Monday, April 26, 2004

E-Portfolios and Jumping Through Hoops

“I Just Did it to Get it Done" -- The Transformation of Intentions in Portfolio Assessment in Teacher Education

This paper is already three years old, and although it sounds very narrow in its scope, it's worth looking at if you're at all interested in any type of assigned reflection (blogging, e-portfolios, learning journals) for students of any age. If you read the students' feedback on pages 10-14, you'll probably skip back and read most of the rest.

I thought that four themes emerged. One is the conflict between documenting change, mistakes, struggles (often essential parts of learning) and focusing on presenting competencies, confidence and completed learning outcomes. This is acknowledged in the process vs. product debate, but extends it further into discussion of how to present an online identity.

The paper also delves into the politics of portfolios in teacher education, touching on the issue of using portfolios for high-stakes assessment:
"The purpose of the portfolio was thus transformed from the individualistic, developmental, constructivist vision in the Design Document to a policy tool designed to address external program and state requirements."
...and "When people in power (i.e., the state, a teacher education faculty) impose a cultural tool, less powerful agents (preservice teachers) may master the tool but use it with reluctance or in subversive ways, or resist its use altogether."
It covers important issues surrounding faculty disengagement, lack of professional development, assessment difficulties, and uneven implementation, but the key point is revealed in the title of the paper: most of the students are jumping through hoops:
"Most said they produced these portfolios just to 'get them done,' because the program required them – not because they found them personally meaningful."
If most students aren't internalizing the process (or product?), they aren't experiencing many of the benefits of reflective learning. This would apply to assigned blogging and e-portfolios, and almost any type of assignment for that matter. Without engagement, the result of the process is a set of artifacts and writing that the student doesn't identify with. When the authors asked one whether she thought her portfolio represented her, she responded:
"No, no, I don’t think so. It’s accurate in what I’ve done, but not in, I
don’t know, in who I am, I guess, maybe, um, I don’t know, the whole experience was just so, I don’t know, it’s like this big, dark cloud hanging over it."
Lots of other issues in there as well, all important if we're planning to build and implement something that is actually useful and meaningful. Via David Tosh and Michelle Lamberson.

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