I have been familiar with the use of digital portfolios in both my own professional context and for use with students since my pre-service teacher preparation. I have seen the use of portfolios especially digital, grow amongst teachers that I work with in part due to the affordances of digital portfolios. I think that the research that Bennett speaks of in support of multiple forms, occasions and design of assessments in order to create the fullest picture of any student has started to encourage teachers and administrators to break the mold of traditional assessment and move in the direction of standards based portfolios that document evidence of student’s progress towards mastery (2011). Breaking away from summative assessment focused instruction is necessary in order to be able to begin to piece together that complete picture of a student’s learning path.
In my own practice, I work with teachers to design lessons utilizing technology. Sometimes we can get distracted by the shiny appeal of a new technology tool, but a key element of my work is steering the focus towards the enduring understandings first. I will usually begin working with a teacher and ask them questions until we have really gotten to the heart and purpose of the lesson or unit. Moving forward whether designing an assessment or lesson, we now have a clear goal and direction for our future work together (Wiggins & McTighe, 2005). In my role, it is also important that I am familiar with the different technology tools that can be used to create and share digital portfolios. There are so many fantastic tools starting from even your basic Google Drive shared folder that can quickly enable a teacher and student to collect and curate work samples. I wish that when I was in the classroom that I would have had these tools at my disposal.
Some of the biggest concerns amongst teachers that I work with regarding the use of portfolios is how they can teach students to collect high quality samples to contribute to their portfolios that actually demonstrate mastery, how they can provide timely feedback, and their fear of portfolios being a form of assessment that is too prone to subjective critique. I know that I can help them begin to address these concerns in multiple ways. I can encourage them to begin by establishing a vision, purpose and audience for their student portfolios (Niguidula, 2005, p. 45). Once those key elements are in place, the teacher can start to decide how the students will arrange and contribute to the portfolio in a way that will help them keep the focus on the purpose of the portfolio. The teacher can then dig deeper to decide what mastery in each standard or area of study will look like so that this information can be clearly communicated to students. One huge affordance of digital assessment tools is the range of possibilities for quick and easy feedback. Part of my job is to help pair teachers with the best tools that enable them to quickly provide the meaningful feedback that they need to provide. In assessing the portfolio, teachers can use rubrics to help establish expectations and a student self reflection piece for each artifact as a key component of demonstrating growth (Niguidula, 2005, p. 47).