Electronic Portfolio Adoption for Teacher Education Candidates
Post on 15-Jul-2016
Electronic Portfolio Adoption for Teacher Education Candidates
Michael W. Ledoux1,2 and Nadine McHenry1
Programs of professional development for preservice teachers of young children in the UnitedStates attempt to align their program goals and candidate performances to The NationalAssociation for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), Association of Childhood
Education International (ACEI), and their particular state standards. In addition they attemptto teach candidates to be knowledgeable and reective practitioners who use the best practicesin their eld. This article will address one universitys attempt to adopt this process and utilize
electronic portfolios. The article will include examples of course objectives, standards, rubrics,and candidate performances interwoven through program matrices in order to insure theproper delivery of instruction while maintaining exibility and creativity. It is hoped that the
article will foster discussion about the strengths and challenges of accountability and academicfreedom in preparing candidates in early childhood education.
KEY WORDS: standards; teacher preparation; portfolios; technology; assessment.
We live in an era of accountability. Govern-mental agencies, churches, businesses, and privatecitizens are being scrutinized more closely than everfor actions and behaviors that are inconsistent withthe missions and goals of organizations. Teachereducation programs in colleges and universitiesthroughout the United States are undergoing strin-gent reviews from state agencies and accreditingbodies to make sure that their programs are properlyaligned to performance standards established byprofessional societies, accreditation agencies orgovernmental bodies (cf. Association for ChildhoodEducation 20002001; Darling-Hammond, 1999;Edelfelt & Raths, 1998; Galluzzo, 1999; Myers &Crowe, 2000).
One may wonder whether this new fervor forstrict alignment of objectives, instruction, and
assessment with standards in order to improveprograms is meritorious or whether it is a fad thatwill pass. It is also hoped that reection upon thisprocess will cause educators to review the meaning ofacademic freedom and press for expanded notions ofassessment that will allow for more ample expressionsof ideas in preparation programs.
Within this context, we would like to address theuse of an electronic portfolio system for the prepa-ration of candidates in early childhood educationprograms at the initial licensure level. We will makeuse of the program standards for The NationalAssociation for the Education of Young Children(NAEYC: NAEYC, 2001), Association of ChildhoodEducation International (ACEI), since these standardsmay be the most familiar to practitioners in theUnited States and are comparable to standards inother countries with similar school systems. It is byusing these core standards (see Table I) that anelectronic portfolio system can be helpful in aggre-gating data to assist in program approval, and, moreimportantly, program improvement.
As those who have gone through the accreditingprocess recently know, the rst, and possiblymost daunting task in establishing a program
1Education, Widener University, One University Place, Chester,
PA 19013, USA.2Correspondence should be directed to Michael W. Ledoux,
Education, Widener University, One University Place, Chester,
PA 19013, USA; e-mail: Mwledoux@mail.widener.edu
Early Childhood Education Journal, Vol. 34, No. 2, October 2006 ( 2006)DOI: 10.1007/s10643-006-0111-1
1031082-3301/06/1000-0103/0 2006 Springer Science+Business Media, Inc.
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review is to align the various standards for the mul-tiple programs being oered by any institution. Asample of the possibly alignment is oered in Table I.Once this alignment is complete, demonstrating thecongruence of required performances across IN-TASC and Specialized Professional Association(SPA) standards, the faculty engaged in this processmust agree on how to reect these outcomes in theptograms(s) and individual courses. Many faculties inthe US have come to adopt the INTASC Principles asthe driving force describing candidate performance.The INTASC standards then need to be reectedwithin the syllabi of each of the faculty members whoare teaching preparation courses and a matrixdeveloped to show where each of the programmaticoerings intend to present candidates with thelearning opportunities aligned with these Principles.Making the standards matrix in an electronic move-able format will allow faculty to rearrange thestandards to t into the appropriate conguration.Faculty members who develop their own courseobjectives and assessment tasks then need a furthertranslation. A sample of the syllabus and coursetask alignments is oered in Table II. Those whohave gone through this process realize the complexi-ties involved, especially when teacher educatorprograms involve faculty from schools or divisionsother than education. For those who have not yetwrestled with these standards and the alignmentprocess, you are wished the best of success and lots ofpatience.
HOW TO ASSESS PRESERVICE EARLYCHILDHOOD PRACTITIONERS
Accrediting agencies and veteran educators atthe higher education level often view assessment indierent ways. External agencies seek measures thatapply to all students who pass through a professionalpreparation program so that similar competenciescan be assessed for all program completers or at anyparticular stage of a program. Our university, repre-sentative of many, has three patterns of programcompletion in early childhood education: typicalundergraduate progression, accelerated adult learnersthrough the University College program, and grad-uate students who are likely to be part-time adults incareer changes. In order to set any assumptions aboutassessment, it becomes necessary to convince (coerce)all instructors, both adjunct and full-time, to agree onat least a few assessment strategies that will result indata that can be aggregated across sections.
At rst, this may seem a simple and logical step.However, it involves the transformation of culturesamong many faculty. It is felt to be an intrusion intotheir own domain of instruction and assessment. Tofurther complicate matters, a choice must be made inhow to involve adjunct faculty in the decision processfor overall student performance. Again a cultureshift, this meant, for us, that adjuncts were asked todo more than arrive on campus to teach; they wererequired to meet with full-time faculty and be trainedin the goals of the program assessment and portfoliosystem. For those institutions with schools ofeducation who are separated from content areadepartments of liberal arts, this again becomes amatter of cultural intrusion.
Let us illustrate this with an example. All earlychildhood majors are required to take an introduc-tory course in psychology. The need for such a courseis apparent and relates to INTASC Principle #2,NAEYC Standard #1 (see Table I, column 1 forINTASC principles), and most state requirements.However, this meant that to decide upon a task oroutcome for students from this course across allprogram, we needed to involve full-time faculty fromthe School of Arts & Sciences, adjunct faculty fromthe University College, full-time and part-time fac-ulty from the Center for Education, and theirrespective administrators. These faculty, typically ledby the full-time faculty, then needed to determinewhich tasks or strategies would be common to allsections of all syllabi. This process was then repli-cated for all courses to determine which assessmenttasks would become standard fare for this course.Level(s) of prociency also had to be agreed upongiven the challenges of graduate and undergraduatestudents and the involvement of non-traditional stu-dents in initial certication programs. This discussioncontinued within the formation of rubrics to bediscussed later in this article.
In the end, two strategies developed among fac-ulty. The rst was to develop a standardized syllabusfor all sections of the same course. This meant thatfaculty relinquished control of their personal assess-ment choices and agreed to conform to a set ofassessment tasks, content, and timelines for studentprogression. The second strategy was that facultyagreed (perhaps conceded) to include three assess-ment strategies that would be common to all sections,but left other strategies as optional or used at thediscretion of the instructor.
A third strategy was also attempted. This was anattempt to determine that the same objective could be
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measured in multiple ways within or among dieringsections of the same course and could be aggregatedfor the same score. Although this strategy preservedmore teacher autonomy, in the end, it was discardedas simply too cumbersome.
The next issue that faculty had to agree uponwere certain premises to measure student progress.Multiple levels of governance had to be involved toestablish these processes. The rst, a local educationleadership group to determine assessment (appropri-ately named the assessment committee) that receivedtheir charge from the Center for Educations Aca-demic Aairs Committee. The second level was aninterscholastic committee termed the Teacher Edu-cation Council to act as liaison among all academicentities involved with teacher education from theaforementioned schools and units. This body receivedapproval from the University level Academic AairsCommittee and the local levels involved in thecommittee.
Once satised that student-learning outcomesare properly aligned, accrediting agencies are seekingevidence of student performance. The use of portfo-lios as a means of auditing student performance moreauthentically has been popular for more than a dec-ade (e.g. Danielson, 1996; Zubizarreta, 1994). Mostteacher education programs have required portfoliosof student teachers or students as a graduationrequirement. Once the challenge of alignment of syl-labi and the need to show student performances wasdescribed to the faculty, the Teacher EducationCouncil and the local committees agreed upon the useof a portfolio system for aggregating studentprogress.
In order to use the portfolios for studentassessment, certain premises must be made as to theway initial training processes with portfolios willoccur, how artifacts will be included or excluded, thetimes of review for artifacts, and who the appro-priate persons are to review the artifacts (cf. Cole &Ryan 1998, p. 12). Along with the adoption of aformal portfolio system for assessment along theprogram, which had previously only been requiredby individual instructors and at the completion ofstudent teaching, we also chose to adopt an elec-tronic system with the belief that it would moreeasily assist us in assessing and aggregating data. Tothat end, the Teacher Education Council formulateda plan for the implementation for the system andsome premises.
In our process, we determined that the followingpremises:
1. All teacher candidates in initial certication programs
will use electronic portfolios;
2. Teacher candidates will be introduced to the electronic
portfolio technology during their rst year in the teacher
education program in a technology for education class.
This provides the necessary instruction and support for
3. Teacher candidates will use the INTASC Principles
as performance expectations. Teacher candidates must
submit artifacts that demonstrate achievement of each
4. Teacher candidates will be required to use information
from their rst Introduction to Education to develop
artifacts that will represent their achievement.
5. Teacher candidates will self select their best representa-
tions as evidence of accomplishment of a particular
standard or standards.
5a. The term best will vary according to students
progression through the program. Teacher candidates
may receive excellent grades from one or more instruc-
tors or supervisors, while still being deemed emergent
in performance level due to their position in the
6. Decision points will be established within courses in the
rst three years of the program so that designated fac-
ulty will become responsible for portfolio review.
7. Final prociency will be established by a review of the
electronic portfolio at the end of the students program.
The end of program will include PRAXIS exam comple-
tion and successful student teaching.
Although most of these premises seem self-explanatory and logical, the sixth premise is of con-cern for teacher candidates and reviewers. Becausestudents in an initial eld placement or course may behighly successful (i.e. earning a letter grade of A) attheir assessment task, they still may not demonstratethe skills and development necessary to be deemedprocient in a particular standard. As a candidateprogresses through the program, the target shifts. Assophomores, candidates are expected to reach theemergent level; as juniors, they are expected to reachprociency; and as seniors, we hope that many willreach the target level. Expectations vary according toraters and the levels are dierent with graduate initialcertication candidates and adult learners in initiallicensure.
This necessitated the establishment of yet an-other committee to develop rubrics for portfolioassessment at each of the decision points so thatstudents among diering programs and in dierentlevels of courses could be assessed according to cri-teria that could be aggregated independently fromgrade reporting or instructor evaluations. ThePortfolio Rubrics Committee developed extensiverubrics (see Table III) to assess student progress atthe determined decision points. This allowed for
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the determination of student progress accordingto the levels of emergent, procient, and target,regardless of the course grade assigned by a profes-sor.
ELECTRONIC PORTFOLIOS V. HARD COPY
The most cumbersome requirements of portfolioassessment for faculty are the review of the artifacts,the aggregation of data to show program strengthsand weaknesses, and the transport and storage of thehard-copy portfolios. The use of an electronic port-folio system can aid in this process, due to the uidityof transfer and storage of materials.
The electronic portfolio system used is a pro-prietary system we adopted was developed by JohnsHopkins University with support from them. It al-lows teacher candidates unlimited storage capacity,the ability to develop multiple portfolios for dierentuses, log in using the same protocols as the regularcampus system, and transfer their portfolios to othermembers of the learning community for review. It isthis last feature that allows for scoring and dataaggregation.
By establishing decision points the teachingfaculty are able to view a students progress accord-ing to the INTASC Standards and apply them to theNAEYC and ACEI standards accordingly. Havingestablished four decision points (initially at ED 101;at time of application to certication, with approxi-mately 48 credits of coursework completed; afterstudent teaching; and upon exiting the program); thedata collection is able to take place by way of theportfolio review. However, in order to ascertainactual program needs, data aggregation has to occurand two scenarios can take place. The rst is tospecify that, among the particular artifacts chosen,certain artifact constants must be included, such asa social studies unit or lesson plan. The second is toallow the variety of artifacts to remain, but to assessoverall achievement against the standards. We chosethe latter to allow for greater student exibility andreection in understanding of how artifacts fulll therequirements of each standard. It is our hope thatteacher candidates will become more reective intheir learning by this process of self-selection asindicated in portfolio assessment as some researcherssuggest (Campbell, Gidnetti, Melenyzer, Nettle, &Wyman, 2004; Meyer, et al 1996; Niles & Bruneau,1994).
During the stated decision points, faculty assessportfolios against the INTASC standards for pro-
ciency. The uid transfer of electronic portfolioswithin the community allows for access by single ormultiple assessors. The establishment of rubrics forportfolio assessment by designated faculty will reducegaps in interrater reliability issues.
STUDENT USE OF ELECTRONICPORTFOLIOS
Beyond the exibility, storage, and transfercapabilities of the electronic version of portfolios,electronic portfolios have helped us to imbed tech-nology use in an authentic task aimed at helpingteacher candidates develop a product and set ofperformances that will be connected to career devel-opment. The electronic portfolio requires skills intechnological awareness that are transferable to manyother aspects of professional practice. The ACEIstandards require student prociency in means ofcommunication related to practice. 3.4 Communi-cation to foster learning-Candidates use their knowl-edge and understanding of eective verbal,nonverbal, and media communication techniques tofoster active inquiry, collaboration, and supportiveinteraction in the elementary classroom (NCATE,2000). This standard is aligned with teacher candi-dates performance in the design and maintenance ofthe portfolio as outlined in INTASC Standard 6:The teacher uses knowledge of eective verbal,nonverbal, and media communication techniques tofoster active inquiry, collaboration, and supportiveinteraction in the classroom. (Chief State SchoolOcers Council, 1992). Other standards, such as thestandards for technology achievement may also beused.
Electronic portfolios, as any portfolio collection,can be nothing more than a storage container if tea-cher candidates are not eectively taught to utilize thecontents to show performances. The design of theelectronic portfolio system, which allows for artifactsto be utilized as evidence to support multiple stan-dards, helps teacher candidates to shape portfoliosfor specic purposes. A teacher candidates can de-velop one portfolio for a teacher in a class, anotherfor his or her supervisor of student teaching, and yetanother for an employer during a job interview. Onceagain, this ability is not limited to electronic portfo-lios, but the transfer of les and repositioning ofitems is far more exible than the cumbersome tasksconnected to hard copy forms.
Since reective practice is one of the goals ofportfolio development and part of a constructivist
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educational agenda (Meyer, Tusin, & Turner, 1996;Niles & Bruneau, 1994), the electronic portfolio helpsteacher candidates to become reective of their workand the audience they are addressing. Part of thework we are doing with candidates is to help them touse portfolios to substantiate claims of teachingabilities, rather than simply collect works that arehanded to a supervisor or employer (NAEYC Stan-dard 5). Thus, the candidate is educated on ways ofpresentation of ideas using the electronic portfoliosfor diering audiences. As an example of this, stu-dents in a social studies methods class are asked touse their portfolios in two ways: one, to show howthey, as reective learners, have achieved skills nec-essary for the teaching of a concept; and two, toprovide an example of an interview scenario where anemployer will ask about the ability to involve thecommunity or parents in a lesson. The student willmake active use of the portfolio illustrating to theteacher and/or employer a video clip of a lessonwhere parents were brought into a class to do an oralhistory project or grandparents helped develop atimeline.
Those of us who have gone back into the attic toreview old notes or papers from our undergraduatedays will often laugh at our earlier attempts at aparticular subject or come across a piece of materialthat was especially prophetic or insightful. The elec-tronic portfolio system allows teacher candidates amore immediate review of material on a regular basis.The exibility of data reconguration and the regularreview of materials by faculty under diering cir-cumstances: class assignments, portfolio review,supervisors, or cooperating teachers, is an importantpart of the reective process. Teacher candidates havethe opportunity to review their own materials andassess their own level of prociency.
The electronic version of portfolios has an addedbenet of being both dynamic and static. Hard copyportfolios require the duplication of material or thetransfer of materials from one-storage container toanother. In order for dynamic student process to beexamined, the physical artifact must be recreated ormoved to a new design. This is obviously facilitatedwith the electronic format. Beyond this, however, theelectronic format allows a candidate to burn a CD atany time within the process to keep a year oneportfolio, year two portfolio, social studies portfolio,etc. without the need to reproduce hard copyartifacts. The result is that one can have a collage ofboth still photos and motion clips of studentprogress.
LIMITATIONS OF THE ELECTRONICPORTFOLIO FOR TEACHER CANDIDATES
Technology is always changing. A major concernfor those of us using electronic data storage is therapid revision of systems and processes. It was fewerthan twenty years ago when oppy disks were actu-ally oppy, even fewer years ago when a disc was thenormative storage piece. Concerns about retrieval ofdata in the future are a signicant limitation. Paperstill remains easy to locate and retrieve. For anyonewith an eight-track tape or a beta recorder, infor-mation retrieval in the wake of technologicaladvances should be a concern.
Cost benet analyses are also a concern for mostinstitutions. As a moderate to small institution, theadoption of an electronic system is expensive.Although some of the costs can be transferred to thelearner, the overall costs of higher education arealready prohibitive to many teacher candidates.Whether the exibility, easy alignment with stan-dards, and communication to reviewers is worth theinvestment will be dependent upon institutionalresources.
Access to systems beyond graduation is anotherlimitation of the current electronic portfolio systemson the market. Candidates can burn CDs at the endof a program, but they must subscribe to ongoingservices for storage, support and licensing if they areto use the portfolio system continuously. This may bea way for development and alumni oces to maintaincontact with graduates, but the costs are signicant.
Another illustration of a problem that occurswith electronic portfolios is the acceptance, resistanceor inherent ability of faculty to use electronic media.Anyone with the experience of watching a youngerchild play a video game and an elder relative fumblewith a digital clock has gained anecdotal evidence ofthe digital divide that is not determined by socio-economic factors but generational exposure andfacility with the media. Many faculty, although adeptat the use of technology, still revert to hard copy textfor reading and assessment purposes. For those whohave termed those competent with technology asdigital citizens and those who are not as aliens, manyof our faculty are naturalized citizens in the pro-cess. This has meant, for us, that faculty will continueto download artifacts for review, rather than utilizingthe electronic form and responding without paper.Instead of adding an ease of the process, it is an ad-ded burden among reviewers. It also increases theneed for faculty training in the electronic portfolios
system, adding to both the costs and infrastructuresupport (release time, training materials, etc.).
Finally, there is a philosophic question that goesbeyond the electronic system and more to the ques-tion of standards and accountability in general. Doesthis make for better early childhood educators? Will astudent who is able to document his or her attain-ment of certain levels of prociency throughout aprogram that contains reective practice, truly re-main a lifelong leaner? Will the move towardsaccountability and standards insure a population ofteachers who is more connected with children and thecommunity? Is the coercive nature of standardsantithetical to the basic freedoms that an educatedcitizenry should espouse? Or, is this a coercion thatsimply tracks the best qualities of candidates andhelps us to weed out the cha of the profession?
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