Electronic Portfolios in Teacher Education: Forging a Middle Ground

Winter, 2011

Source: Journal of Research on Technology in Education, Vol. 44, No. 2, p. 161–173. Winter, 2011
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The authors review the compatibility of key purposes for Electronic Portfolios (EPs) in light of the changing landscape of their use in teacher education.

The authors address to the following policy questions:
Are student-centered uses of EPs compatible with program assessment and accreditation concerns?
Can a productive middle ground be forged between the multiple purposes for EP use?

Discussion: Policy Analysis

The authors will focus on analyzing the key purposes of portfolios—student learning/ reflection and accountability/accreditation, followed by another purpose cited in the literature—employment. The authors will discuss the costs and benefits as perceived by the various stakeholders.

Student Engagement and Learning
The authors claim that the studies reviewed suggest that students are more engaged when choosing their best evidence of what they’ve learned and accomplished.
Students found portfolio reflections to be more meaningful if faculty provided more in-depth and timely feedback on their work.
Furthermore, faculty reported that student learning increased if students used a theory of reflection and reflected at a deeper level.

The costs of achieving the higher end of these goals are obvious. They require a great deal in terms of time and effort by both students and faculty.

Accountability and Accreditation
EPs are increasingly being adopted and implemented as a strategy to support programs’ need to gather data on candidate performance and use that data as evidence to inform program improvement and accreditation.
There are also important differences in student and faculty member perspectives.
Both students and faculty acknowledge the importance of standards, but some faculty tend to be concerned about the implications of standards-based portfolios, driven by accreditation needs.

Employment EPs often include elements of both learning and assessment portfolios.
However, some programs continue to suggest that students use EPs for employment purposes, especially as it is relatively easy to repurpose a completed learning or accreditation EP or create a parallel portfolio for employment.


The authors conclude with the following recommendations.
1. Clarify Your Purposes and Seek Buy-In

2. Avoid Atomization of Professional Standards

3. Balance Prescribed and Self-Selection of Artifacts

4. Provide Feedback Commensurate with the Scope of Student Work

5. Select Tools that Work for Your Purpose and Needs

6. Prepare Students to be Shapeshifters

7. Ensure that the EP Process Is Doable

Updated: Jun. 05, 2013