Friday, August 20, 2004

Research questions

Today I received another e-mail message from another graduate student looking for some research questions related to electronic portfolios:
A couple of years ago I heard your presentation at the University of Illinois in Champaign and the value of electronic portfolios still intrigues me. I am now a doctoral student wrestling with the best way to define my topic,conduct the literature review and identify the need for the study.

My thoughts still need direction and focus, but I am hoping your expertise will provide guidance. My Question: In what ways can electronic portfolios provide credible evidence of student achievement for accountability?

This question comes from my concern regarding the over reliance on testing to assess student performance and progress. I am also concerned that students are getting the wrong message, that tests are more valued than their ability to perform/demonstrate their competencies. I am also concerned that the business community will be disappointed when students show high achievement on tests but are still not the workers they desire.

Any guidance you are able to offer is greatly appreciated.
My response:
I agree with some of your statements (about high stakes testing) but I am concerned about using portfolios for high stakes accountability. I am going to give you some reading assignments:
  • This blog (be sure to go back and read from the beginning last May, and read all the direct links to my articles, websites, etc.)
  • All of the articles linked from my page on assessment FOR learning:
  • You will also find a list of research questions on my website,
  • Also read the book on student assessment from the National Academy of Sciences: Knowing What Students Know. You can find it on the web
I believe that using portfolios to meet the demands of the high stakes accountability movement will kill the strategy for learners. The whole issue of purpose for assessment is discussed in some of the entries above, as well as motivation for maintaining the portfolios as a lifelong learning tool.

I think the point is that we need multiple measures, with as much recognition given to classroom-based assessment (i.e., portfolios and other measures) as given to those "snapshot" standardized tests. But teachers need a lot more professional development in appropriate uses of these classroom-based assessment measures. Portfolios are wonderful tools for documenting growth over time for the learner and local stakeholders. One of my articles discusses the difference between an online assessment management system and an electronic portfolio. Another identifies the differences between portfolios used as assessment OF learning and those that support assessment FOR learning.

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