Thursday, December 29, 2011

High School Portfolios revisited

I received the following email recently:
At ___, we're just around the corner of requiring a portfolio from every student. I'm asking, as both a teacher and a parent, whether your thoughts in your 2005 blog would still be your same thoughts. Years have passed; have colleges really accepted portfolios in a meaningful way? Are some schools who have tried e-portfolios now reconsidering? What is a school that would be a "model" for how they work with portfolios and where the students see the work as meaningful and not just a "hoop" or "graduation requirement"?  One administrator told me this morning, "They passed courses. That should be enough." I know the way to respond (similar to your post - but I need to know the research. HAS the e-portfolio proven to be worth all the work? I don't want our school and community to go down a path that has already been blazed and people are walking back towards us without sharing what they have learned from their experiences.
Here is my response: I think the real problem is the general assumptions about portfolios...especially when they are a graduation requirement or for college applications. I am not an advocate of high stakes portfolios, or to use them to replace standardized tests. What about using portfolios for learning throughout the educational experience, to avoid the idea of a "hoop" to jump through? I like a different metaphor: mirror (reflection) or map (goal-setting/direction). I really like this model of self-regulated learning, and portfolios can support all phases of this reflection cycle. I also see portfolios as both process and product (see my latest paper published by the British Columbia Department of Education:

I recommend you look at High Tech High in San Diego, where all students maintain a DP (digital portfolio) throughout their high school years. The portfolio is used to document learning and support their Presentation of Learning (PoL) that they do three times a year. I am using that high school as a case study in my book. I don't know if their experience has been documented in a formalized research project, but they have been using digital portfolios since the school opened in 2001. Here is my blog entry:
When I talked to a few students in the school about their DPs, their eyes lit up and I could tell they were very proud of them.

There is some research that shows that how a portfolio is introduced to students has a huge impact on their acceptance (and intrinsic motivation) and the effective use of the portfolios to support learning. If students see the portfolio as just another assignment or a hoop to jump through, they will be ambivalent; but if they see this online space as their personal learning environment, as their space to explore their future, to show off what they are really good at, then you will get much more acceptance. Ownership, Choice and Voice are major issues for me. I did a TEDxASB talk in 2010 that outlines the blurring boundaries of electronic portfolios and social networks, along with intrinsic motivation. I published the script on the MacLearning website:

Good luck! And let me know if I can help.

I was also sent a link to a video on an ePortfolio project in a high school in the Boston area: 

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