I believe that each learner is unique. If you look at a classroom with everyone the same age, the children are diverse. They may speak different languages, learn at different levels, and be almost one year different in age. Schools group them by grade level and test them thinking that each student has the same understanding of the concepts. Not so! I’m into individualizing learning and assessment. One way to do that is ePortfolios supported with individual learning plans.
We are not going to stop testing even if it drives you crazy. It’s just the way it is. There are several types of ePortfolios: assessment, showcase, and resume. I don’t recommend replacing testing with ePortfolios. That’s one way to kill the excitement about them. Using an ePortfolio for assessment and/or evaluation can impact how the learner presents it. There is no risk-taking, creativity or innovation. Everything follows the rules similar to testing. Okay – so use the tests to determine if students are learning at grade level. Personally I don’t believe students have to learn at a specific grade level. That’s following the industrial model that’s been dead for years. We are in a very weird place – a transition to a new type of learning environment. We are stuck in the same old traditional school model: teachers in front the room as the all-knowing expert, schools open 9 months from 9-3 for 5 days a week, and with students grouped by age.
I had lunch with Helen Barrett at ISTE 2010 where we talked about ePortfolios. Helen knows everything about ePortfolios (www.electronicportfolios.org) and she and I agree about keeping ePortfolios as a separate entity from assessment and evaluation. Before you start your ePortfolio, determine your purpose, goal, and audience. If you decide you want to create an assessment ePortfolio, then design it for your target audience. Is it to meet graduation requirements? If so, start collecting evidence of learning right from the beginning of your freshman year. To do that, then create a separate digital file cabinet for collecting that evidence. Collect whatever you think might demonstrate understanding. Then select the most effective artifacts for your ePortfolio.
Okay – back to the showcase ePortfolio. You can create either a personal or professional showcase ePortfolio that provides a forum for reflective writing where learners respond to key questions like:
- What? What have you done well?
- So what? What difficulties did you have?
- Now what? What can you do next time to improve?
Reflection encourages learners to think critically about their own thinking. This process allows learners to take responsibility for learning how to think not what to think.