Academic journal article The International Schools Journal

E-Portfolio: Time to Reflect

Academic journal article The International Schools Journal

E-Portfolio: Time to Reflect

Article excerpt

As educators we are confronted regularly with new innovations, methods, products and approaches to existing challenges. The magnitude of this constant stream of new ideas often makes us resistant to change. We have learned to wait and see how these innovations develop, how their impact is measured, and if they truly improve our practice. Quite simply, before we adopt something new, we want to know it works.

Over the past few years, many schools have focused their work on student growth and development by adopting Carol Dweck's philosophy which encourages progress over product, a growth mindset over a fixed one. Often, this work has involved the creation of a portfolio system to facilitate opportunities for students to chronicle and reflect on their K-12 social, emotional and intellectual experiences. As John Dewey remarked, "We do not learn from experience ... we learn from reflecting on experience." Therefore, can the primary goal of a good portfolio system lie in its ability to guide students through reflection? To guide students to adopt a growth mindset over a fixed one?

Our experience, as well as research, affirms that reflection and metacognitive strategies are essential components of the learning progress. As Karen Hinnet (2002) explains, 'Reflection is a way of thinking about learning and helping individual learners to understand what, how and why they learn. It is about developing the capacity to make judgments and evaluating where learning might take you.' As educators, we know this intuitively. When students think deeply and reflect on their learning, retention is higher, and students are able to make stronger connections across curricular areas.

Portfolios are not a new tool. As early as kindergarten, teachers have utilized portfolios to record and reflect on student work. It is often shared with others - students, classmates, teachers and parents. However, after the term or year has concluded, these artifacts of the learning process are typically taken home and some pieces may be displayed; yet others are placed in a closet, or worse, into a recycle bin, without much thought about the growth that occurred over the period.

And as students progress through school, it becomes even more haphazard, until the dreaded junior year when students and parents realize that, as they move towards post-high school options, they need to demonstrate not only what they have done, but also what and how they have learned both in terms of intellect and character. They need to think about their future by reflecting on their past.

E-portfolios can serve as the answer to this reflective, but inconsistent, use of student reflection. With thoughtful creation and implementation of a portfolio system that starts as early as grade 3, students, with the assistance and support of teachers, are able to tell their personal story - of their growth and development. As noted, often this paper trail can be tossed aside; however, through an e-portfolio system, our students are poised to present their whole selves - not simply their academic selves - to their future teachers, schools, employers, while reflecting thoughtfully on the past. Technology can get us there.

We suggest the use of an e-portfolio system, using one of many available platforms to suit one's individual school. A system that fosters and maintains a dynamic online multimedia representation where students are able to:

curate artifacts representative of their curricular, co-curricular, and extracurricular experience;

reflect on challenges and celebrate achievements;

develop future goals, create plans, and self-assess their intellectual and social emotional progress over time.

As Abrami and Barrett summarize: 'When students use portfolios, they assume more responsibility for their learning, better understand their strengths and limitations, and learn to set goals' (Hillyer & Lye, 1996). 'Portfolios help students become involved in the evaluation of their own learning' (Fenwick & Parsons, 1999). …

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