Wednesday, May 05, 2004

E-Portfolio Levels of Maturity

Portfolios to Webfolios and Beyond: Levels of Maturation
On a first skim-through, I was excited about this paper. It's thorough, clear and focused on the goals of e-portfolios, which I'm currently immersed in. The paper even includes a couple of decent case studies at the end, which is always nice. The authors used eight criteria to develop five ascending "levels of maturity" for portfolios:
Level 1 - Scrapbook
Level 2 - Curriculum Vitae
Level 3 - Curriculum Collaboration Between Student and Faculty
Level 4 - Mentoring Leading to Mastery
Level 5 - Authentic Evidence as the Authoritative Evidence for Assessment, Evaluation, and Reporting
I was still with them at this point, and I was busy admiring their charts when I realized that I don't at all agree with their approach to e-portfolios. Their main considerations reveal the focus of their recommendations: "value to the student, value to the employer, value to the educator, value to the educational institution, potential for contributing to digital equity within the educational institution, and expense involved in developing the portfolio/webfolio." Although "value to the student" is first on the list, it gets quickly trampled by the other five considerations, which are all focused away from the student.

The basic assumption here is that the goal of any portfolio initiative should be to have portfolios eventually replace high-stakes testing. That sounds admirable enough, but their top couple of levels of maturity look a lot like high-stakes assessment to me: linking everything to pre-defined standards, departmental goals and taxonomies. The portfolio starts to be an extension of the most formalized components of traditional schooling, serving the interests of the institution. I'm generalizing, of course, but as soon as you apply rigid standards to a portfolio, I feel that it ceases to be a portfolio. It just becomes a series of assignments, which decreases the chances of students engaging in the process in any way -- they're just jumping through hoops.

I'd probably be tempted to reverse their scale, putting standard-driven (and probably template-driven) portfolios at the bottom of the heap. A few steps up would be something more student focused, probably involving as much personal reflection as possible, with the design/content starting to reflect the goals of the individual, and all of this activity preferably taking place within groups of likeminded souls. At the highest level of maturity, you'd see something like Stephen's Web -- a collection of experiments, polished work, musings, photographs, connections to people, documents, tools and resources of every stripe that have developed over time. The organization, design and contents of the portfolio should reflect the individual, not the institution's goals.

Via Michelle

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