The Lehman College Graduate Childhood Education program, which leads to an M.S.Ed. Degree in Childhood Education and initial New York State certification in grades 1-6, piloted ePortfolios in a capstone course for three years and implemented a program ePortfolio in the fall 2013 semester. The ePortfolio asks students to include an educational philosophy, a resume and to compare their learning to the INTASC (Interstate Teacher Assessment Support Consortium) standards – the national standards for beginning teachers. Students choose artifacts (such as lesson plans, student work, reflections, written assignments or other materials students have produced to document their learning), describe them and reflect on what they learned from the artifact and then describe how it relates to the standards. In this way they are able to affirm that they are indeed prepared for teaching in classrooms. The ePortfolio is not only a chance for students to reflect on their learning throughout the program but also to showcase their work and ability to think reflectively. While the main objective for the portfolio is assessment, it is also intended to be a showcase portfolio that can be brought to job interviews. Students are provided with a template which includes reflective prompts.
The students are provided with the INTASC standards but are not told which assignments should be placed with which standard. The decision to place artifacts is determined wholly by the student. The student is then asked to write as part of the description and reflection a justification for why the artifact meets the criteria of the standards.
The prompts for writing the reflection are:
The following are the steps you should follow in writing your reflections. They are based on “The Reflective Cycle” described in Brown, G. & Irby, B. (2001) and “Articulated Learning” described in Kiser, P.M. (1998).
Remember that each artifact needs a separate reflection. Each of the following 4 steps for EACH artifact.
- Describe: (information gathering) what is the artifact? When was it collected? In order to ensure confidentiality do not use student or teacher full names anywhere.
- Analyze:(alignment) how does this artifact relate to the standard? Address the standard specifically
- Appraise: (evaluation) how does this artifact demonstrate your personal and professional growth? How does it demonstrate your impact on student learning? (if applicable)
- Transform: (goal setting) based on your answers to the first 3 reflection steps are there specific ways you intend to use what you have learned in order to improve your teaching?
Where is the practice used?
The ePortfolio and reflection on artifacts takes place in one course at the end of the program in the capstone experience. The reflections are a requirement of the ePortfolio. Students write them outside of class time. The ePortfolio is pass/fail. However, the student must achieve 80 out of 100 points in order to pass. They must pass the ePortfolio in order to pass the course. Students may submit reflections one at a time (10 in total) as they finish them over the course of the semester so that they can receive feedback from the instructor. If they do not receive full credit (6 out of 6 points) for a reflection, they may revise and resubmit based on specific feedback from the instructor. They may resubmit as many times as they wish until the deadline at the end of the semester.
Students’ ePortfolio reflections are designed to help them…
- Make connections across courses and semesters
- Make connections among academic experiences, co-curricular & lived experiences
Students are asked to make connections to their work in terms of course work taken throughout the program as well as observations in elementary schools and life experiences in both choosing their artifacts and writing the reflections. They are specifically asked to discuss how this artifact transformed their learning and how it will impact their teaching and pedagogy in the future.
Reflection as systematic & disciplined
Students’ ePortfolio reflection processes embody…
- A structured & scaffold process
Students are given specific prompts they must respond to. (see prompts above). They are asked to make connections to competencies outside the program by connecting their learning the National standards for beginning teachers (InTASC).
Reflection as Social Pedagogy
Students use ePortfolio to share, peer review and to connect around course work, reflections, plans, goals, stories, etc.
- Sharing their ePortfolios w/ & getting comments from faculty
- Sharing & engaging in interactive ePortfolio commentary w/ other students
The students are encouraged to submit work on their ePortfolio throughout the semester in order to receive feedback from the Professor. The Professor also provides a rubric and a final grade with comments on the reflection. The beginning philosophy and end philosophy are graded separately outside of the ePortfolio prior to submitting the ePortfolio. Students share their work with other students in a class session. The students are placed in small groups halfway through the semester and are asked to do a peer review. One student at a time in each small group presents their working ePortfolio to the other students in the small group. Students are asked to provide feedback, ask questions and provide constructive criticism to their peers. Each student is required to present to the small group. Students are also encouraged to download their ePortfolio and use it on job interviews.
Reflection as a process of guiding personal change
Students use ePortfolio for educational and career development, identity formation, by …
- Articulating their educational and career goals
- Considering their evolving personal relationship to learning and education
- Preparing ePortfolio to showcase to potential employers
Students are asked to specifically state in each reflection how the artifact contributed to their personal and professional growth (see prompts above) as well they are asked to respond to how it might impact their future teaching. Students must sort through all of their work, and experiences over the two years of the graduate program and determine for themseves which artifacts correspond to which standard(s). Students are encouraged to download and share their ePortfolio with potential employers.
A copy of the course syllabus with a description of the ePortofolio assignment and grading rubric can be found here: Student+Digication+Questions
Student work/ePortfolio examples
The following are three reflections written by the same student on three different artifacts that all correspond to the InTASC standard on Assessment: “The teacher understands and uses multiple methods of assessment to engage learners in their own growth, to document learner progress, and to inform the teacher’s ongoing planning and instruction.” Bold portions highlight the students ability to reflect on their learning and make connections.
Reflection on Artifact #1: Social studies lesson – Immigration Timeline
This artifact is a social studies lesson plan on Immigration which I wrote and taught to a small group in the Spring of 2011. I included this artifact specifically for the Assessment section and for the lengthy reflection on instruction. This artifact relates to this standard in its emphasis on assessment criteria. The lesson explicitly lays out how the project/product will be assessed, and these elements were discussed as part of the lesson. Students were aware from the beginning of the lesson how they would be evaluated. This addresses the standard in its example of effective, descriptive feedback for learners and a strategy for communicating that feedback. In addition, my reflection on the instruction of this lesson highlights how I am aware of the importance of examining my own thinking and how that deepens learning. In this section, I comment on the many adjustments that were made in order to ensure the project and ultimate product would be an authentic piece in terms of student work and the potential for assessment. As well, my attempt to mirror the immigrant process, whereby students had to choose a few items to take on an imagined journey, and reflect on that choice, demonstrates my ability to engage students in the metacognitive process of examining their thinking, in order to build a connection to and appreciation for immigrants and the material at large. This artifact demonstrates my personal and professional growth in the fact that I was able to reflect on the delivery of this lesson to the degree that I walked away knowing how to improve upon the project for the future. I also believe this experience gave me a concrete opportunity to plan and deliver a lesson in which assessment is an intrinsic part. I can see the impact of this experience on student learning in the outcome (country cards designed in a way that led to beautiful oral presentations and a discussion that tapped higher-order thinking skills). I am also able to see how interpreting the outcomes of this lesson can guide my future planning for this unit, and others where I launch a project-type product. I intend to improve my teaching in the future by making these sorts of projects a part of each of my curricular units, striving to reach all learners across skill levels.
Reflection on Artifact #2: Sample Student Work – Country Cards
This artifact is a collection of two “country cards” made by two separate students during a social studies lesson on immigration in the Spring of 2011. The first two pages are from the country card for Ireland and the next two pages are the country card created for Russia. The students were asked to use images, text (some provided in “top secret” folders and some handwritten/drawn) to tell a story about one of the many countries from which people came to the United States. As well, students had to reflect on what five items they would have to take with them if they had to move suddenly. After creating these cards, students presented them orally to one another and myself. Students had to follow certain assessment criteria that we reviewed as part of the accompanying social studies lesson (see Artifact #2). This artifact relates to the standard because it represents an actual product that I used to evaluate authentic student learning. Also, this particular final product was deliberately tied to the learning goals that were described and reviewed with the students at the onset of the lesson. Finally, this student work sample represents how I engaged students in the material and adjusted content to respond to different needs in these learners (due to their young age and the range of ages, more printed text that I provided was used to put together the immigration story on the country card, as opposed to taking notes and putting details into students’ own words). This artifact demonstrates my personal and professional growth in its example of authentic, hands-on project work that I am able to facilitate as a source of student assessment. These products would be parts of a student’s portfolio to be used for overall unit and progress assessment, and they represent work that is other than tests and research/written work. After completing these country cards, students engaged in a lively discussion of how these immigrants must have felt to make their voyage, the life changes they experienced, and they gained a new appreciation for this experience. I believe the hands on nature of this project, and the built-in inquiry-based learning through questioning and oral presentation demonstrates a significant impact on student learning. I intend to use projects such as this to allow students to fully participate in this type of content, connect to prior knowledge (they both had stories of where their own families were from), and demonstrate their understanding and new-found appreciation in a hands-on, creative way, so I can round out my student portfolios with a more complete picture of student capacity.
Reflection on Artifact #3: Writing Rubric and Sample Student Writing
This artifact is a writing rubric used to assess the sample student writing piece (also included) following a unit on persuasive writing that I taught during my student teaching placement in the Fall of 2011. The writing rubric was discussed with students before the lesson, and the requirements for receiving a score of “4” were reviewed for each element of their writing. This artifact relates to the standard in its example of my knowing how to analyze and interpret various kinds of student data to provide meaningful feedback to each learner. The lead teacher and I worked together to assign grades to student writing using this rubric. I was responsible for completing student comments for each piece. The sample included as part of this artifact was given a “4” and the student comments focused on how this student accomplished the goals of strong introduction with clearly stated position, strong supporting details, good word choice in terms of persuasive language, near perfect spelling, organization and other mechanics, and a conclusion that restates the position. I believe this artifact also relates to the standard in that it demonstrates how I was able to prepare students for this assessment and engage them in understanding and identifying quality work due to the fact that we reviewed the rubric in advance. This artifact demonstrates my personal and professional growth in its demonstration of how I have learned to use assessment tools to gauge student growth, and how to communicate that feedback to students, both in advance of and immediately following their work. I believe this skill has an enormous impact on student learning in that it nurtures students abilities to examine their own thinking, evaluate for themselves the quality of their work, and internalize this process. In the future, as students become used to thinking in advance of the meaning of quality work, and receive targeted feedback with regards to that same rubric, they will become better adept at producing it, and the impact on student learning could be exponential. I intend on making assessment feedback available to students in my future practice as a teacher. I intend on making rubrics a class wide discussion point, at age-appropriate levels, and then leveraging those discussions to have individual student conferences to review feedback, connecting the beginning, middle and end of the writing process for students. My hope is that in making assessment understandable upfront, students will achieve a facility with making their own evaluative judgments of their work, be able to revise as they see fit, and practice habits that lead to authentic ownership of their work and in their own learning.