ePortfolio Levels (K-12 Schools)

Levels of ePortfolio Development in K-12 Schools

Most of the research on the implementation of electronic portfolios has been in higher eduction. Most of the customized e-portfolio tools, both commercial and open source, have been created in and for higher education, whereas the paper-based portfolio process itself began in K-12 schools. Over the last eight years, there has been a decline in the use of paper portfolios in schools, perhaps due to the dominance of high stakes standardized testing, even though the integration of technology has boomed. Perhaps more K-12 schools will again consider the use of ePortfolios, but adapted for the different culture of elementary and secondary schooling, and focusing on formative, classroom-based assessment for learning, which prior research has shown to be the best way to improve student achievement (Black & Wiliam, 1998).

The work below was developed for use in a K-12 school district for implementing electronic portfolios for students across the grade levels (ESUSD, 2009). Any district-wide implementation of electronic portfolios should be addressed as a developmental process, addressing both the diverse and growing technology competency of the students and teachers, as well as the varied experience with the portfolio learning and assessment process. Teachers and schools may start at a minimum level (Level 1--Portfolio as Storage) and build toward higher levels of implementation as they gain skills and comfort with the portfolio process. Level 1 might be the most appropriate level for primary students, and Level 3 may be most appropriate for secondary students. These levels are described below.

Level 1 - ePortfolio as Storage

Collection -- Creating the Digital Archive (regularly – weekly/monthly)
A Focus on Contents & Digital Conversion
  • Digital Conversion (Collection)
  • Artifacts represent integration of technology in one curriculum area (i.e., Language Arts)
The most basic level of creating an electronic portfolio is the collection of work in a digital archive, stored on a server, whether locally or on the Internet. At this basic level, the teacher or the student stores the artifacts in folders on a server.

The basic organization of the digital archive is based on files in folders on a server. At this level, teachers choose one curriculum area to store student work samples (for example, writing samples in Language Arts).

The basic activity at this level is converting student work into digital formats and saving these documents in the designated storage space (not on individual laptops). The role of the teacher at this level is to provide students with guidance on the types of artifacts to save.

Primary Google Tools: GoogleDocs & Picasa

Level 2 - ePortfolio as Workspace

Collection + Reflection (Immediate Reflection on Learning & Artifacts in Collection) (regularly)
A Focus on Process & Documentation of Learning
  • Organized chronologically (in a blog) -- "Academic MySpace"
  • Captions focus on individual assignments (Background Information on assignment, Response)
  • Artifacts represent integration of technology in more than one curriculum area (i.e., Language Arts, Social Studies, Science, Math)
  • Reflections on Service Learning Activities
At this level, a learner keeps a learning journal (organized chronologically, with a blog) and reflects on their learning as represented in the samples of their work (artifacts stored in the Digital Archive) or attached/linked to a blog entry. Teachers may set up a structure for student reflection (fill in the blanks in a "Mad Lib, or provide a set of questions to answer about each assignment). This reflective journal can be used to reflect on (and document) service learning activities.

At this level, the artifacts should represent more than a single curriculum area, and demonstrate the many ways that students are using technology across the curriculum.

The primary role of the teacher at this level is to provide formative feedback on the students' work so that they can recognize opportunities for improvement. For younger students, the teacher can help students collect and select appropriate work samples to showcase learning over time.

The advantage of this approach is that it is familiar to students (many students are used to blogging in MySpace), and is a natural way to document learning and change over time.

Primary Google Tools: GoogleDocs and a blog (Announcements page type in Google Sites or Blogger)

Level 3 - ePortfolio as Showcase

Selection/Reflection/Direction (each semester? End of year?)
A Focus on Product & Documentation of Achievement

  • Organized thematically (in web pages or wiki)
  • Why did I choose these pieces? What am I most proud to highlight about my work?
  • What does this work show about my learning?
  • What more can I learn (Direction: Goals for the Future)?
Presentation (annually)

This level of portfolio development requires the student to organize one or more presentation portfolios around a set of learning outcomes, goals or standards (depending on purpose and audience). The presentation portfolio can be developed with a variety of tools. but usually consists of a set of hyperlinked web pages. Some schools may choose to have the students use a web page authoring tool, such as Dreamweaver or iWeb, giving students different options for publishing their websites: locally on the school server, on a CD-Recordable disc, or on a publicly-accessible website (with parent permission). Other schools may choose to use server-based wiki software.

The student reflects on the achievement of specific outcomes, goals or standards, based on guidance provided by the school, hyperlinking to the supporting documents. This level of reflection is more retrospective (thinking back over the learning represented in the specific artifacts selected as evidence of learning). In many ways, this reflection is the students' "closing argument" or their rationale for why they believe these artifacts are clear evidence or their achievement of learning.

In addition to answering the "What?" and "So What?" questions, students should also address the "Now What?" question, or include future learning goals in their presentation portfolios. At the end of the year, a school may organize an opportunity for a formal presentation of the portfolio before a committee or a larger audience.

The teacher's role at this level is not only to provide feedback on the students' work, but also to validate the students' self-assessment of their work.

Primary Google Tool: Google Sites

Summary of Process

Procedure: on a daily/weekly basis
Levels 1 & 2
Procedure: on a periodic basis
(end of class/term/year)
Level 3

  • Integrate technology across the curriculum (generate digital artifacts to store in online repository/ digital archive) (Level 1)
  • Maintain a reflective journal in the form of a blog (organized in reverse-chronological order) (Level 2)
    • When saving items in digital archive, link to a blog entry that contains an immediate reflection on the document and/or the learning associated with an experience (such as service learning) - reflection in the present tense
    • Create a label or tag that categorizes the entry (with attached artifact, where appropriate) by learning standard/goal/outcome
    • Provide feedback to learner in the form of comments in the blog or collaborative editing (by teachers and/or peers)
  • Periodically review the collection for evidence of growth/change over time
  • Review the blog entries and collected evidence and Select specific entries to demonstrate the achievement of the selected standards/goals/outcomes
    • Use the tags/labels in blog entries to review all entries that match selected criteria (generate pages within the blog)
  • Reflect on why the selected artifacts (with associated reflections) constitute evidence of achieving specific standards/goals/outcomes (retrospective reflection... in the past tense)
  • Write future learning goals related to specific standards/goals/outcomes (prospective reflection/direction... in the future tense)
  • Organize a hyperlinked presentation of evidence (with reflections)
  • Present portfolio to an audience (either real or virtual)
  • Evaluate the learner's self-assessment of the achievement of the standards/goals/outcomes that are presented (by teachers and others)