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Using portfolios for learning and assessment - frying pan to fire?. David Baume PhD FSEDA. Main topics. Your experiences of portfolios Your main questions about portfolios Nature and uses of portfolios Students, tutors and portfolios Pedagogy, economics and logistics

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main topics
Main topics
  • Your experiences of portfolios
  • Your main questions about portfolios
  • Nature and uses of portfolios
  • Students, tutors and portfolios
  • Pedagogy, economics and logistics
  • An example – law skills portfolio
  • Advantages and disadvantages (throughout)
  • E-portfolios (throughout)
  • Frying pan and fire?
  • Remaining questions and possibilities about portfolios
some functions of a portfolio
Some functions of a portfolio
  • A repository

A collection of work

  • For development

A repository with selection, commentary, reflection, sense of progression

  • For assessment

The student’s selection of their work and reflections thereon, to show why they should pass

  • For presentation

A further selection, for an application for a post etc.

  • Other functions, actual or possible?
students tutors and portfolios
Students, tutors and portfolios
  • Student - “What should I put in my portfolio?”
  • Tutor - “Anything you think is relevant!”
  • Student 1 – “So can I put in [long list of things?]
  • Tutor – “Yes! Any and all of those, and more besides!”

How might the student report this conversation to another student?

  • Student 1 – “The tutor said we could put anything we want into the portfolio.”
  • Student 2 – “So what are you going to put in?”
  • Student 1 – “I don’t know.”
students and portfolios a story
Students and portfolios – a story
  • “We [second-year students] were asked to prepare a portfolio.
  • “We had not done one before. It gave 50% of the module marks. We asked ‘How big should the portfolio be?’. They said ‘As big as it needs to be.’ A few portfolios from last year were available, but not enough to go round.
  • “How did we feel? Unprepared, unrehearsed, in fact panicky. A lot of marks were at stake. It was the biggest single piece of work we had done on the course. We could have written thousands of words only to be told they were irrelevant and we’d failed the module. Scary!
  • “What would we have liked? Practice at doing a small portfolio in the first year. A full briefing. Chance for us all to see and discuss some real portfolios. Tutorials, and some feedback, as we made our portfolios, to check we were on the right lines.”
students and portfolios
Students and portfolios

Told they will be building a portfolio, students may ask, among other questions:

  • “Why?” “Will it be assessed?” “What’s a portfolio?”
  • “How many copies do I have to hand in?” “Will I get it back?”
  • “Could I see one from last year, please?”

The more sophisticated may also ask:

  • “Can I include work I’ve already had assessed?”
  • “Does everything in it have to be my own University work, or can I include – things done by other people – published sources – things we did in group work – relevant things I did outside University?”
  • “How will it be assessed?”

You need good answers to such questions

possible elements and features of a portfolio
Possible elements and features of a portfolio
  • Evidence
    • From the student’s work and study
  • Annotation
    • What exactly is this evidence?
  • Critical reflection
    • Making sense of the evidence and of the learning
  • Structure
    • Contents list
  • Index or search function
    • Much easier with an e-portfolio
  • Mapping and claim
    • “I hereby assert that this evidence … shows that I have achieved this course outcome… and therefore that I should pass this particular outcome.” (Again, easier with an e-portfolio.)
pedagogy and portfolios
Pedagogy and portfolios
  • Students can include successive drafts of work, with feedback and with comments on how they have used the feedback
  • Students can comment on how and why their work has changed (hopefully improved) over the course
  • Students can produce and use a much wider variety of types of work
  • Students may come to value their own work more highly
economics and portfolios
Economics and portfolios
  • Portfolios can be very large and very time consuming to mark. However…
    • Students can critically review the evidence in their portfolios. The tutor can read the students’ critical commentaries, and check from time to time against the supporting evidence. This greatly reduces assessment time. This is easier with an e-portfolio
    • Courses should specify maximum portfolio size, to ensure that time to assess is reasonable
    • Reading a portfolio gives the tutor a much richer and more detailed assessment of the student’s development and capability
logistics and portfolios
Logistics and portfolios
  • Securely handling many lever-arch portfolios can be expensive and difficult
  • 40 mm ring binders, or simple wallet folders, are easier to handle
  • If staff are willing to assess at screen, e-portfolios solve most logistics problems (and only create a few of their own)
the law skills portfolio
The law skills portfolio
  • Problem; some skills required for qualifying law degree status cannot sensibly be assessed by examination:
      • Group work;
      • Using paper and on-line law libraries;
      • Planning, researching and producing an original report;
      • Assessing your progress and using feedback;
      • Word-processing and exchanging documents by e-mail;
      • Effective oral communication of English legal information
the law skills portfolio1
The law skills portfolio
  • Students undertake a small project. This should bring coherence to what might otherwise be a rather scrappy collection of skills.
  • They will develop the skills through this project.
  • E-portfolio for project and skills using PebblePad
  • A short examination on the project will reduce the likelihood of undetected plagiarism and collusion in the project and portfolio
  • A detailed portfolio project guide, written with Julian Webb, UKCLE
  • From Summer 2010, ~600 students per annum
frying pan examinations
Frying pan? Examinations…
  • Exams test knowledge, understanding, and maybe the ability to apply knowledge
  • Exams may appear to test high-level skills – analysis, synthesis, evaluation. But they may only test (modified) recall of earlier answers
  • Students rarely value the work they produce in exams. (Just as well - they never see it again)
  • Marking exam papers can be soul-destroying
  • Exams make cheating difficult but not impossible.
  • Exam assessment is unreliable
fire portfolios
Fire? Portfolios…
  • Can take huge efforts to produce and to mark; but this can be controlled
  • Can require each student to do different work, work which they may value, work which is hard (but still not impossible) to plagiarise
  • Can require students to reflect critically
  • May well be more interesting to mark than scripts
  • Can be subject to detection of plagiarism and collusion – JISC Turnitin
  • (Portfolio assessment is also unreliable)
on balance
On balance…
  • “Portfolio assessment” isn’t a single method of assessment – rather, it allows a great variety of types of student work to be assessed together
  • Portfolios can get students to develop and demonstrate a wider range of appropriate learning outcomes than do examinations
  • Portfolios can generate higher level work
  • e-Portfolios are easier to manage than p-
  • Exams are the devil we know
  • Portfolios offer a ladder out of – the fire