples are indicative only, and you could argue that some of the criteria fit better with another stage in the inquiry. Would be a good activity to complete with teachers if you were heading down this track…

TaI is a cyclic and ongoing process as teachers continually reflect on their practice within a whole range of levels from micro to bigger global objectives. The diagram is represents that way. I am fully in favour of formalising and in some way recording this process, integrating it into teaching and learning and the school’s professional learning programme. Appraisal systems in place are not always naturally ongoing, responsive, immediate… they are generally summative, ‘completed’ a couple of times a year rather than being living and formative. An exception to this would perhaps be the mentoring of a PRT

So I would want to use the RTC in a cyclic and ongong manner too… and reference it within a professional eportfolio.

So what might that look like in practice when it is captured and shared within an eportfolio?

You could take an approach similar to this Mahara/MyPortfolio template. While this approach is very functional and mirrors a traditional ‘filling out a document’ approach, its strength would be in the ability to provide feedback to the teacher within MyPortfolio but I have a lot of unanswered questions regarding its use. In a worse case scenario, this approach could just become something you complete when your rego is due or within the performance management process, you just share it with your appraiser when required. It doesn’t directly reinforce the benefits of TaI nor show an ongoing cycle of reflection and next steps.

If I were in a postion to lead this in a school then I would favour a blog/journal approach rather than a page. Whether using WordPressBlogger or the blogging capacity within MyPortfolio, the tool is not important rather the ability to tag (or label or categorise) your entries and display these tags as either a list or cloud. This then becomes your blog index allowing you to select the posts which relate to and provide evidence towards the appropriate registered teacher criteria.

What is also really important to note that in this approach you don’t go out and write a post on “how I have achieved and reflected upon Criteria 4”. Instead your ongoing reflections, inquiry into practice, involvement in professional learning and development, mentoring, obvservations, staff meetings, teaching practice and so on, are blogged/reflected on as and when they happen, and any association with the criteria is noted.

It also removes the ‘timed’ appraisal. The mid-year, end-of-year, or other times for appraisals are a bit old schoolish. It’s a bit like waiting until the end of term to receive your child’s portfolio, out of date and past its usefulness in order to really contribute to new learning…

To me it is a bit of a no brainer, one system that caters for a record of teacher inquiry, clearly linked to registration criteria, evidence, authentic appraisal and reflection. And just to add one more to the mix is how the culmination of all of this within a professional portfolio can be central to a professional network. Why is it that we tend to be so protective and private when it comes to all of this stuff… sharing it with an audience has so many potential benefits…

How does your school manage this/these process(es)? Silos? I am always or the look out for examples of professional teacher eportfolios, with reference to TaI and RTC or not. Do you have any to share?

Online Moderation

Towards the end of last year I had a couple of conversations with different people at different ends of the country. Both conversation mentioned three ideas, unrelated at the time; eportfolios, moderation & National Standards.

However it got me thinking if there was a relationship between the three and while this post has been sitting on the tip of my fingers for a while,with the recent development of the Moderation Online component in MyPortfolio it is time to get my thoughts down.

Assessment Online has a great section on moderation, clearly defining moderation, outlining its purpose, and providing resources and suggested processes for implementing it in a school or cluster. My only issues with this resource is that it does not take into account the possibilities and potential of how technology can connect educators together enabling a national or global network of moderation.

Moderation is the process of teachers sharing their expectations and understanding of standards with each other in order to improve the consistency of their decisions about student learning. Assessment Online (2010).

So what does this mean when the word online is slotted in at the front of the definition? Does it still make sense?

Online moderation is the process of teachers sharing their expectations and understanding of standards with each other in order to improve the consistency of their decisions about student learning.

I think so and can see it happening in a couple of ways. In the first scenario shown below the moderation process is brought about from a teacher sharing a sample of student learning and their initial assessment of it in their professional eportfolio.

Once posted in the teacher’s eportfolio, the process of moderating the assessment can begin by drawing on the views, expertise and the two way sharing of other learning examples with other educators in the teacher’s PLN.  This process is replicated face to face many times throughout NZ each year, both within schools and across clusters. What changes here is that the process has moved to an online space/eportfolio, opening up the depth and breadth of moderation.

Elements of this have been online for some time, except that it has been a one way situation where robust dialogue and the sharing of ideas has been absent. The best example of this is how examplars have been posted on TKI/Assessment Online, but embedding this in a collaborative online space will provide a much richer resource professional discourse. More  schools and clusters are also beginning to use tools such as voicethread to start moderation conversations of student learning.

I can see a lot of potential in this moderation process as part of a teacher’s eportfolio (sure it can happen in other online spaces but when you throw in evidence for the Registered Teacher Criteria, a professional eportfolio is all about working smart).

The second situation where standards, eportfolios and moderation could work is shown below.

In this instance, it is initially student directed where they are responsible for selecting work to represent achievement of a standard. This is shared with their teacher and in turn with other relevant personnel who are able to share and post other examples of learning as a reference. Once the moderation is complete, the outcome of the moderated assessment is given to the learner and the teacher is more informed about teaching and can plan the appropriate next steps. As with the first example, elements of this are happening in and across school but not necessarily in an online space or as part of an eportfolio process.

If I look at the two scenarios above, they both have advantages. The first example can work across any age level from ECE to tertiary and from students with special needs to mainstream and can easily be aligned to the teaching as inquiry framework. The second scenario involves the student as part of the process critically reflecting on their learning, both independently and teacher guided, so the moderation additionally has close ties to assessment for learning practice. Both are about the teacher building their understanding and capability to consistently assess student learning, build self-review skills and put in place improved teaching programmes for improved student outcomes.

The scenarios outlined above are the first two examples that came to mind of how the possible relationship between standards, eportfolios and moderation might actually look in practice. What I would love to know is how you may already be doing this, how you are moderating online and how an eportfolio may be part of this process. What I would also like to know is what framework the new Moderation Online space is built around, or whether it is more organic and will develop as users needs are recognised.

If you have any answers to these questions I would love to hear from you.

ePortfolios on the wire

A couple of eportfolio developments that have come up over the last week or so that may be of interest to readers.

Digication ePortfolios

The first is the Digication ePortfolio Google Apps addon posted by Helen Barrett on the K12 ePortfolio Google Group.

More information about the Digication eportfolio tool can be found in this additional video and PDF. It is an eportfolio tool in its own right, but now has the ability to be included in your Google Apps package for you school. This gives you the ability to create unlimited eportfolios for staff and students within your school through their Google Apps account. As Helen writes:

This is a very exciting development. The combination of GoogleDocs/Sites for collection/integration of technology into the curriculum, Blogger for day-to-day reflection/documentation of learning, and now Digication for presentaton/reflection/showcase makes GoogleApps Education Edition the strongest platform for K-12 schools to implement e-portfolios.

While the videos above show how easy it is to set-up and construct your Digication eportfolio, it is not clear how a teacher, mentor, coach or another student is able to participate in the learning process of the eportfolio and provide feedback and comments. Even if this option only caters for the presentation/showcasing element of an eportfolio, I still think commenting and feedback has a place.

What it is reinforcing is the increasing potential of Google Apps in your school to be the central portal to your learning and school administration spaces, especially as more and more education solutions are added to the marketplace.

MyPortfolio

MyPortfolio is an eportfolio tool provided to New Zealand schools built on the Mahara eportfolio platform. In a recent press release, it has been announced that this service will continue to be provided free to schools until the end of 2013. This is great news and reinforces the Ministry of Education’s continued support of eportfolios for teachers and students in NZ schools.

Not only is the service confirmed as being free, it has also been updated to include a wide range of new features and improvements. More information on these enhancements can be read in this document but for me the most interesting development is in the new Moderation Online tool.

I think online moderation has huge potential for teaching and learning, if not just to get teachers collaborating and participating online unpacking and reflecting on learning. I see it as having such a close relationship if not being integral to a teacher’s professional eportfolio. I have yet to have a play with this new functionality but thanks to Paul Seiler at the MOE, I am all set up and ready to see how it works. More to come on this.

ePortfolio Guidelines for Beginners

The Ministry’s MLE team has recently published a draft set of eportfolio guidlelines:

If you are interested in finding out more about digital portfolios then these guidelines will increase your understanding of the emerging importance and place of ePortfolios in the education of our children. The guidelines are aimed primarily at, but not limited to, a non-technical audience with limited prior knowledge of ePortfolios. If you are a school leader, then the guidelines should provide you with sufficient understanding to enable you to consider the place of ePortfolios in your school’s ongoing educational strategy.

Download the guidelines here.

Dimensions and Dashboards

I have been doing some reflection recently around eportfolios and the different flavours that are out there to select from. I have categorised each flavour  as a ‘dimension’ below.

The basis for this discussion is really considering what an eportfolio should be and defining a tool that is as authentic as possible. The problem with most eportfolio systems is that the eportfolio is not the central working (learning) space, it is generally a space where learning is brought to and then shared and reflected upon. There is a lack of authenticity here and often a double handling of learning artefacts. So the question… is there a dimension of eportfolios that removes or minimises this issue? Enter the Google Teacher Dashboard, more on that below.

In a traditional sense this is a similar conversation to the portfolio book vs. book look debate. In this situation a dedicated book or folder is the portfolio and examples of learning are filed or glued in or completed directly on the page. A book look is just as it seems, students share the books they use during the normal course of their learning. The first could be considered as being artificial, the second authentic, one manufactured, the other raw…

When we consider this difference in a digital frame, what does it look like? Are current methodologies of eportfolio use really authentic? Do they clearly show the learning process? Are they capable of supporting all learning? Are eportfolios a true representation of the learning or just a snapshot?

Perhaps some clarity around this can be found in the dimensions…

Dimension 1: The Dedicated

A dedicated eportfolio system such as Mahara.

Dimension 2: The Managed

The eportfolio functionality or module built in or attached to a learning management system such as UltraNet, KnowledgeNet, Moodle etc.

Dimension 3: The Blogged

ePortfolios that are contained within an online tool such as Blogger, WordPress, Wikispaces, Weebly etc.

Dimension 4: The Mashed

An eportfolio that is not contained in any one place. It draws on the functionality of several online spaces and web technologies, using the best features of those tools to create and share learning. An example could be this netvibes dashboard.

Dimension 5: The Saved

ePortfolios that are created using desktop software and are not online. They are typically shared after being saved to a disk. Common software for this includes PowerPoint, Keynote, iWeb etc.

Dimension 6: The Integrated

ePortfolios that are seamlessly integrated into the way students are learning. It is a direct reference to the work being done by Hapara with their Teacher Dashboard.

You may consider the Teacher Dashboard as not being an eportfolio at all, more a customised Google LMS. I too do not see the Dashboard itself as an eportfolio, more a window into a student’s eportfolio. The more I think about it, the more I realises that the Dashboard is integrated into what can be seen as an extremely powerful eportfolio system, one that re conceptualises current frameworks. Current eportfolio systems (i.e. dimensions 1 -5 above) have not really done anything radically different in terms of presenting an eportfolio. I know that fans of Mahara and its views would probably disagree with that, but current eportfolios are still spaces where the learning is (generally) taken to, rather than produced and there is so much learning that is ‘missing’.

The Dashboard is built on students working in the cloud, learning with tools provided through the might of Google Apps. The Dashboard is the teacher’s window into this cloud, enabling managing and tracking these spaces with ease but more importantly seeing every step of the process, identifying progress and enabling more personalised and just-in-time feedback.

Student control and sharing is not lost with the functionality of sharing docs, sites or your blog retained, both within and out of the domain as per a normal Apps or Blogger account. The Dashboard and the behind the scenes set-up provides a framework for students to work and share in. Schools determine the framework for how the student environment is organised and what is seen in the Dashboard. Additionally, the Dashboard draws in other student data by integrating with your SMS.

So as a potential eportfolio system it is different… the key difference for me is that the central working (learning) space is accessible and therefore builds in more capacity for support and learning conversations than conventional eportfolio tools. This is the closest digital version of a book look I have seen.

Is the Dashboard the future of eportfolios? Take the time to read the post on the Hapara blog. Consider the potential. Don’t think of it with your current eportfolio hat on, look beyond that and what an eportfolio will look like when students are increasingly working online.

What makes the difference between the Dashboard just being a great way of managing and monitoring student activity within Apps and also being a great eportfolio system? Perhaps this hinges on access. If students are learning in a highly digital environment with 1-1 or similar access and in Apps, then it will work like a dream. To be honest even if student access is not that high, I would still grab the opportunity. If you have Google Apps for your school, you are going to want Teacher Dashboard. Whether that fits your eportfolio framework and dimension is over to you but the potential here is huge.

Registered Teacher Criteria and ePortfolios

Further to my thoughts on whether teachers should have their own eportfolio, I have spent some time reading up on the Registered Teacher Criteria which have begun to progressively replace the existing Satisfactory Teacher Dimensions this year.

The Criteria are designed:

  • to describe the essential professional, relationships and values required for successful teaching.
  • to promote quality teaching for all learners
  • to guide the professional learning and the assessment of teachers as they work towards full registration
  • for the assessment of teachers to maintain a practising certificate/full registration
  • to guide career long professional learning and development
  • to provide a common language for professional reflection and dialogue
  • to promote the status of the teaching profession
  • to strengthen public confidence in the profession

It is suggested that evidence against the criteria can be gathered a number of ways including;

  1. Observation: formal with structured feedback and next steps.
  2. Discussion: including meetings, structured mentoring, critical self-reflection.
  3. Documentation: collections of evidence including reflective journals, analysis of learners assessment, records, PD

Needless to say, an eportfolio would be the perfect container for bringing all of these elements together. What a great opportunity for school leaders to ‘encourage’ staff to create an online space as an authentic collection of evidence and critical reflection to demonstrate successful teaching.

I do have a couple of questions/challenges for the NZTC:

  1. Instead of providing (i.e. Word templates) which use a text based solution for teacher self-assessment against the criteria, why not provide an online tool that allows teachers, school leaders etc. to access, revisit, comment on where teachers are at? Sure, lots will do this using Google Docs, but how could we be more proactive in getting teachers online, creating PLNs, and using the tools we all expect our students to?
  2. Why is there no mention or modeling of how this evidence will be collated? How exciting would it be if the NZTC gave us access to an ePortfolio account using Mahara through myportfolio or similar. Or is the old process i.e. evidence is text based, printed out, highlighted and sloted into clear files still OK?
  3. My concern is that we have a new set of criteria, so change going to happen already, but we are not going to make the most of it. Why not grab this opportunity to move this process into the 21st Century with the use of some collaborative learning tools?

Don’t get me wrong, I have no complaint at all regarding the criteria, gathering evidence, critical reflection and discussion. I can see them dovetailing quite nicely with a Teaching as Inquiry approach. My questions are more process based about packaging this up in order to ‘present’ your professional outcomes.

And… it is not all doom and gloom. If you watch the Part B of the introductory DVD, portfolios do get a mention. I just couldn’t catch if there was an ‘e’ on the front…

Also, I wasn’t able to attend any of the provided workshops for this, so maybe these points were discussed..?