I am writing to introduce you to the REFLECT Initiative described in detail in the following website: http://www.taskstream.com/reflect/. I encourage you, your staff, and students to join with me as participating co-investigators in this important learning-research effort. The project is an 18-month action research study of the impact of electronic portfolios on student learning, motivation, and engagement in secondary schools. An application for participation is included in the enclosures.

REFLECT is an acronym for Researching Electronic portFolios: Learning, Engagement, Collaboration through Technology. The project will engage up to 50,000 secondary school students from across the country in the use of web-based electronic student portfolio tools that are being provided by TaskStream to the schools for two years free of charge.

For more than a decade, I have been an advocate for portfolio use by students to enhance their learning process. The existence of an accessible archive of authentic student work can provide valuable data for school improvement. For the students themselves, the effect of maintaining a reflective portfolio has the potential to support deep learning and ownership of the learning process.

The use of technology-based productivity tools has become widespread; most of the work of students now passes through or is finalized in electronic form or can be converted easily into digital documents. This development and the availability of web-accessible portfolio tools and secure web-based storage of data, create the dual opportunity inherent in the design of the REFLECT Initiative.

The central question of the overall study is, “What is the impact of electronic portfolios on student learning, motivation, and engagement in secondary schools?” But the study also requires participants to design how they will study the use the portfolios with their students. Thus, the participating institution can incorporate its own questions regarding the organization of work or student products over time, assessment, presentation, portfolio design, roles of various faculty members or simply, “How can we explore and make use of this resource with our students?”

The project includes a significant professional development component and TaskStream includes direct technical support to aid you in design and execution of your portfolio program. The size of the study affords all of us the opportunity to transcend anecdotal evidence and amass significant experiential data relating to the impact on student achievement. The web-based interactive environment supplied by TaskStream offers all participating educational institutions the opportunity to share results and experiences at local levels and in the overall study.

Please take the time to give the material a thoughtful reading. I look forward to working with you.

Helen Barrett, Ph.D.
Research Project Director

updated January 31, 2005