I made a presentation today about eportfolio and assessment for York College’s annual day of assessment conference. The problem was I showed up with a conversation about eportfolio and a bunch of animated GIFs (see below) and everyone else showed up with graphs, charts, and numbers.
When my colleague asked me to talk to faculty about eportfolio/assessment I was a bit torn. First, I haven’t been working on eportfolios at York for some time as the piloted platform, built on WP/BP has been under-supported rendering the space unusable (resurrection notice Boone to the rescue). And second I’ve grown a little ambivalent about one of the principal driving forces behind campuses considering adopting eporfolios, which is ASSESSMENT.
With trepidation, I decided that it might be interesting to foster a conversation with my faculty about eportfolio by looking at a rich conversation started by Martha Burtis on her blog. She described her role supporting UMW’s effort to choose an eportfolio platform on her campus. Martha decided to ask her community of peers for feedback. What resulted was a great thread of comments, and I thought they would be good foder for my presentation.
I pulled a number of interesting quotes and used a number of GIFs to support the talk. Here’s a basic summary of what I presented:
At the start I quoted Martha’s mission to find/create an eportfolio platform which would support the following,
- An interest in a system for tracking institutional assessment learning outcomes (on program-, departmental-, and the University-level) and reporting on these otucomes.
- A space for meta-cognitive reflection by students on their learning, perhaps as part of a larger look at how we advise students.
- A desire to provide students with a “leg-up” by giving them a robust platform for showcasing their intellectual and professional work and development.
- A need (specifically in the College of Education) to track student outcomes BEYOND graduation. New laws are requiring us to demonstrate the effectiveness of our students as teachers after they’ve graduated (for a indeterminate amount of time)
The eportfolio elephant in the room is/was the assessment piece. Literally there’s an administrative mandate that loomed over the decision making process.
Boone Georges followed up, and made a great point about how this top down mandate is problematic.
Systems can only succeed in their “institutional” goals (like assessment and alumni connections) if they succeed in their “curricular” goals (genuine student engagement with the platform).
Then Todd Conaway did a little edu-kungfu by substituting the word “students” with “teachers” in the eportfolio goals statement above. Which was a provocation that Martha summarized well as a need to get faculty to “walk the walk” when it comes to reflection and sharing.
Joe Ugoretz introduced his struggles with using eportfolios for assessment, believing that universalizing a set of criteria to measure the success of each student is problematic, if it misses the value of uniqueness.
I’m suggesting I think an assessment that includes individuality, that celebrates it, and that allows us to understand what students themselves value about their accomplishments and their progress.
Antonio Vantaggiato did a great job of reminding everyone that the assessment process for instructors is quite natural, but there’s a new mandate.
When you *change* your methods, styles, technologies as a result of reflecting on how your students do, you are assessing, but now we are being asked to **document it**… the risk is that the reflective part begins with exploring the “how” to do it (document, track, etc.) , instead of focusing on the process.
And finally Gardner Campbell wrote about the limitations in the vernacular of ‘portfolios.’
I’ve been thinking that part of the problem is the metaphor of “portfolio,” which…is all about an inert and meaningless container…The metaphor gets an “e-” in front of it and begins to do damage to our ability to imagine the nature and potential of the new medium.
So I shared these GIFs and these many interesting points about eportfolio and platforms with my assessment crowd. And I got a flatline.
I think I basically sucked it sadly. I was hoping that I might encourage my colleagues to rethink the eportfolio, as an assessment tool born out of Martha’s eportfolio goals 2 & 3 focused on student reflection and presentation. Talk about it a bit. But I sucked it. Dead room.
I’m disappointed in myself as I imagined I might be effective at fostering a conversation as cool as Martha’s in her blog. But I’ve a long way to go.