Thursday, May 20, 2004

E-Portfolio Paradigms

David links to an e-portfolio initiative at Oral Roberts University: "Beginning the fall semester of 2004, all entering freshmen will be required to compile, maintain and complete an electronic developmental portfolio as a graduation requirement." Like the new BC high school graduation requirement, it's not optional, has several specific outcomes and standards that must be met, and focuses on non-academic areas like spiritual and physical health as well as cross-discipline skills like leadership, communication and ethics. They also provide a mandatory course in e-portfolio development, much like BC's Planning 10 course, but the rest of the program is designed to be student-managed.

After George linked to my objections to e-portfolios as high-stakes assessment tools, e-portfolio guru Helen Barrett left a response to my cantankerous review: "I couldn't agree more. I am concerned that in the name of assessment, we are losing a powerful tool to support deep learning. I am concerned that we are losing the "stories" in e-portfolios in favor of the skills checklists. Portfolios should support an environment of reflection and collaboration."

She also linked to an in-depth outline of the competing paradigms for e-portfolios, which I'll need a week to digest, but it really shows how the concept of the e-portfolio is malleable enough for people to bend it to their will. She's done some good work in trying to reconcile the often conflicting goals of institutions implementing e-portfolios.

What portfolios are for is entirely dependent on your educational philosophy -- the technology is relatively easy. If your goal is to make all students jump through specific hoops and measure the quality of their finished products, then you could use e-portfolios to provide the structure and template for standard-driven assessment. If your goal is to get students reflecting on their learning, identifying areas of interest and struggle, documenting their learning process over a period of years...then an e-portfolio could be perfect, but it wouldn't look anything like the other one. Guess which one makes more sense to me?

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