Last week I attended the DEANZ Conference 2016 at the University of Waikato. It was the first time that I participated in the this conference that centers around open, distance, flexible and mobile learning.
At the conference, I facilitated a workshop on Tuesday, 19 April 2016. I titled it “Portfolios and assessment? Ideas for making them work together.” It was an invitation for novice and experienced portfolio users to put their heads together and discuss how portfolios could be used for assessment purposes. While we don’t want to bring in assessment into everything, particularly portfolios that can be so much more than just an assessment task, we can’t escape the reality. Students want to know what they are creating portfolios for and sometimes creating a portfolio for assessment is necessary.
While we may not like it, how we do that is the interesting part because portfolio assessment does not have to be like any other assessment. We can try to do it in a way that suits portfolio work instead of simply replicating activities done through a learning management system.
We started out the workshop getting to know each other (19 people), and particularly our opinion on assessment in a quick fire introduction round. We had the entire spectrum of opinions on assessment represented, and it ranged from ‘the opium of this world’ to being a very important part in the learning process when done correctly. This was a good start because that way we would have good discussions in the small groups to tackle the questions that I wanted participants to discuss:
- What do you want portfolio assessment to look like?
- How does it differ from other assessment?
The small groups of 3-5 participants engaged in lively discussions and produced the results that you can find in the slides.
Common to the groups was that the assessment of ePortfolios needs to be purposeful and include a reflective element. The latter would allow to dig deeper than in other activities that are assessed because the students’ thinking are queried more. One group mentioned in particular that a portfolio could not just be a library of evidence, but hat the reflection on the gathered evidence was very important and was the aspect that made the portfolio.
The formative aspect of portfolio assessment was also highlighted in a few groups as well as the connection to work-integrated learning. That brought up the question how experts from industry could evaluate a portfolio when they often aren’t experts in assessment. One participant said that university could help facilitate this process and assist. Involving industry in assessing internship portfolios would bring in a different perspective on the work of the students.
It was also mentioned that portfolio assessment was not to be the solution for everything. It should be used when it was appropriate and the activity allowed for it. This brought us back to the purposefulness of the portfolio and the assessment of it.
One group acknowledged that portfolio assessment was often more work, but said it can often more interesting to assess than other activities. Furthermore, it allowed for self- and peer feedback.
ePortfolios can drive better learning because they allow for more interaction with the learning artifacts, allow learners to reflect on their learning and the learning of their peers and can be used for strong formative assessment purposes.
In this discussion we hardly touched on the technical side of things because we needed to look at the concept first. Technology was mentioned briefly a few times when different user groups of the assessment data were mentioned as they would need different lenses into the portfolio and potentially different aggregation of the portfolios they are to look at. Furthermore, multimedia would also play an increasing role in the future going away from text heavy portfolios to more visual portfolios that included more video and images where appropriate and possible.
Portfolios would need to serve many “multi”:
- multi media
- multi purpose
- multi content
- multi method
This would not always be possible in one single portfolio, but the portfolio content – evidence and reflections – would need to be able to be re-arranged for the specific purpose for which the portfolio is created because there is always an audience for the portfolio.
Our short workshop drew out ideas and thoughts from the participants on the topic of portfolios and assessment, and the results show that there is a lot of different opinions on how portfolios could be used for assessment purposes and what a portfolio should not become. Portfolio should still be student-centered and not just an assessment tool. It is important to keep the purpose of the portfolio in mind and use it wisely instead of just out of necessity or because everybody else uses portfolios.