[Portfolio] [DG: Teaching & Learning] [DG: User Experience] Learning Activities and Portfolios: time for a talk?

Zaldivar, Marc mzaldiva at vt.edu
Fri Mar 19 06:05:11 PDT 2010

Keli, et al,

This is a wonderful conversation, and I'm glad to see it shaping up in such concrete detail.

On 3/18/10 7:11 PM, "Keli Sato Amann" <kamann at stanford.edu> wrote:

The concern that prompted me to write was another situation: when program objectives have been mapped down to a course, when those objectives are actually attached to particular activities, and when an activity is graded according to those objectives. In this case, students don't have a choice of what maps to each aptitude--it's been specified for them. The work to be featured would be chosen by the instructor or department. An example might be a department that needs to prove that at least 90% of their students meet certain criteria by the end of the year-they use the results of certain assignments or tests in particular classes to demonstrate this.

Is this situation actually within the portfolio domain? Do those who build portfolios need objectives mapped so discretely and for this reason or is this a separate area of concern? Lynn said that stating objectives for activities is a desirable thing, but that might just be because it's always good for students to know why you are asking them to do something and because it's always good to state objectives for any project so you can measure their later success.

I thought this point and question you made, Keli, was one I could comment on.  I do absolutely believe the functionality underlying the departmental/institutional-assessment type of portfolio is within the portfolio domain.  The outputs are quite different, but the source material underneath of it is the same.  A student would want to see various representations of her own work, created for different audiences (public and private).  Departmental administrators would like to see larger collections, but often of very similar material for assessment, but in more summary-based form rather than individual webpages.  Teachng faculty, I find, are right between: they often want to be able to access summary-type information for purposes of grading and evaluation, but they enjoy the individual view of a student's webpage portfolio when thinking about feedback on materials.   For me, it all fits in at different levels of the same process of collect, select, reflect, connect... The student-level portfolios we've been discussing so far are often "guided" at some level by the curriculum that the student is a part of.  For some programs, that guidance is heavy-handed; for others, it's much broader.  In either case, we've been encouraging programs to consider three types of portfolios before deciding which arrangement of tools/materials/outputs are best for them (without detail, we use something like the terms "assessment portfolio," "learning portfolio" and "professional development portfolio" as we discuss the arrangement of tools and outputs with programs; most programs end up with a blend of goals from these three).  These determine whether we feature a matrix, a presentation template, develop reflection prompts or evaluation/feedback forms, and all sorts of other factors of portfolio deployment.

I guess my point to this is that as we move forward with the notion that portfolio-like activity is connected to a lot of other activity in the system, then what we are thinking of is making sure that the options for goal management, assignment and reflection upon assignment, and sharing materials with various audiences (in various presentation modes) are central to Sakai 3.  Those are at the heart of all of our portfolio activity, regardless of which tools we deploy.  That's why tools like a blog and even tests and quizzes should potentially be available as part of a group or individual's portfolio: if we focus on the collection, selection, and connection of student and instructor data, then we're doing portfolio, IMHO.

I ultimately agree with your assertion that it's good to encourage the best practice in the way the tools are put together.  Just by having an optional place to connect an assignment to an institutional or departmental goal would encourage many to explore the advantages of this for themselves and for the students, for example.  We have a lot of institutional effort being put into pedagogical training of all of our faculty, so it would certainly help many of our groups support the grassroots effort to improve assessment, student learning, and fruitful technology adoption.


Marc Zaldivar, Ph.D.                                                                 2210A Torgersen Hall
Director, Virginia Tech Electronic Portfolio Initiatives        Blacksburg, VA 24061-0292
Learning Technologies                                                             540.231.8994
Virginia Tech                                                                              marcz at vt.edu

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