2004 Faculty Summer Institute on Learning Technologies
Faculty Exemplar: Electronic Portfolios
Tuesday, May 18, 2004
Northern Illinois University
- They help us come to terms with growing pressure for authentic assessment from administration and accrediting organizations.
- They encourage students to "collect, select, and reflect" (Yancey 15, "Introduction" in Electronic Portfolios) upon pieces that demonstrate their learning. Thus, the students become more actively involved in assessing their own learning.
- They help students connect their learning in a class to other classes and life experiences. They look backward (reviewing), forward (projecting), and around them (connecting).
- They allow students to use writing to demonstrate and reflect upon learning. Reflecting in writing "makes thinking visible" (Yancey 17,"Introduction" in Electronic Portfolios). "Writing objectifies thought" (Ong), making it possible for students to see and manipulate the words that represent their learning process.
- They broaden the spectrum of assessment, which, in some cases, is limited to multiple-choice tests.
- They have the potential to change the climate of learning on a campus. Reflecting on how learning takes place is the key to dialogue: student to student, student to teacher, students and teachers to administrators, and so on.
Why Electronic Portfolios?
- They take up infinitely less space than paper-based portfolios.
- They can be reproduced, shared, or sent at almost no cost. (CD, email, the Web)
- They can be updated easily, yet previous copies can be archived.
- They can be repurposed for class and program assessment, graduation requirements, or the job search.
- They can include a variety of media that the computer is capable of displaying.
- They are interactive; students can link from document to document, or to outside resources to show how the learning is embedded in a social and intellectual context.
- They can be set up with customized access features, ranging from completely private, to student/instructor, to the entire class, to prospective employers, or to the whole world.
A Humble Beginning: Electronic Portfolios in First-Year Composition at NIU
1. History and Overview
A. Electronic portfolio initiatives
Faculty development workshop on electronic portfolios, 2001
Society for Technical Communication workshop on professional electronic portfolios, 2001
Undergraduate Research Apprenticeship Program on electronic portfolios, 2002
Professional electronic teaching portfolios for pre-certification teachers, 2002
B. Assessment initiatives in First-Year Composition
We were aware of
Where should assessment start? Program Outcomes?
- The demand for authentic assessment, locally and nationally
- The demand for consistency across many sections of FYComp, balanced with
- The need for instructors and TAs to be able to teach using their individual strengths, not try to fit into a preset curriculum
We looked to the national organization for writing program administrators, the Council of Writing Program Administrators.
WPA Outcomes Statement
Northern Illinois University's First Year Composition Program Outcomes Statements
- It defines what students should be able to DO at the end of a FYComp class or program.
- It doesn't really describe our program, so it had to be adapted.
- It uses language we did not completely understand.
- We modified it to create our own outcomes statement.
- Through this process of discussing and debating just about every word, we learned a great deal about our strengths and weaknesses as a program.
- I recommend this process to anyone contemplating program assessment initiatives.
- Our FYComp committee approved draft versions of these outcomes in 2003.
- They can be found under "Goals and Guidelines" on our FYComp web page.
2. Pulling the assessment and electronic portfolio strands together: the pilot program
Two local grants gave us support to go ahead with an electronic portfolio pilot project to:
- Test our outcomes
- See how our students measured up to our outcomes
- Implement systematic program assessment
- Close the feedback loop: what can we learn from the electronic portfolios that we can use to improve student learning?
- Two of us attended an Office of Assessment Portfolio Workshop.
- A FYComp assessment subcommittee developed benchmarks to show teachers how to judge outcomes from student portfolios.
- One of us began investigating software solutions, such as the Open Source Portfolio Initiative that Burks Oakley showed us yesterday.
- We decided not to reinvent the wheel. Using existing WebBoard software and our well-calibrated Holistic Scoring team saves money and time. No group -- teachers, students, or scorers -- needs to be specially trained.
- We introduced the new TAs in our seminar on teaching college writing to the electronic portfolio process. Their English 103 classes were used for the first semester pilot.
- We derived a rubric for scoring the portfolios from our outcomes statement and benchmarks.
- We collected electronic portfolios at the end of fall 2003
- Students submitted their papers and reflections to a private WebBoard Conference
- Instructors could grade them online or print them out.
- Our tech specialist set up a PHP script to "harvest" the papers from two randomly selected students per class and generate a scoring sheet.
- In fall, all papers were printed out for scoring, since we were in "amphibious" territory. This seemed like a waste of paper!
- Our holistic scoring team evaluated them using our rubric.
- Our tech specialist fed the data into an Excel spreadsheet, so we could compare scores in different areas.
- The results have allowed us to declare that our data collection is both valid and reliable.
- We have collected portfolios from spring semester classes, but since the assignment sequence is different, we had to develop a new rubric for scoring.
- The holistic scoring team is at this moment evaluating the new set of portfolios, this time on screen!
3. General results of the pilot project so far
- Developing outcomes and assessment has sparked discussion: more than ever, FYComp faculty are talking to each other about why and how we teach what we teach, and what students take away from our classes.
- To a modest degree, the pilot assessment encouraged the teachers in the program to buy in to the idea that all students should be able to demonstrate a common set of skills at the end of our classes. So, rather than lockstep the program with a single syllabus, we can insure consistency and teach to our strengths.
- We are receiving recognition on campus and nationally for following best practices in assessment. With authentic assessment measures in place, we are more and more confident that outside accreditation bodies will be satisfied, if not impressed, with our efforts to use assessment and the feedback loop to improve student learning.
- NIU has become an inaugural member of The National Research Coalition on Electronic Portfolio Learning
4. Implications: Where we go from here
- Now that we know our assessment process has validity and reliability, we might correlate electronic portfolio scores with some of the following factors to see how well we are serving different groups of our students:
- Course grades
- Gender, race, ethnicity
- Non-native speakers
- Parental education level
- The scores on various features of the writing process may help us identify areas in which we could improve our instruction, through faculty development workshops, for example.
5. Examples of NIU Electronic Portfolio Initiatives
Department of Geology and Environmental Geosciences
Electronic Portfolio Guidelines for Teacher Certification Candidates
Physics Department Course Syllabus
Electronic Portfolio is 70% of final grade
Historical (1997) English 300A Electronic Portfolio Instructions
Students in Advanced Composition were required to submit portfolios in web format on floppy disks
English 300C Teacher Certification Portfolio Instructions
Students in Advanced Composition for Teacher Certification must begin the rigorous Teacher Certification Portfolio, requiring detailed, explicit instructions
English 300C Teacher Certification Professional Electronic Portfolio Instructions
As part of our effort to professionalize our teacher certification candidates, we have them begin electronic teaching portfolios
Student-Writing Portfolios: From the 3-Ring Binder to the “E”-Ring Binder
An undergraduate research project by two senior teacher certification students who wanted to know more about portfolio learning and assessment
Proposal for Electronic Portfolio Program Assessment Pilot Project in First-Year Composition
Funded by David Raymond Grant for the Use of Technology in Teaching and sponsored by NIU's Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center. Pilot is currently in progress
Communication Department Undergraduate Capstone Portfolio
Scroll down to "COMS 495B Capstone Project Senior Portfolio," which describes a portfolio that must be submitted in print and CD formats
School of Nursing Portfolio Rubric
Includes the scoring sheet used by portfolio reviewers
School of Nursing Portfolio Top Ten Questions
A handy guide for Nursing students to complete their portfolios
A Sample Course in the Preparing Tomorrow's Teachers to Use Technology Program
Includes electronic portfolio instruction and development
Department of Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations Electronic Portfolio Template
Has an excellent tutorial and links to standards for educational administrators
Department of Teaching and Learning Student Portfolio Basics
Has an extensive outline of the teaching portfolio creation process
E-Portfolios: Concepts and Considerations Workshop by Jason Underwood
Scroll down to the sixth item under workshop to see the description. Part of the CENTTER Project Spring 2003 Technology Showcase
6. Examples of NIU Electronic Portfolios
A Sample Instructional Technolology Graduate Student Electronic Portfolio
This student creates a highly professional persona through a well-crafted electronic portfolio
A Sample Technical Communication Graduate Student Electronic Portfolio
This was a final project for Michael Day's Fall 2000 Writing for Electronic Media Class
A Sample Science Education Portfolio
Showcases teaching philosophy, standards, learning through observations, and more
Art Department Senior Show Electronic Portfolios
Showcases the more creative side of student design work
Created by Michael Day
May 16, 2004
Last Update: May 18, 2004