Case Studies Overview
- 1 Background
- 2 Pedagogy and Curriculum
- 3 Teachers and students
- 4 Portfolio processes
- 5 Critical success factors
- 6 Issues and barriers
- 7 Remarks and open questions
This document summarises 15 Case Studies for (e-)portfolio exploitation provided by the Mosep project partners.
College of Business Administration, Bundenshandelsakademie Zell am See, Secondary School Baden, Ubungshauptschule der Pedagigischen Akademie des Bundens in Niederosterreich, Baden
Project TieVie, Finnish Virtual University
2nd Chance School, Seine St Denis
Evete Project Liemsis Project
Notschool, Takeley Wolsingham School and Community Collage Leasowes Community College, Dudley, West Midlands South Cheshire College, Crewe, Career Wales
Upper Secondary School Leonhard, Basel, Upper Secondary Level MPS Riedmatt, Wollerau
Target group for portfolio
In majority of cases presented the target group consisted of young students aged 11 – 18. A few projects are targeted also at older learners as a part of life-long learning programmes. However, they differed in their educational background and socio-economic situation. This varies from portfolio that supports gifted and talented students [Wollerau] through vocational school support for students [Crewe] to the community of students permanently excluded from school [Notschool]. These factors have influenced the objectives of the portfolio introduction although the main aim remains the same: to stimulate self-directed learning, to document interests and learning and assist in planning individual learning path.
Introduction of portfolio and background
In general 2000 is the earliest when portfolio development was initialled [Notschool] but most of the projects are developments started 2-3 years ago and sometimes not completed yet. Portfolio was introduced mainly as:
- internal school procedure and initiative which is targeted at students from a particular school in order to support them on the labour market or further education
- local or regional initiative which encompasses dispersed students and teachers around the idea of portfolio
- external funded project (mainly EU funding) which experiment with portfolio and prepare a pilot phase of the developments
In most cases different software has been tried out. Exploitation of certain tools is an important part of the portfolio development. It varies from using simple off-the-shelf software through multimedia products to the on-line services. It is a common practice to start with a simple, paper-based solutions [C2E] continue with more sophisticated product during the project. Most solutions are based on OpenSource/ Freeware tools and social software. It is important to indicate that in many cases it is indicated that “electronic component” of the portfolio is rather a hindrance and discourages teachers from using the method than an added value. Certain software combined with a course on personal effectiveness is considered an ideal tool for improving reflection skills. [Dudley, PebblePad tool]
Pedagogy and Curriculum
When looking at the cases researched it can be seen that they can be roughly divided into two categories, depending on whom they are addressed at. Some projects are integral part of the educational system (e.g. dotFOLIO, LiemSIS). They are used by students and teachers at the universities and they are aimed mainly at stimulating the learning process. Others (e.g. Notschool, Career Wales) are more concerned with preparing their participants for better competing on the job-market, raising their vocational qualifications etc. These two goals are not contradictory, of course. On contrary, they support each other. Still, our research shows that rarely the same emphasis is put on achieving formal education objectives and gaining vocational competencies. Purposes for using e-portfolios can also be looked at from another perspective. We can focus on how they are used irrespective of where they are applied and where the results are shown. Five general goals can be distinguished:
- Learn – e-portfolio enables and facilitates learning
- Reflect – e-portfolio users are usually strongly encouraged to reflect on the process of learning, thus further enhancing the results of it
- Create – by definition e-portfolio method is used to create artifacts which document one’s learning.
- Manage – e-portfolios (specifically dedicated software) help upload, download, organize and generally manage educational resources and artifacts
- Assess – e-portfolios help assess and self-assess the process of learning and its results.
Finally, our research shows that e-portfolios play different roles projects and programmes involving them. In some (e.g. dotFOLIO, Notschool) they are central and most important tool. In others (e.g. Evete) they are just one in the set of tools, and the most general project goals are not directly linked to the use of it. It can be argued that in the former case they organize the teaching and learning process and in the latter they just play the subsidiary and complementary role.
At the most institutions portfolio developments are still on-going project and as such are not fully integrated with the system yet. However, it is indicated that such integration is crucial success factor. There are different attitudes towards portfolio exploitation in the learning process. Therefore portfolio is a method supporting project-based learning [Basel, Poland]. Students collect artifacts on a given subject and are encouraged to reflect upon their achievement. But also portfolio is a project developed during the whole school year which encompasses different subjects (cross-curriculum). There are also cases whith no curriculum as such and thus students are free to decide upon their personal learning plans, the project is an enrichment to the regular curriculum and the competences are not part of the formal assessment [Crewe]. „Portfolio process is not fixed in advance. It is a continual and gradual path that unfolds itself in time“[C2E]
Teachers and students
Teachers skills and competences
- IT and technical skills (Internet, software)
- willingness to devote extra time
- ability to work on multidisciplinary projects
- ability to work in computer enhanced learning environment, if e-portfolio is concerned
- flexibility (adaptation to the situation, flexibility of strategies toward learners, flexibility of tools and methods) [E2C, Dudley]
- focusing on the learner [E2C]
- working in small groups/in pairs [Dudley]
- teachers as facilitators
(e)portfolio specific skills
- scaffolding for development of portfolio [E2C]
- support creation of students “self-image” [E2C]
- support production of written materials (editing skills) [E2C]
- support reflection on student experience and work placements, “helping them formalize and value what they did and achieved” [E2C]
“Tutors are to motivate and revitalise learners as well as accompany them in this difficult and long journey of self-awareness and reflection” ” [E2C]
All institutions described acknowledge tutors and trainers supporting students in their portfolio development. However, as the support process has not been described in details, there is a possibility that it is not coherent enough. There is an on-line support for teachers which also encompasses dedicated web site, telephone and e-mail support [Dudley] which seems to be a well-designed system. Teachers’ training is conducted in many institutions in different modes as workshops, trainings, advisory system and the like [E2C, Basel, Wolsingham, Dudley], but no information has been provided about the content, level or organisation of the topics. Additionally, the training focuses on IT and is often combined with the pedagogical courses [Zell am See, E2C]. It is important to mention that participants of tutors training can continue their professional development towards supporting peers [TieVie]. Peer support is also important in some cases as those more experienced or just experimenting with portfolio share their knowledge with teachers’ community [Baden, Poland].
Transition from a teacher whose role is mainly to transmit knowledge to the one who facilitates and supports learning is a difficult one especially for the older staff. This is a profound change in the attitude towards learner and learning and as such must be the key issue for professional teacher development. Tutors (teachers) main role was to accompany students in reflecting over their learning and skills. Ironically, as mentioned above, a coherent support system is very rare. Rather, there are various and dispersed tools developed specifically or adapted to provide advice for teachers. Examples vary from a template for print-out portfolios available in Germany, as well as templates for assessment and evaluation [Zell am See] In some cases teachers were taken through the process of creating e-portfolio themselves so that “learning by doing” and “put in the learners shoe” was to familiarize them with the portfolio development from the learner perspective [Wolsingham, E2C, Dudley].
Students skills and competences
- ICT and multimedia skills (upload files, use browser)
- ICT skills are not a problem among students [Dudley]
- gradual introduction to different possibilities
- reflection on learning, ability to learn
- ability to develop learning strategies [C2E, Dudley]
- cultural awareness needed to interact through ePortfolio platforms and [C2E]
- communication skills (foreign language) [C2E]
- to develop competence with the software and digital equipment, enhanced IT skills, application of ICT [Wolsingham, Dudley, Zell am See],
- knowledge how to fully exploit the potential of e-portfolio [Dudley]
- enhanced self-reflection and self-assesment
- increased self-management skills, enhanced implementation of work techniques and punctuality [Zell am See, Dudley]
- personal and team skills [Dudley], such as politeness, cooperation, communication and leadership skills; increased awareness on cultural and community topics
- working on complex tasks, focus on multiple aspects and combine them
In most of the cases it is underlined that portfolio enhances certain skills of the learners, be it technical, social or cognitive. However, no formal assessment of the “initial”, pre-portfolio skills and competences has been indicated. Key skills have not been identified either, nor was the minimum level of communication skills mentioned. There is no doubt that students learn from the developmental process and their improvement should be a part of the evaluation/marking process [C2E, Baden]. “Portfolios increase creativity, independence, self-esteem, responsibility for learning”. [Baden] “Students can start at their level and work on their personal developments and improvement“ [Baden] which encompasses high level of personalisation and customisation as well as flexible learning environment.
Accordingly, there are various solution taken to facilitate learners’ portfolio development. Generally, this is teachers’ responsibility to support them but in some cases peer and parents support have also been mentioned. Again, the picture shows no coherent system of learners’ support dedicated specifically to the portfolio development.
- “They are provided with a basic structure or ‘template’ and are taught how to use Mediator 8, a multimedia authoring package”, “support sheets were developed to support students and to provide them with the prompt that they needed to develop their e-portfolio” [Wolsingham]
- Students are advised to take part in a course in ‘Certificate in personal effectiveness’ which focuses on reflection skills [Dudley]
- Students groups were responsible for supporting each other in formulating and realising their goals [Dudley]
- School has formed a partnership from a local industry which now serves as external expert to support students [Dudley]
- “Competency based procedures for the interviews and then ‘marketed’ the E-portfolio as the ‘thing’ that would help the student prepare for, and ‘perform’ in the interview. To support students we devised a range of support sheets” [Wolsingham]
This is a very important issue as in all case studies it was strongly argued that portfolio requires a lot of additional time and efforts from the learners. Institutions adopt different strategies in order to motivate their students and develop different incentive models.
- personalisation and internalization
“Students are encouraged to take responsibility for the development, content and format of their own E-portfolio”. [Wolsingham] “The process of customising the appearance of the E-portfolio was identified as a motivational factor and encouraged students to take ‘ownership’ of their portfolio.” [Wolsingham] Students became experts in the topic which increases their self-esteem and make them feel ‘superior’ to their tutors [Basel]. The subject must be chosen freely where portfolio supports project method.
- incorporating to the system
“The requirement for students to develop an e-portfolio to use in their End of Year 12 Review Interview proved to be a very useful strategy to focus student activity” [Wolsingham]
Extra points or even better marks are given for the portfolio preparation. Also integration with the marking system and clear evaluation criteria are indicated as crucial. Portfolio presentation becomes an official requirement from the companies and schools in the region during the interviews and recruitment process [Wollerau]
ICT can be an incentive for low-ability and poorly motivated students [Dudley]
- teachers’ activity
It is tutor’s role to motivate students in recording and reflection upon their progress as well as to increase students’ confidence in publishing these thought and reflections [C2E]
Ownership, portability and presentation
In all cases it is the student who owns the portfolio and decides who has access to it. Students define the access level for their teachers so that the content can be reviewed, assessed and discussed. In some cases students can also give access to their peers (and parents) but they are not willing to show their work in progress. [E2C] “They are reticent to make their portfolio public as they lack confidence in their own ability and therefore do not wish to expose themselves to the unknown public” [Baden]. “Teachers have the right to read the portfolios but never change anything without asking the pupil in advance”.
Also students can decide about the content and there are assisted and guided by their teachers. The portfolios are stored on the school networks [Wolsingham] or individually on CD-ROMS or paper-based media. The media generally allows portability however no specification was given (OS, office software etc.). Students edit and develop their portfolio mainly at school although such broad project requires spending also some extra time. They generally have access to the software at home and can develop pages/content there to link it to the master portfolio stored at school. However, there have also been cases where they cannot access their portfolio via the Internet but no reason has been given. Students can write an executable version of their e-portfolio to CD/DVD. This version can then be linked in as an object into any future e-portfolio that they develop [Wolsingham].
Privacy isssues are of the extreme importance. If teachers are to effectively support students in their portfolio development they need to be aware of the consequences of making the artefacts, evaluation, assesment and reflection a part of a public space. Portability is understood in twofold way. It is either interoperability of portfolio systems or portability of artefacts. In the first case the description has been often too unclear or not mentioned thus it is not possible to examine the format of the artefacts etc. However it is important that the technology applied is flexible, simple and can last for a longer period (or be easily adapted). Portability of artefacts, however, is generally possible as the formats are standardised. Presentation of the portfolio has always been indicated as important. It varies from case to case but it includes:
- presentation during exam sessions or/and interviews
- presentation as a part of the assessment
- presentation for peers
- presentation for parents
Generally students are free to present the portfolio. However, they tend to show only the final outcomes but not the whole learning process, which in some situations can be crucial (eg. for the employee, for the future educational pursuits etc). “E-Portfolio could enable a student, in an interview situation, to quickly find and present evidence of their achievements and competency. It became clear that, if an E-portfolio is to be used in an interview situation both the interviewee and interviewer must be clear about the skills/competencies that should/could be evidenced in the E-portfolio.” [Wolsingham] “Research into the interview/recruitment process revealed very little evidence of E-portfolios being used in the interview situation. It did, however, identify that increasing use was being made of competency based interview techniques. We took the view that a multimedia E-portfolio would enable the student to ‘evidence’ their competency and therefore would be useful in the End of Year 12 Interview.” [Wolsingham]
Generally, there are two types of the portfolio profile emerging from the case studies. In the first one, it is understood as an extended CV containing personal details and required by the institution. Details are recorded in order to identify the learners. The second involves customised profile of the portfolio owner reaching beyond the basic personal details but giving a wide picture of the learner (similar to these adapted from elgg or google.docs). Unfortunately, such solution was not well described. The second one is more relevant to the (e)portfolio purposes and aims.
Generally, students are encouraged to record as much as possible, in different formats and using various media. In some cases it is done during classes, but they also devote their time outside school. There are some requirements but they are not very specified in terms of quantity or quality. In few cases certain artefacts are defined as compulsory in terms of quantity (minimum number) or they must suit to certain topic. Generally, students should record all learning (eg. artefacts, sources, personal information, comments). They are encouraged to present intermediate stages to showcase the development and not only the final outcomes or results. „Students can in principle add things any time, any place“ [C2E]
Reflecting on learning
In the cases where data is availiable, students are strongly encouraged to reflect upon learning, with the support of teachers and tutors. Blogs or other social software tools which support commenting and reflection are exploited („Moodle workshop“ tool, Blog). There are also guidelines sheets which support reflection as well as meetings where students can discuss their thoughts and reflect on their learning [Baden]. Generally there are no specific information about the methods which encourage reflection but in all case studies reflecting was indicated as crucial. Evaluation / verification of learning
- Teachers‘ assessment
Self-made templates are availiable which help teachers to evaluate e-portfolios. [Zell am See]
It is indicated that it cannot be left unsupported since students may lack the skills to do it on their own. There is a case of aiming toward automated self-assessment [Evete].
- Peer assessment
Students are not so willing to expose themselves to peers‘ criticism. Schools tend to integrate peer assement into the systems [Leonhard]. Privacy issues are also important.
Some schools tend to involve parents in the portfolio development at the stage of presentation and evaluation. Again privacy issue is important if content and reflection are to be exposed.
It varies from case to case – if it is a part of the curriculum portfolio assessment contributes to the overall grade (30%-50%). The artefacts are assessed in the context of the accompanying documentation so that the whole process can be taken into account [Zell am See]. Portfolio can be used to obtain NVQs [NotSchool]. Generally, assessment procedure has not been sufficiently described to explore the details. However in majority case studies it is a part of the curriculum and is taken into account during final exams or reviews.
Critical success factors
“There must be sound educational ‘reasons’ for introducing student E-portfolios. Students will question why they need a collection of multimedia evidence recording their achievements, learning experiences, thoughts, plans and aspirations. Simply to encourage and cajole students to compile E-portfolios is not enough. They will need to have opportunities to ‘use’ their E-portfolio to help them in some way, or have the E-portfolio itself assessed to reward their efforts or recognise their competence. They will need to be convinced that an E-portfolio has ‘value’ or will help them”[Wolsingham]
- Revision of school programmes and curricula is needed in order to integrate the portfolio with the whole learning process.
- It is important to instruct studentshow to collect purposfully the artifacts
- Students must be free to chose portfolio method and assited/coached in the development process
- Portfolio development cannot be limited to the one course but it must encompass the whole learning and be perceived as the basis for lifelong learning
- The process must be integrated with all aspects of students‘ work
- Portfolio must encourage and support reflective learning and not mere collection of achievements
- Projects must be clear and managable and done on purpose so that student are motivated to do extra work
- Collaboration or support from the enterpreneurs is important in terms of external expertise and increased motivation
- It seems that the role of a teacher is pivotal for the whole process of the portfolio development. Guiding and coaching of the studens seems to be crucial in all cases. „Tutors need to be familiar not only with ePortfolio processes and tools but they also play a key role in motivating the students to reflect on their learning and skills“ [E2C]. „Tutors need to develop materials and activities to lead to ePortfolio rather than introduce the ePortfolio as an activity of its own“ [E2C]
- Staff development, support and training: additional time and money ensured by the institution, courses and programmes to facilitate teachers continious learning
- Teachers competences must be enhanced in order to asses and evaluate the portfolios and make use of their potential (eg. during interviews)
- It is crucial to use such portfolio tools which is customisable to the learner needs on the one hand and doesn’t obscure the aims, doesn’t overwhelm teachers and students and doesn’t dominate over the learning on the other.
H. Barret: “When learning new tools use familiar tasks, when learning new tasks use familiar tools” [www.electronicportfolios.org]
- Language interface is also important so that the tool is in the native language
- Access to hardware and software should be easy
- Technology must be “future proofed”. “The technology will change several times during life long learners life while the content will remain the same".
Issues and barriers
- IT skills must be acknowledged amongst both teachers and students so them neither group is overwhelmed by technology and thus discouraged from applying portfolio to their learning.
Portfolio tends to be restricted to the course alone and too often is a extension of the project based method rather than the basis for a lifelong learning tool
Remarks and open questions
What do we understand as portfolio for the Mosep initiative? In the case studies the meaning differs from a purposeful collection of artifacts, through extended CV to the broad system recording the learning process where artifacts only showcase of the learning? What is the minimum for IT literacy? Can we identify people (from both teachers and students) who have sufficient competency in IT? What is sufficient for us? Do we need to define the minimum recuirements both for teachers and students (eg. prior training may be needed for them)? How can we escape from supporting presentation of outcomes only and enhance the learning process?