Monday, August 22, 2011

Teacher Action Research on ePortfolio Implementation

Last week, I was the external examiner on a Masters Thesis entitled, ELECTRONIC PORTFOLIOS: TOOLS FOR SUPPORTING THE TEACHER’S NEED FOR ASSESSMENT AND THE STUDENT’S NEED FOR DEEP LEARNING. I was given permission to post his final thesis. "The intent of this study was to examine how qualitative assessment in the form of electronic portfolios could be conducted to engage students in their learning." This action research focused on a small (N=12) group of mostly First Nations students in northern British Columbia, and was conducted by their teacher in his grade 11/12 Comparative Civilizations course over the 2009-2010 school year.

I found this study to be enjoyable to read, although a little repetitive. Chapter 6-Conclusions gives a concise overview of the case study plus his conclusions. This is a good case study of what a dedicated teacher can do on his own with almost no technological support. He literally bought flash drives for each student where they could keep their work stored in the classroom and create their Powerpoint-based presentation portfolios. In response to my questions to this researcher, he expressed his dissatisfaction with the process, and thought that in the future he would have students using a wiki to achieve the same goals. He kept a reflective (albeit, paper-based) journal throughout the process, and quoted from it throughout the thesis. Despite the technical issues, students gained a lot of technology skills, and he identifies these benefits:
...electronic portfolios support formative assessment by encouraging dialogue between the student and teacher that focuses on improving student work and is not emotionally threatening.    Electronic portfolios support deep learning by allowing students to demonstrate their strengths, set personal learning goals, identify areas needing improvement, and use feedback to improve their learning.
As part of his definitions, he further defined deep learning for his work:
Deep learning occurs in two ways. One way is when students learn how to manage their learning.    They develop the metacognitive skills that support self regulation of their learning. Students learn how to plan, monitor, and evaluate the success of strategies they used to complete learning tasks. The second way deep learning occurs is when students are able to take what has been learned and apply it to new situations.
Nicely done! This case study is a good example for teachers to use to conduct similar classroom-based action research on electronic portfolios, especially using more Web 2.0-based tools.

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