Tuesday, August 09, 2005

 

E-Portfolios and NCLB

I received an e-mail today with the following questions:
What is the connection between electronic portfolio usage in schools and NCLB compliance? How do I persuade teachers, parents, and school administrators to embrace electronic portfolios at the district level?...Do you know of any resources that detail the connection between e portfolio usage and adherence to NCLB?
I responded with the following: You ask some interesting questions. I am curious why you want to persuade teachers, parents and school administrators to embrace electronic portfolios at the district level? For what purpose? There are many ways to implement electronic portfolios, and according to Activity Theory, the instruments (or tools) have a major impact on the outcome of the process, as does the purpose. Are you looking for an electronic portfolio, or an assessment management system? They are different tools, with different goals and outcomes. One is student-centered, the other is institution-centered.

Keep in mind that virtually all of my experience with e-portfolios has been in Teacher Education/Higher Education. My sense about electronic portfolios in K-12 schools is that the emphasis on portfolios has diminished since the passage of NCLB. Although some states use them for high stakes accountability, I still see paper portfolios in general to be a classroom or school-based implementation. I believe that the purpose for their use has a great deal to do with their effectiveness to support student learning. I also believe that to use e-portfolios effectively, the schools need to meet the ISTE Essential Conditions as a pre-requisite for implementation. Just on the basis of access to technology and skilled educators, many schools could not support the effective implementation of e-portfolios.

I suggest that you also read the White Paper that I wrote for TaskStream that is also on my website. You might also read the paper that I wrote with Joanne Carney entitled, "Conflicting Paradigms and Competing Purposes in Electronic Portfolio Development" submitted to Educational Assessment, an LEA Journal, for an issue focusing on Assessing Technology Competencies, July 2005.

The real issues around e-portfolios have to do with the purpose for assessment: assessment of learning (summative) or assessment for learning (formative and classroom-based)? In my opinion, high stakes portfolios are killing portfolios for learning; that is, portfolios used for accountability are not student-centered and are mostly despised by both students and teachers (see my blog entry of February 11, 2005). However, e-portfolios used as assessment for learning, to provide the type of feedback that supports student reflection and improvement of learning, have the potential to engage students in their own self-assessment. Some e-portfolio systems are also assessment management systems, and some are work flow managers that effectively facilitate feedback between students and teachers. I just wrote an entry in my blog about just this issue and its relationship to transformational ICT.

That type of system has the potential to support assessment for learning which Rick Stiggins proposes can increase student test scores at least one-half to two full standard deviations. In addition to Rick Stiggins and Anne Davies, I draw on the work of the Assessment Reform Group in the U.K. and the meta-analysis of Black and Wiliam to guide my thinking on the role of portfolios to support Assessment FOR Learning.

While we are not directly studying the relationship between e-portfolio usage and the accountability requirements of NCLB, the REFLECT Initiative will be studying the role of electronic portfolios in learning, engagement and collaboration through technology. This research project, sponsored by TaskStream, is the first national research project that seeks to answer a series of questions about the use of electronic portfolios in high schools (primarily). We are not only providing tools to students, but providing professional development to teachers around issues of student engagement, assessment for learning, project-based learning, effective implementation of technology, digital storytelling and reflection to support deep learning.

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