Balancing Student-centered Portfolios with Assessment Using Open Source Tools
Presenters: Frank Kline, Professor, Associate Dean, and Helen Barrett, Adjunct Researcher and Consultant on Electronic Portfolios – both of Seattle Pacific University
Session Description: This session describes the use of a teacher candidate assessment system built around a free blogging tool to create a portfolio designed to allow students to demonstrate their competence in relationship to the Washington State knowledge and skills for teachers. It also uses off-the-shelf tools to allow the program administrators to aggregate the data for purposes of program assessment. Presenters will describe the blog format and describe the processes used in assessment of the blogs. In addition, they will share examples of student blogs that have been completed and that are currently in progress. The session concludes with a small group interactive session where participants can brainstorm with each other about how they might apply the information shared to their situation.
The following video is presented in four segments:
Part 1 of 4
Part 2 of 4
Part 3 of 4
Part 4 of 4
View or Download Original Presentation Files:
View Online Slides: Balancing Student-Centered Portfolios with Assessment Using Open Source Tools
PPT: Balancing Student-Centered Portfolios with Assessment Using Open Source Tools
SPU AAC&U 2011 Google Site: A special website was created to supplement this AAC&U ePortfolio Forum workshop session. You'll find all the hand-outs mentioned in the video presentation above. SPU AAC&U 2011.
iTunesU: Reflective Learning with Electronic Portfolios - Subscribe or download (free) from iTunes U
Diagrams: Balancing the Two Faces of ePortfolios - Copyright 2009, Helen Barrett.
Frank Kline's Reflection on Implementation of the bPortfolio
As noted in the presentation, Seattle Pacific University (SPU) uses an electronic portfolio built upon commercial blog software—i.e. WordPress. We call it a bPortfolio—short for blog portfolio.
The way it is structured in the program, the bPortfolio is a program requirement that all students must complete. However, it is not associated with any particular course. There is precedence for this kind of requirement in education programs. Often assessments are required but not fixed to a course.
Faculty use of the bPortfolio:
Because this was an internal program requirement rather than an externally imposed requirement, the Teacher Education group opted to try to entice rather than require faculty to use the bPortfolio as a tool in their classes. Most of them use reflection as a pedagogical tool anyway and collecting it through the bPortfolio so that it is stored in an accessible fashion and available to the candidates seemed like a natural and intuitive thing. We also provided professional development opportunities on how to use reflection as a pedagogical tool in courses. The iTunes U link on this page has some of those opportunities. Many of the professors began to use the bPortfolio incorporating it into the warp and woof of their course.
However, for some teaching key courses, incorporating the bPortfolio into their courses was more difficult. The lack of uniformity in course requirement in relationship to the bPortfolio created some issues for our candidates. Some students felt that they received conflicting advice. Others felt like they didn’t have enough material in their blog to use in their culminating activity.
Teacher Education faculty were aware that this would be a likely outcome. However, we also felt that it would be easier to deal with a few student complaints than to deal with recalcitrant and unhappy faculty. For the most part this has been true. However, for certain key courses, we did call a meeting of relevant faculty and broker a list of assignments in their courses that could be—and would be—incorporated into the bPortfolio. While this was done with respect and tact, we did make it clear that their participation was expected. This is a relatively small program and the faculty were very gracious. All of them built the assignments into the bPortfolio without complaint.
Our attempt was to develop a culture of expectation around use of the bPortfolio in teacher education courses without making it an outright requirement. For the most part, this has been a successful approach. Linking it with active solicitation of participation from key faculty has resulted in a level of faculty implementation that allows our candidates sufficient material for their bPortfolios.
Student implementation of the bPortfolio:
It’s interesting to note the shift in student questions around the bPortfolio. Even in the early stages of implementation, we found a pretty significant number of candidates who were familiar with blogs. Many of them already had a blog or followed blogs. These candidates were able to make the transition to the particular blog requirements of our format with minimal question or concern. However, the majority of candidates required a significant amount of coaching on the actual development processes related to blogging. For example, they needed advice on how to set up a tag cloud or how to get the blog to record the number of entries in a category. A large portion of our implementation efforts focused on developing a variety of virtual tools to provide support in these areas.
We developed a website that provides the specifications for the blog. We developed a blog about blogging (this is mentioned in the presentation). We developed a set of videos that showed how to set up a blog. Several screen casts were developed around various aspects of blogging. In addition, candidates were encouraged to ask questions of specific university personnel who assist with instructional technology.
These efforts have been largely successful. Their success is noted in two ways. First of all, there are fewer bPortfolios that don’t comply with our format specifications. Secondly, the nature of questions has changed! The questions are fewer in nature and have more to do with the actual content of the reflection rather than the mechanics of the blogging process.
While this is a gratifying shift, we are currently trying to figure out what kinds of support we can provide our candidates to improve the quality of reflection. This is a “thinking” issue rather than a “mechanical” issue and more difficult! Some of the ideas include explicit teaching about the reflection process, developing a consistent set of reflection prompts, and continuing our faculty development push on how to use reflection as a pedagogical tool.
In summary, we have had implementation issues at both the faculty and candidate level. We chose the path of least resistance with faculty encouraging rather than requiring participation of any particular course in the bPortfolio. Students are required to develop a bPortfolio and as our candidate support in the development of the bPortfolio has increased in sophistication, the nature of questions and concerns has shifted. Now we are dealing with questions around how to deepen the level of thinking our candidates show in their reflections—which is a major aim of a liberal arts education!