June 2009 Archives

Teacher education e-portfolio pilot project

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paigeblog.jpgPart of what I hope to be able to do this summer as a Faculty Fellow is to capture what we learned from the pilot work with blogs as portfolio in teacher education. I was able to introduce 59 senior undergraduate students in the Elementary Professional Development School Partnership to the professional website and teacher education framework template in Fall 2008. These students were required to make at least 4-5 posts and 2-3 comments in their science education course. This served as an introduction to the blogging platform and associated tools. Students were then offered the opportunity to continue the development of their professional portfolios via their blogs throughout their internship year. By choice 40 students voluntarily agreed to participate.

As part of the pilot project, students posted written reflections on their learning experiences (coursework and field experiences) regularly and connected their posts to the teacher education program framework using a tagging system developed by the ETS team. In this way, students were able to monitor their own learning and development over time associated with particular performances, such as fostering an engaging learning environment and attending to children's thinking. In addition, students were able to select particular entries, include them in a "show portfolio" and write a "meta-reflection" across entries in each key area of teacher learning (4 domains of the teacher education framework).

Thumbnail image for internbanner.jpgAt the time of the pilot project, 50% of our students had not activated their Penn State web space, 85% reported not having an electronic portfolio, and 66% had never read a blog.

We surveyed students about their use of the blogs as a professional portfolio at the end of the fall semester. Part of the survey required students to rate the importance of various aspects and affordances of blogs as portfolio on a Likert scale with 5 being "extremely important." What follows is a brief summary of their responses.

The 2 most highly rated items (92.5% of students selecting 5) were the ability to easily organize their work in relations to the teacher education performance framework and the ability to take their portfolios with them when they leave Penn State.

Other highly rated items are provided below. For these results categories 4 and 5 were collapsed to generate the percentage response.

  • Using tags to organize work (97.5%).
  • Linking multimedia artifacts to entries (97.5%).
  • Personalizing portfolio to reflect individual development as a teacher (97.5%).
  • Ease of use of blogging tools (92.5%).
  • Saving to personal PSU web space (80%).

Items that students thought were of least importance were related to the public nature of the portfolio and commenting. However, most students participated well beyond the minimum number of required comments. In addition, the comments were generally serious and substantive. More to come on this interesting contradiction.

The potential of collaborative reflection on practice

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An interest of mine has been the role of reflection on professional growth and development. During my time as a faculty fellow at ETS this summer, I hope to trouble the role of reflection in learning, particularly when it comes to collaborative interactions around artifacts that are grounded in professional practice (e.g., lesson plans, video of teaching). It is my sense that the potential of reflective practice is not realized when the focus remains on the individual and reflection is interpreted as generic and non-analytic.

Blogs as e-portfolio seem particularly well-suited as a platform for making public not only practice-based artifacts, but also one's thinking about those artifacts. Features of blogs, such as comments and trackbacks, can then be used to support meaningful interactions among developing professionals who are attempting to tackle similar problems of practice. While it is not merely the tools, but rather the affordances they provide that matter, blogs as e-portfolio create interesting opportunities to support more collaborative and practice-based forms of reflection.

How might this influence learning and development among beginning teachers? That's one of the issues I hope to explore.