Using Digital Photographs to Stimulate a Group Portfolio Learning Journey

Oct. 01, 2011

Source: Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 11(4), p. 420-442, 2011.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This article describes the development of a portfolio process based upon digital photographs taken to document the first teaching practicum of student teachers.
This portfolio process was implemented solely for the purpose of enhancing learning through professional reflection.

What follows is a description of a group-based digital photograph portfolio process aimed at introducing first-year student teachers to the concept of a learning portfolio and to the embedded process of reflection.

The portfolio process discussed in this paper is located within a New Zealand program of primary teacher education.
In 1999 the School of Primary Teacher Education developed a learning-focused portfolio process for students undertaking the 3-year program of primary teacher education.
The process was designed to encourage students to reflect upon the connection between the theory of teaching as contained within college-based course content and the practice of teaching as experienced in each of their school-based professional practice placements.

In brief, the process required student teachers to collect, select and then reflect upon five artifacts that best demonstrated their abilities across six key content areas, comprising each professional studies course.
The students in their first year of study worked in small groups to create a group portfolio.


The authors argue that one of the strengths of portfolios is the potential for the inclusion of authentic evidence.
In practice portfolio artifacts that were the result of actual classroom activity were selected infrequently and, tended to be the documents supporting teaching activity, such as lesson and unit plans and assessment checklists.
Because the six professional studies aspects were already closely related to each of the preexisting college-based assessment tasks, the portfolio process tended to lead students to select artifacts from their course work.
Viewed from this perspective the original portfolio process did not appear to be achieving the intended high level of authenticity.

The use of preexisting college-based course work created another significant issue.
The portfolio process intended to promote self-reflection and the self-awareness that arose from genuine reflection.
However, students’ selection justifications frequently appeared to be based upon the external judgement and feedback comments made by academic staff.

Central to students’ initial experiences of learning portfolios is a process that is based upon team discussion and reflection, which leads to the successful completion of a group-based portfolio product.
One advantage of this approach was that it required each student to take an active role in interpreting and telling their stories.

Furthermore, at the heart of the portfolio process is reflection.
Reflection occurs when there is the need to select portfolio evidence from a larger set of potentially viable options.
As a result students were required to obtain at least 25 photographs to document their practicum experience.
In order to structure the documentation of the practicum, five categories of professional practice were selected.
These five categories were used to structure the formative and summative feedback provided by the associate teacher to the student for each practicum undertaken.


In practice the story told about the picture contains the key information about the significance of the experience.
As a result, the photograph represents an event but cannot convey the meaning taken from the event.
The further development of the portfolio process planned to extend students toward creating individual e-portfolios, known as MyPortfolio, will enable the process of portfolio development to occur without the need for printed photographs.

The process described here has been implemented with students who were completing their first professional practicum and who were in their first semester of teacher education.
The photo portfolio process introduces students to a learning portfolio through a mixture of individual and group reflection .
The use of digital photographs will continue to be promoted as the most simple and effective way to illustrate a teaching story.

Updated: Nov. 10, 2014