An innovation of the early 1990s, an electronic portfolio combines the
use of electronic technologies to create and publish a portfolio that most
likely will be read with a computer or viewed with a VCR. Let's define
a few terms before describing what an electronic portfolio might contain,
how it could be constructed, and published.
Artists have maintained portfolios for years, often using their collection for seeking further work, or for simply demonstrating their art; an artistís portfolio usually includes only their best work. Financial portfolios contain a comprehensive record of fiscal transactions and investment holdings that represent a personís monetary worth. By contrast, an educational portfolio contains work that a learner has selected and collected to show growth and change over time; a critical component of an educational portfolio is the learnerís reflection on the individual pieces of work (often called ìartifactsî) as well as an overall reflection on the story that the portfolio should tell. All future references to ìportfoliosî in this article refer to portfolios used in education, although electronic portfolios may be developed in other fields for a variety of purposes
" a representative collection of one's work. As the word's roots suggest (and as is still the case in the arts), the sample of work is fashioned for a particular objective and carried from place to place for inspection or exhibition." (Wiggins, 2000)Educators in the Pacific Northwest, through the Northwest Evaluation Association (1990), developed the following definition of a portfolio:
A portfolio is a purposeful collection of student work that exhibits the student's efforts, progress and achievements in one or more areas. The collection must include student participation in selecting contents, the criteria for selection; the criteria for judging merit, and evidence of student self-reflection.The traditional storage format for portfolios in education is paper-based, usually in manila folders, three-ring notebooks or larger containers. Most often, the artifacts are comprised of text and images on paper, although the use of video or audio tape has been emerging.
As noted above, portfolios can be a form of alternative assessment. The terms alternative assessment, authentic assessment, or performance-based assessment are often used synonymously "to mean variants of performance assessments that require students to generate rather than choose a response" (Herman, Aschbacher, and Winters, 1992, p. 2). The characteristics of this type of assessment are: the student is involved in meaningful performance tasks; there are clear standards and criteria for excellence; there is an emphasis on metacognition and self-evaluation; the student produces quality products and performances; there is a positive interaction between assessor and assessee (Burke, 1999). There are two central features to alternative assessments: "First, all are viewed as alternatives to traditional multiple-choice, standardized achievement tests; second, all refer to direct examination of student performance on significant tasks that are relevant to life outside of school" (Worthen, 1993, p. 445).
Kay Burke (1999) and Robin Fogarty (1998) advocate a balanced approach to assessment, with a focus on three components:
There are significant differences between Performance Assessments and Portfolios. A portfolio is a container that holds examples of student or teacher work (the "artifacts") and reflections on that work that transforms the artifacts into "evidence" of achievement. Many of those artifacts could be the results of performance assessments with associated evaluations and reflections. A standards-based portfolio creates linkages between student tasks and performance assessments, with their associated scoring guides, and the standards that they are designed to demonstrate.
Most of these definitions include the word collection; collections of work can be folders, or scrapbooks or portfolios. What differentiates an electronic portfolio from a digital scrapbook or an online resume is the organization of the portfolio around a set of standards or learning goals, plus the learner's reflections, both on their achievement of the standards, and the rationale for selecting specific artifacts, as well as an overall reflection on the portfolio as a whole.
The benefits of developing electronic portfolios for either students or teachers includes:
- minimal storage space
- easy to create back-up files
- long shelf life
- increases technology skills
- through hypertext links it is easier to make argument that certain standards are met
- accessibility (especially web portfolios) (Kankaanranta, Barrett & Hartnell-Young, 2000)
Creating an electronic portfolio can develop teachers' as well as students' multimedia technology skills. The multimedia development process usually covers the following stages (Ivers & Barron, 1998):
Each stage of the portfolio development process contributes to teachers' professional development and students' lifelong learning. Danielson and Abrutyn (1997) lay out a process for developing a portfolio:
- Assess/Decide.The focus is on needs assessment of the audience, the presentation goals, and the appropriate tools for the final portfolio presentation.
- Design/Plan. In the second stage, focus on organizing or designing the presentation. Determine audience-appropriate content, software, storage medium, and presentation sequence. Construct flow charts and write storyboards.
- Develop. Gather materials to include in the presentation and organize them into a sequence (or use hyperlinks) for the best presentation of the material, using an appropriate multimedia authoring program.
- Implement. The developer presents the portfolio to the intended audience.
- Evaluate. In this final stage of multimedia development, the focus is on evaluating the presentationís effectiveness in light of its purpose and the assessment context.
- Collection - teachers and students learn to save artifacts that represent the successes (and "growth opportunities") in their day-to-day teaching and learning
- Selection - teachers and students review and evaluate the artifacts they have saved, and identify those that demonstrate achievement of specific standards
- Reflection - teachers and students become reflective practitioners, evaluating their own growth over time and their achievement of the standards, as well as the gaps in their development
- Projection (or Direction) - teachers and students compare their reflections to the standards and performance indicators, and set learning goals for the future. This is the stage that turns portfolio development into professional development and supports lifelong learning.
- Presentation - teachers and students share their portfolios with their peers. This is the stage where appropriate "public" commitments can be made to encourage collaboration and commitment to professional development and lifelong learning.
In this first stage, the primary tasks are: Identify the assessment context, including the purpose of the portfolio. Identify the goals to be addressed in the portfolio. This important step sets the assessment context and helps frame the rest of the portfolio development process.2. The Working Portfolio:
Knowing the primary audience for the portfolio will help decide the format and storage of the formal or presentation portfolio.Before making any decisions about the development software, identify the resources available for electronic portfolio development.
This stage of the electronic portfolio development process occupies the longest span of time and is the stage often called, "Becoming a Digital Packrat!" Knowing which goals or standards you are trying to demonstrate should help determine the types of portfolio artifacts to be collected and then selected. Select the software development tools most appropriate for the portfolio context and the resources available. Just as McLuhan said, "The medium is the message", the software used to create the electronic portfolio will control, restrict, or enhance the portfolio development process. Form should follow function as well, and the electronic portfolio software should match the vision and style of the portfolio developer.3. The Reflective Portfolio:
Use whatever software tools are currently being used to collect artifacts, storing them on a hard drive, a server, or videotape. Set up electronic folders for each standard to organize the artifacts (any type of electronic document) and use a word processor, database, hypermedia software or slide show to articulate the goals/standards to be demonstrated in the portfolio and to organize the artifacts. Identify the storage and presentation medium most appropriate for the situation (i.e., computer hard disk, videotape, local-area network, a WWW server, CD-ROM, etc.). There are also multiple options, depending on the software chosen.
Gather the multimedia materials that represent your achievement. You will want to collect artifacts from different points of time to demonstrate growth and learning that has taken place. Write short reflective statements with each artifact stored, to capture its significance at the time it is created.
This stage of the electronic portfolio development process usually precedes evaluation reviews (for summative portfolios) or employment applications (for marketing portfolios). In the formative portfolio reflections typically occur at significant points in the learning process, and are added contemporaneously as noted in the previous stage. Reflection on one's work is requisite if the portfolio owner is to learn from the process.4. The Connected Portfolio:
Here are three simple questions to ask which clarify this reflective process (Campbell, Melenyzer, Nettles, & Wyman, (2000) based on Van Wagenen and Hibbard (1998):1. "What?"This process of setting future learning goals turns electronic portfolio development into a powerful tool for professional development. That's why the "Now What?" question becomes important. Semi-public commitments to professional development goals can become motivation to work on those areas. As Kay Burke (1996) insists, quoting Kenneth Wolf (1996), a professional portfolio system invites "teachers to become the architects of their own professional development." (p.37)
2. "So what?"
3. "Now what?"
To use these questions, the student would first summarize the artifact that documents the experience, in order to answer the question "What?" Second, the student would reflect on what he or she learned and how this leads to meeting the standard, which answers the question "So what?" And third, the student would address implications for future learning needed and set forth refinements or adaptations, in order to answer "Now what?" (p.22)
To some degree, this stage is unique to the electronic portfolio, because of the capability of the software to create hypertext links between documents, either locally or on the Internet. At this stage, create hypertext links between goals, work samples, rubrics, and reflections. Insert appropriate multimedia artifacts. Create a table of contents to structure the portfolio; use the outlining capabilities of either Word or PowerPoint, or the graphical organizing AND outlining capabilities of Inspiration.5. The Presentation Portfolio:
The choice of software can either restrict or enhance the development process and the quality of the final product. Different software packages each have unique characteristics, which can limit or expand the electronic portfolio options. It is important to select software that allows easy creation of hypertext links, to be able to link evidence of achievement to the goals and reflections and identify patterns through this "linking" process.
The process of creating a portfolio with hypertext links contributes to the summative assessment process. When using the portfolio for assessment, the transformation from "artifacts" to "evidence" is not always clear. Linking reflections to artifacts makes this thinking process more explicit. The ability to create links from multiple perspectives (and multiple goals) also overcomes the linearity of two-dimensional paper portfolios, permitting a single artifact to demonstrate multiple standards (i.e., national technology standards, our state's teaching standards).
Use the portfolio evidence to make instruction/learning or professional development decisions. This process effectively brings together instruction and assessment, portfolio development and professional development.
At this stage, record the portfolio to an appropriate presentation and storage medium. This will be different for a working portfolio and a formal or presentation portfolio. The best medium for a working portfolio is video tape, computer hard disk, Zip disk, or network server. The best medium for a formal or presentation portfolio is CD-Recordable disc, WWW server, or video tape.
Present the portfolio before an audience (real or virtual) and celebrate the accomplishments represented. This will be a very individual strategy, depending on the context, and an opportunity for professionals to share their teaching portfolios with colleagues for meaningful feedback and collaboration in self-assessment. This "public commitment" provides motivation to carry out the professional development plan of a formative portfolio.
Evaluate the portfolio's effectiveness in light of its purpose and the assessment context. In an environment of continuous improvement, a portfolio should be viewed as an ongoing learning tool, and its effectiveness should be reviewed on a regular basis to be sure that it is meeting the goals set.
Post the portfolio to WWW server, or write the portfolio to CD-ROM, or record the portfolio to videotape.
There are some very good commercial electronic portfolio programs on the market, although they often reflect the developer's style or are constrained by the limits of the software structure. Many educators who want to develop electronic portfolios in the classroom or for themselves tend to design their own, using off-the-shelf software, or generic strategies. The most common tools are: relational databases, hypermedia "card" software, multimedia authoring software, World Wide Web (HTML) pages, Adobe Acrobat (PDF files), Office Suite software, multimedia slide shows, and digital or analog video.
Customized systems approach: Portfolios are also developed as online record-keeping systems that can be used to collect reflections and artifacts. They are usually highly structured using an online database, leaving the learner with limited flexibility and creativity. There is a high cost for equipment, network server and software development. There may be a lower cost for training, depending on system design. One concern is whether the students can continue developing the portfolio once they are out of the educational system.
Barrett, Helen (2000, April). Create Your Own Electronic Portfolio. Learning & Leading with Technology Vol. 27, No. 7, pp. 14-21
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Danielson, Charlotte; Abrutyn, Leslye (1997) An Introduction to Using Portfolios in the Classroom. Alexandria: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
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Kankaanranta, Marja, Barrett, Helen & Hartnell-Young, Elizabeth (2000). Exploring the use of electronic portfolios in international contexts. Paper submitted to Ed-Media Conference.
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