Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology
Volume 31(3) Fall / automne 2005
An Electronic Portfolio to Support Learning1
Philip C. Abrami
Anne Wade, is Manager and Information Specialist at the Centre for the Study of Learning and Performance/Education, Concordia University, Montreal, Quebec. Correspondence concerning this article can be sent to Anne Wade, Concordia University, LB 581. 1455 de Maisonneuve Blvd. West, Montreal, Quebec, Canada H3G 1M8. Email: [email protected]
Philip C. Abrami, PhD is a Professor, Director and Research Chair at the Centre for the Study of Learning and Performance, Concordia University, Montreal, Quebec.
Jennifer Sclater, is an ICT Cosultant at the Centre for the Study of Learning and Performance, Concordia University, Montreal, Quebec. Abstract
Abstract: In this paper, we provide a description of a CSLP research project that looked at portfolio use within a middle school, the web-based e-portfolio software we have developed within the context of the Quebec educational system, our plans for further development of the tool, and our research plans related to the use of portfolios to support learning. Our aim is to combine research evidence on portfolio use with practical feedback from the field in an attempt to develop easy-to-use, powerful software designed to support active self-regulated student learning in schools. Résumé: L’article contient une description d’un projet de recherche du CEAP qui examine l’utilisation de portfolios au sein d’une école secondaire, le logiciel de portfolios électroniques axé sur le Web que nous avons développé au sein du système d’éducation du Québec, nos plans visant le perfectionnement de l’outil et nos plans en matière de recherche visant l’utilisation de portfolios pour appuyer l’apprentissage. Notre objectif est de conjuguer les résultats de la recherche sur l’utilisation de portfolios avec la rétroaction pratique des utilisateurs afin de tenter de développer des logiciels puissants et faciles à utiliser pour appuyer l’apprentissage auto-réglementé et actif des étudiants dans les écoles. Educational Goals of Portfolios
A portfolio may be defined as a purposeful collection of student work that tells the story of a student’s effort, progress and/or achievement in one or more areas (Arter & Spandel, 1992; MacIsaac & Jackson, 1994). The Quebec Education Programme (QEP) (Ministère de l’Education du Québec, 2001) is based on the principles of socio-constructivism including a belief in the value of portfolios and requires teachers and students to develop a proficiency with them. Consequently, the use of portfolios has been mandated within the elementary Language Arts curriculum and is encouraged in other core subject areas. The QEP lists the following as possible advantages of portfolios, they: involve students in their learning (as a tool for reflection); allow students to increase their ability to self-evaluate; teach students to make choices; encourage students to better understand themselves and focus on their strengths; allow students to reflect on their procedures, strategies, and accomplishments so that they can improve and correct them and ultimately succeed; promote feedback during the learning process, particularly during individual conferences; encourage students to reflect on their strengths, needs, errors, interests, challenges, and objectives; encourage interactive processes among students, teachers, and parents; shows student progress because it tracks performance over time; and they are used to assess competencies developed by students. Portfolios can be linked to the following cross-curricular competencies within the QEP (2001): Intellectual Competencies. Encourages students to “use information, to solve a problem, to exercise critical judgment and to use creativity.” (p.13) Methodological Competencies. Encourages students to “e self reliant, to select appropriate means for attaining objectives, to analyze the way they use available resources, and to evaluate the effectiveness of their work methods.” (p.26) Personal and Social Competencies. Encourages students to “exchange points of views with others, to listen and to be open to differences” (p. 35) and to adapt their behaviour to the social context of learning. Types of Portfolios
Danielson and Abrutyn (1997) identified three main types of portfolios: working, showcase, and assessment. Working (also known as “process” or “learning”) portfolios contain works in progress, track student learning over time, and may be temporary because students move on to either an assessment or showcase portfolio. Showcase portfolios exhibit the student’s best work. They are generally used to demonstrate the level of accomplishment that the student has attained. Students often use showcase portfolios during college applications or for professional employment purposes. Assessment portfolios are structured and standardized with “the content of the curriculum determining what students select for their portfolios” (p.5). Digital Portfolios
In the past, portfolios were collections of work stored in binders, file folders, or boxes. Today, computers are used as an effective tool for developing and storing portfolios given their ability to store and process large quantities of content, and because they can effectively support and guide the portfolio process. These computer-based portfolios are called digital or electronic portfolios (e-portfolios). The advantages of using digital portfolios include: * Digital portfolios provide an effective means for cataloguing and organizing learning materials, better illustrating the process of learner development. * Students can easily integrate multimedia materials, allowing them to use a variety of tools to demonstrate and develop understanding. (This may be especially advantageous for at-risk children whose competencies may be better reflected through these authentic tasks.) * Students can develop their Information and Communication Technology (ICT) skills through the creation of multimedia work and use of the tool. * Student work becomes easy to share with peers, teachers, parents and others, and lets students and others provide feedback through a single electronic container. * Digital portfolios provide remote access to work for students to complete homework or when otherwise learning at a distance from school. * Digital portfolios provide remote access to student work for teachers for review and assessment purposes. * Digital portfolios provide an opportunity for greater and improved communication with parents. The use of digital portfolios can be linked to the following cross-curricular competencies within the QEP (2001): * Methodological Competencies . Encourages students to “be familiar with the purposes, concepts, vocabulary, procedures and techniques of ICT,” (p. 29) their use of ICT to carry out a task, and to evaluate their use of ICT. * Communication-related Competency. Encourages students to “experiment with different forms of communication: oral, written, visual, media-related” (p.38). The Portfolio Process
The QESN-RÉCIT * (2005) identified five stages to the portfolio process for print-based or digital portfolios, (1) collection, (2) selection, (3) reflection, (4) evaluation and (5) celebration (see: http://www.qesnRÉCIT.qc.ca/portfolio/ port_eng.html). These stages are analogous to those laid out by Danielson and Abrutyn (1997) for developing portfolios. In the collection stage, teachers and students work together to save artefacts that represent successes and opportunities for growth. In the selection stage, teachers and students review and evaluate the saved artefacts and jointly decide which of those artefacts best demonstrate the achievement of learning goals. At the reflection stage, students articulate their thinking about each piece in the portfolio. Students evaluate their own growth over time as well as discover any gaps in their development. This stage is undoubtedly the most crucial and it is what enables portfolios to become lifelong learning tools. In the evaluation stage students compare their reflections to their pre-set goals and other achievement standards and indicators and set learning goals for the future. Finally, in the celebration, or as Danielson and Abrutyn (1997) call it, the presentation stage; 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 developments and lifelong learning (Barrett, 2001). Pedagogical Value and Potential Benefits of Portfolios
In the next two sections we examine the use of portfolios to support student self-regulation and to encourage authentic assessment. Student Self-regulation
Proponents of socio-cognitive models emphasize that to develop effective self-regulated learning strategies, “students need to be involved in complex meaningful tasks, choosing the products and processes that will be evaluated, modifying tasks and assessment criteria to attain an optimal challenge, obtaining support from peers, and evaluating their own work” (Perry, 1998, p. 716). When students use portfolios, they assume more responsibility for their learning, better understand their strengths and limitations, and learn to set goals (Hillyer & Lye, 1996). Educators believe that portfolios allow students to think critically, and become active, independent and self-regulated learners (Mills-Courts & Amiran, 1991; Perry, 1998). Self-regulated learners are individuals who are metacognitively, ...