20 February 2013

ePortfolio: Tag, Reflect and Assess - Still from ICOT2013

The Tagging the Learning Journey- A new model for assessment by Ewan McIntosh appealed as soon as I saw it on the ICOT2013 programme.

What I am trying to do here is to connect the development of an ePortfolio, the use of Tags as introduced by Ewan, and the principles of Assessment for Learning. I go on to suggest what it could look like for the Language learner.
A tall order: hopefully by the end of this post I will have outlined a vision ofhow it is all meant to work together to "enable student to take more control over their assessment" (E. McIntosh)

ePortfolios can be a showcase of the best, the final products that are the result of following a task.  The teacher can access the product, and grade it. This is an initial step in the eportfolio world for Language students and teachers in NZ: NCEA Interact and Write internally assessed standards require a portfolio of evidence. That is 3 to 5 pieces packaged together to be graded, by the teacher.

Yet a move to portfolio assessment offers a great deal more by opening a wonderful box of opportunities to, amongst others:
- change the nature of the tasks (Is "one fits all" still current when personalising learning?)
- change how the tasks are assessed (feedback, feedforward)
- redistribute the assessesing cards (self, peer, teacher)
- make the learning process visible to both the student (learning to learn) and the teacher (measuring the progress not just the achievement)
- hence know the students better and know how they learn better (to ensure that each assessment is appropriate and fit for purpose)
- give the students a chance to think critically and reflect about their work (gain awareness of not only what they learn but also how they are learning)

Add "e" in front of portfolio and e-porfolio become a vehicle for teachers and students to develop together their digital skills and competences, as well as their creativity.
Then you start having an eportfolio as a process, showing the stages of learning ("filming the learning", from beginning to end, with initial draft, rework, feedback, to final draft) that are now visible, can be revisited to identify how skills have evolved (reflection), to showcase success (to parents and/or third party?) and to establish where to next.

Ewan McIntosh at Clair2013 presenting Reflection
What Ewan McIntosh explained in his workshop is how his team and the teachers in the London school worked together on shifting the onus of assessing from the teacher to the student. So that the students own their learning, by organising it, reflecting on it and sharing it. So that the teacher, by refering to these reflections, gets a way richer, fuller picture of each individual's learning journey, thus empowering him to plan the next learning step, in full knowledge of where the student is at and in conversation with them.

Ok I must add here that Ewan's workshop is set up in the concept of Design Thinking (here is an example), in a provocative inquiry learning project that the students themselves entitled "London is full, evacuate", that all teachers are on board revisiting their assessment strategies, that the notion of time seem to be strategically ignored and that a range of technology is provided.

I am not (yet!) trying to delve too much on how this could look like in a French class.
What I am trying to do here though is to extract the possibilities considering our framework (NZC, Achievement Objectives, Ellis Principles, iCLT, and effective pedagogy) to develop the use of an eportfolio to support language learning. 

- Know your students, spend time,  have them define for themselves why they are learning French, ask them to show you the type of work they produce in other areas, invite them to list what they see as their strengths and weaknesses, what they find easy or hard, what prior knowledge or interest they can bring to the class. Make this a first eportfolio activity, by recording this on a profile page or a blog post for instance.

- Allow to let go of the tyranny of time and programmes. Make time to explain and discuss what a learning process is, why they are engaging in thinking about their learning in the French class, make time to have them "picture" what an eportfolio looks like, what type of stuff there is in it, collaboratively. Suggest they share their strengths and weaknesses with others in the class to build a support network (KC: Relate to others). Make a place and time to really know students, and be able to say how we know them.

- Design authentic ("is there a genuine need to do this?"), passion tugging ("are we going to have a good solid argument about this") and engaging ("would I want to do this if I was 14?) task. If unsure of the response, put it to your students and invite them to tweak it for their purpose. (KC Participating and Contributing). Involvement in the assignment brief can only deepen engagement. Plan for collaborative and collective assessments. Build in opportunities for students' creativity to come through by letting them chose their direction and their medium for completion (slideshow, video, poster, online, on paper...) Model, and if needed, prompt them:

eg: If preparing for an upcoming trip to New Caledonia, brainstorm what preparing involves: some may choose to investigate places to visit and create a pamphlet, other make a useful phrase booklet to print, others prepare a mihi or a cultural show and record the process, others again might publish the itinerary for their hosts families etc. (KC: use of Language Symbol and Text)

- Define, clearly,  together,  what constitutes high quality work: discuss, display on walls, talk together about it... The students ought to internalise this to own it. Use official curriculum or ncea stuff if you want but cut the jargon out of it with your students. Making connections with how they learn in other learning areas can help them engage in the process of learning French and it will show on their eportfolio through their reflections (KC Thinking)

- Consider that any task can lead to potential evidence towards the criteria.

- Assure them that errors constitute learning, that is why there are drafts on which they get feedback and that they keep them as a record of their progress. 

- Hand over to student to capture evidence of learning when it occurs. Great use of devices, own or not, and wifi! Not a "let's record this now because today is recording day"! Not everyone can capture evidence of their own learning at the same prescribed time, and not everyone will update their eportfolio this way either. (KC: Self Management)

- Let the students tag the evidence meaningfully, this will help internalise the criteria for high quality work (KC: using Language, Symbol and Text)
Ewan McIntosh suggests three different categories of tags to start with
(I am adding in brackets some tags that could be used for Languages)

- what it is (Eg: read, write, type of text, interact, present...)
- the skill or competence (eg: language, culture, produce, spelling, pronunciation, past event, future event, accuracy, fluency ...)
- an "emotion tag" how the learner feels about it (Great, hard,  proud, love, must do better, hate, boring, success... those tags could be in the target language)

Tagging online evidence allows to organise it. 
eg: find all the evidence tagged "interact" and "proud" at the click of a mouse and thus help the student identify which they would like to submit for a showcase portfolio towards 1.3
- Prompt them to use these tags to reflect on their progress (KC Thinking)
Ewan McIntosh suggests to scaffold reflective capability with simple questions to start with:
- where have I been? (eg: "I found it hard to describe a situation in writing")
- where am I now? (eg: "here I have used some language with success and x understood my description")
- where am I going next? (eg: "I must do better with the accuracy of my pronunciation to avoid misunderstandings)

Over a period of time and depending on the level of language acquisition, students can start to use the target language to tag and then reflect .
- Comment on their reflections punctually, using a reminder prompt ("do you know what to do next?"), a scaffold prompt ("ss that enough help?') and an example prompt ("what will you do if you get stuck again?". Leave a mark to acknowledge you are reading and using their reflections to inform your teaching.

- Step back, observe and trust them to start commenting following a similar model on their peers' work.  Consider assessing yourself only sporadically at a designated time (eg: maybe only after rework of an initial draft that has been peer assessed twice or for some designated pieces)

- Consider that different students produce different ePortfolios. You may start with carefully designed templates which will help make the purpose transparent and communicable. Accept that they should just help with the process and that individual students will progress and capture evidence of learning at different stages and through different learning opportunity and possibly personalise their eportfolio.

SO here are some ingredients to "film the learning": Provide great assessment activities (and plenty of them), scaffold them to learn new stuff and revisit previously acquired ones, co-define with students what high quality work looks like and what it involves, provide descriptive feedback in a timely manner and always look towards improvement.  Assist in selecting, in conversation with the student, what constitutes the best pieces for submission to be evaluated formally.

As I said at the beginning of this post, I am merely trying to clarify what steps could help students and teachers understand what are really, in my opinion, the reasons to consider building an ePortfolio: it can be hard initially because  students may not have any piece of evidence to add to their portfolio (if they have been used to producing and saving digital evidence in say, their own drive, they are a step closer to get started!)

They will use self management, digital skills, critical thinking, opportunities to work with others, to learn to trust/critic judgement from a range of people, to gather their own evidence that they can meet the requirement of the task,  to learn not to complete an assignment to be seen just by one, the teacher. The type of stuff they will need to do all life long, when school's out for ever!

Next we can start thinking about some tools that can help with this!

What do you think? Can this work? Something wrong in here? Where is the French I hear you think?
Thanks to all the following for your virtual great help:

NoTosh Projects
Playing Tag: Ewan McIntosh on Assessment at ICOT2013
Great tips and tools to create eportfolios
Core ten trends 2013: Personalisation
Assessment for Learning TKI
Using the ePortfolio to validate students' learning
Senior Secondary Achievement Objectives Learning Languages TKI
Effective Teaching in Languages TKI

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