I attended the annual conference of the American Association for Colleges of Teacher Education (AACTE) last weekend in New York City. I went to many presentations on the program that focused on e-portfolios. What I heard continues to distress me: teacher educators are most often talking about using portfolios for collecting data for reporting and accreditation. I was the discussant in a wonderful presentation by the faculty of the University of Wisconsin Madison, where that was not the case. Their presentations focused on a scaffolded model that helped teacher candidates reflect on their growth and change as they progressed through the program. However, at 7:45 on a Sunday morning, there weren't a lot of people attending. In one of the "portfolio as data" sessions, I asked about the role of reflection. In another, I commented about the importance of students telling the story of their own growth in their own voice. It made the data-happy folks very defensive ("the stories come through the data"). WRONG! The stories come from the students own voices! I am more and more convinced that the full balanced story of portfolios is not being told in Teacher Education. There is so much attention being given to the data collection, that there is not a lot of energy left to tell the stories.
At the same conference, I attended several sessions that focused on Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPCK), which:
...attempts to capture some of the essential qualities of knowledge required by teachers for technology integration in their teaching, while addressing the complex, multifaceted and situated nature of teacher knowledge. At the heart of the TPCK framework, is the complex interplay of three primary forms of knowledge: Content (C), Pedagogy (P), and Technology (T). See Figure above. As must be clear, the TPCK framework builds on Shulman's idea of Pedagogical Content Knowledge.I think a lot of the problem with the implementation of electronic portfolios is that they are being implemented without TPCK. There isn't a lot of knowledge about the pedagogical content of using portfolios for learning; the administrators and data managers are implementing electronic portfolios (that are really used as assessment management systems) with full knowledge of data and statistics but without full knowledge of the theoretical underpinnings and value of using portfolios to support student and teacher learning.
We have many faculty who understand these issues, but see the implementation of portfolios in conflict with their prior understandings of how portfolios help students learn. I am also concerned that we are not implementing portfolios in teacher education that models how teacher candidates will use them when they get their own students in their own classrooms. Many students see portfolios as a hoop they need to jump through, to give the institution data needed for accreditation, and not something that will help them as professional educators. That was NOT what I saw in the UWM presentation; their model was supported by both the faculty who spoke and the few students that were there. I wish that model could be shared more widely. They need to tell their story!