Tuesday, 11 November 2014

ePortfolios in Initial Teacher Education

Earlier this year, my teaching partner and I introduced ePortfolios to our class of first year online students in the Mixed Media Programme, at the suggestion of our Chairperson, the paper coordinator. Neither of us had very much experience with ePortfolios. Our primary ITE programmes use myportfolio.school in a limited fashion, for example students create portfolios in mathematics in their second year of study. In my optional papers, where I encourage students to select a means of presenting work and documenting learning, students have submitted eportfolios from time to time. While I have browsed and given feedback, I have been largely hands-off in facilitating the establishment and direction of the eportfolios.

That was until we decided that it made sense for students in the first year of the online Bachelor of Teaching degree to establish an eportfolio that could be used throughout their degree. Thanks to our colleague from the Waikato Centre for eLearning, Stephen Bright, and his collection of manuals and teaching ideas in myportfolio.school, we understood the purposes of eportfolios and opted to encourage a learning and assessment portfolio. We also encouraged students to self-select and collate a variety of evidence of learning in their eportfolios, inviting multimedia artifacts. Our first attempt at the eportfolio assignment is appended to this post (Assignment 3).

So what do staff and students need to know when establishing an eportfolio?

Firstly, how the portfolio fits into the course; the formative and summative dimensions, and a couple of technical pointers: Namely, how to set up an account, add a page, how to arrange content for viewing (e.g., by putting journal entries on the same page), and vitally, how to share the eportfolio (with peers and/or lecturers) for formative feedback. Later, the distinction between sharing for feedback and submitting for grading becomes important. We were grateful to have Stephen’s support the first time we navigated these challenges with students.

In our experience, the toughest aspect for some students proved to be sharing the eportfolio with others. The steps for doing so were documented in written form, diagrammatically and within a screencast, but this part challenged students to the greatest degree. Some students also experienced difficulty with arranging content for viewing, to a lesser extent. Besides the technical hurdles, which were by and large surmounted, students had to learn to act on formative feedback in order to revise and improve work prior to submission for grading.

Student response to the eportfolio challenge was mixed, with many appreciating the opportunity to establish an eportfolio. Some were familiar with the approach through work in schools and with their own children. Others were intimidated, and the start of an online degree is an overwhelming time for most. As time went on, with support, students came to appreciate the eportfolio and to enjoy the work. Anonymous appraisals included comments indicating that students valued the evolution of their eportfolio over time and could appreciate the preservation of early work, the formative potential and the future possibilities. As one student commented, “the eportfolio is a good way to keep your reflections in one place… you can look back and see how far you have come”. The same student also remarked, “I like the way I was able to go back and alter some of my first writing". Another student said, “The eportfolio is a great exercise and one that I will continue to develop and also use in my practice”.

One of the aspects of our eportfolio approach that worked particularly well was that students were given designated weeks in order to work on eportfolio entries. During these weeks, no asynchronous online discussion was expected. This emphasises the importance of developing the eportfolio. After such a week, Jenny (my teaching partner) and I gave formative feedback on eportfolio entries. This pattern effectively maintained the progress of most students in relation to their eportfolio entries, by ensuring regular class time. This also ensured the development of the eportfolio was intimately woven into the paper as a learning experience, rather than being purely for assessment purposes (just another assignment). Due to the success of this approach, we are considering alternate eportfolio and online discussion weeks in 2015.

As we reflect on 2014 and look ahead to 2015, we are planning a number of improvements to our eportfolio approach:
  • In short, the eportfolio development will become more central to the paper.
  • When students are on campus, we will repeat the introductory session from this year, but will ensure more time for students to work on their first entries, and will insist that these are shared for formative feedback prior to leaving campus. It may be necessary to make extra sessions available to assist students who have difficulty with arranging and sharing their content.
  • We now have models of student work to share, in order to demonstrate the visual layout and content expectations of the eportfolio. Thanks 2014 students :-)
  • As mentioned, we will deliberately intersperse discussion with designated time to focus on eportfolio development and will continue to ensure students have formative feedback throughout the semester.
  • We plan to actively encourage students to peer review eportfolios for formative purposes, and will look at ways of coordinating this via a non-threatening and criteria-based approach.

In time, as more ITE students begin their degrees by establishing an eportfolio, more of the curriculum can be integrated into the reflective, formative and summative possibilities. After all, one only needs to set up a new page in order to build a new dimension to the portfolio :-)

Any other tips for us for our eportfolio adventures?

Assignment 3: ePortfolio
Weighting: 40%

Due date: Monday, 9 June 2014 Your ePortfolio will be comprised of a series of entries over time. Further details and clarification will be provided at our on campus sessions (Feb 20th in particular) and within our online class. As a minimum, your entries should include the following: First entry – on campus – 20 Feb

1. Reflect on your oral presentation and give a brief summary of the content of your speech. Include:
  • your adjectives and a brief explanation of their meaning to you
  • a teaching role model
  • links to Fraser (2012)
  • a statement about the teacher you aspire to become
2. Comment on audience response and interaction – either during or after your presentation. How did others respond?

3. What did you learn from your colleagues’ presentations?

4. Add any additional current thinking about the teacher you aspire to become

Other entries:

24 Feb: Write a follow up to your time on campus. Reflect on:

  • five things learned
  • one aspect that surprised you
  • one fear, worry or concern
  • one goal for your study and coursework
  • one article/chapter you have read so far that has resonated with you

24-30 March: Module 4 entry: Creating and managing learning environments 

Having completed the Module 4 tasks, collate and present some of your learning by writing a paragraph on each of the following:
  • Describe some of the strategies your CT uses to engage students in groupwork.
  • Comment on how space is used to create a safe learning environment.
  • Give an example of how your CT sets expectations for learning.
  • From the list of ‘General Guidelines’ on p. 133 of The Professional Practice of Teaching, identify three points that resonate with you. Discuss why.

28 April: Module 7: Diversity
Know yourself

Think about your own culture. List the 8 most representative values and beliefs of your culture. Rank the top 3 in order of importance, according to your perception.
Find a digital artefact – film clip, image or link that you consider to be in some way representative of an important aspect of your culture. Add/embed this artefact in your ePortfolio along with a brief explanation of its significance to you.

Other entries, in your own time:

1. Choose a week of significant learning. Write/record a brief entry synthesising your learning in relation to school, reading and discussion.

2. Find and link to a media report about a current issue in the schooling sector. Briefly explain the issue in your own words and write two differing stances in relation to the matter.

3. Find and link to an educational resource online – a blog, website or other digital resource for teachers. Briefly review this resource in terms of its use for teaching and learning in the classroom.

4. Write about a new skill, disposition or insight you have developed since commencing initial teacher education.

5. Give an example of an online discussion in which you learned from a peer in class. Quote and cite the relevant discussion entries, and explain the learning that occurred.

6. Write a set of 3 goals for semester B. For each goal, devise a practical strategy to help you achieve.

= 10 entries

Please note:

You are expected to make regular entries in your ePortfolio. The ten listed above are compulsory and must be made during the time frames where indicated.
You may make more than ten entries if you so wish. Try to reflect on particular episodes of teaching, and make links to your base school experiences (preserving confidentiality), and to your reading and discussion.

Feel free to include multi-media content at any stage, including film clips, audio, images and web links.

(Do not film children, as this requires stringent ethics approval. You may film yourself talking or otherwise engaging with the content).
  • ePortfolio entries are regular, throughout semester
  • Entries are reflective of the tasks set
  • The ePortfolio captures thoughtful consideration of professional issues
  • Use is made of evidence from practice, reading and discussion
  • Written entries are accurate
  • Multimedia is included appropriately in order to creatively enhance selected entries

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