#3 What is the purpose of student e-portfolios?

If you try to follow #eportfolios on twitter, you may be disappointed. When you search and view samples of eportfolios on the internet, you will find several schools with templates and beginnings. You won’t find many quality ones in the grade levels proceeding college. At least I haven’t yet. Many of them appear more like resumes than an instrument that not only documents learning but accelerates it, too.

This summer, our team is designing an e-portfolio for students spanning Preschool through Grade 12. The team consists of representatives from Preschool, Lower School, Middle School, and Upper School working together to create one cohesive platform. It will look a little different at each level to meet the needs of the students. For example, Preschoolers will require greater teacher assistance to curate, reflect, and upload their demonstrations of learning while Upper School students will possess greater autonomy.

Regardless of age, what is the purpose of student e-portfolios? Why do they exist? Why should they exist?

As a Workspace…

1. Document Student Learning - At a national level (and elsewhere), when we hear about the state of education, we hear about test scores. There are so many better and alternative ways to measure student growth and performance. E-portfolios lend themselves to constructed learning by design. The status quo for assessing student learning is and has been selected response learning (ex: multiple choice questions, give me four choices and I will select one. this tends to require little critical or creative thinking). Schools must employ a comprehensive and balanced approach to assessments. Teachers must design more units and assessments that encourage and require students to construct a unique and original response.

2. Accelerate Student Learning – Students who actively engage in their learning not only retain more knowledge but develop higher order thinking skills. Are we only force feeding content and standards? When do students get to choose their own learning path and pursue unique interests? An e-portfolio must include student reflection. It must include feedback from peers, teachers, parents, and external experts. It is a way to engage the greater community and inspire others to deeper learning or new discoveries.

As a Showcase…

3. Serve as a Discussion Starter for Student Led Parent Conferences – Have you ever wondered why parent teacher conferences often exclude the most important party; the student? Sometimes, it is more appropriate for the adults to meet, but I think we miss an opportunity to not only include the student in the conference, but to ask them to lead it. As they lead, students should leverage their e-portfolio as the starting point to showcase their learning and even highlight their areas of struggle, too.

4. Serve as a Discussion Starter for College Acceptance/Interviews – What does the SAT measure? And why do we care? Why do we put so much weight and emphasis on a limited tool with a narrow frame. How do we measure creativity? Ethical decision making? As a former admissions director, I relied on a comprehensive approach that included standardized test scores, but did not hang a hat on them at the exclusion of other gauges including the required items (transcripts, interviews, application questions, writing samples, recommendations) and the un-required touch points (every interaction was a chance to get to know an applicant, to ask questions, observe behavior, and communicate an expectation. many team members were included in the interactions.) It takes more time to be thorough and relational. It is simply easier to pin it all on a test taken on a Saturday morning. Kinda lazy yet convenient. And a money making machine, too. I’d like to see more authentic measures begin to take over.

What other purposes can you think of for a student e-portfolio? Also, what questions do you have? Please share.

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4 thoughts on “#3 What is the purpose of student e-portfolios?

  1. Just quickly reading through this post it strikes many cords with me. I have been working on the digital portfolios with my primary students for the last several years and they have developed from what I call assessment portfolios for my use to more of the showcase and somewhat a workspace that you have described here. This year as I enter into the project phase of my masters I hope to create more of a space where students are able to self reflect on their own progress (never before technology have primary students been able to experience where they have “come from” in real time and my hope is that a digital collection will help primary students with this process).

    I was hoping you could provide the source of the documents that you have share in this post.
    Thank you,
    Sarah

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  3. Chip, thanks for the tight explanation of eportfolios. On my morning walk today, listening to an #EdChat Radio episode about learning and grades, I wondered how much traditional report card grades were proxies for student learning – short-hand symbols that tried to capture a time-slice measurement of student progress. Of course, I think such traditional approaches to grading and reporting are flawed and imperfect for a number of reasons. With the advantages of modern technology, one can use an eportfolio to supersede the proxy of grades in many instances. Because we can have an easily created, easily accessed digital archive of curated work showing the actual engagement and learning evidence, I wonder how much longer schools that advance eportfolio work in significant ways will need the old timeworn report card of traditional grades.

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