The Pre-service Teacher ePortfolio
What is an ePortfolio?
The term 'ePortfolio' (or digital portfolio) is used to describe a collection of digital resources that are presented in a connected and meaningful way for a particular audience. While it is possible to present an ePortfolio in an off-line context, for example on a usb drive, these days it is more typical to provide a web based ePortfolio connected to digital resources stored in an online space, often referred to as "the cloud".
An ePortfolio is, however, more than simply a store of digital resources. You will need to begin by thinking globally about how your portfolio might be organised (Planning). Next you systematically keep and store resources that you create (Collecting) and then you will annotate, tag and name your resources in a meaningful way (Collating). You need to know why each resource is significant in your collection and you will need to be able to write about why this is important in your learning journey (Reflecting). You will need to think of your audience and arrange selected resources with your reflections as evidence for a particular purpose (Connecting). Finally, you will build the interface for your content- a 'show' portfolio - and share it with your audience to meet the desired purpose (Presenting).
The whole process is often referred to as 'keeping a portfolio', but technically the final product is the actual portfolio. The ePortfolio, therefore, is the digital artefact that you prepare and send to someone to showcase your work and your understanding of a field, concept or topic. This portfolio will have a starting point (An overview or introduction), it will have the content organised in a logical way to present your ideas and evidence and then a logical and satisfying end point (A summary or a conclusion).
As your audience and purpose changes each time, it is likely that you will put together a customised ePortfolio every time you need one. For each portfolio you should ask yourself:
Who is the audience?
What is the question?
You have finished your teaching degree and you want to apply for a teaching position as an Art Teacher at Sunshine District High School.
Who is the audience?
What is the question?
The Principal and Interview Panel at Sunshine District High School
Why are you the best Art teacher that Sunshine District High School will ever employ?
As you can imagine, this ePortfolio would be a different version if you were applying for a position at a different school, as a primary teacher or in another context.
If you glance over your course structure on paper, you will see that it is compartmentalised in to 32 units and, if you are a full time student, you will enrol in four units at a time over eight semesters (four years). In reality though, becoming a teacher is much more than simply a matter of enrolling in and then passing the required units.
In Australia, the process of educating teachers is coordinated by an organisation called the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL). AITSL have developed a set of standards known as the 'Professional Standards for Teachers' and universities are required to use these standards to design any teacher education program.
These standards are also used in the process of teacher registration. When a student graduates from a teacher education course, the university verifies that the student has met the standards at a 'graduate' level and the student is registered as a 'provisional teacher' by the state authority (in Tasmania this is the Teachers Registration Board of Tasmania). The new teacher is then responsible for working towards the standards at the 'Proficient' level and you will be able to apply to the registration board for full registration.
So how does the university ensure that every student meets the standards at graduate level? Firstly, we do make sure that each student encounters all of the standards at the unit level. You will notice that specific standards are identified for each unit in the unit outline. Further, if you collected all of your unit outlines together, you would find that each of the AITSL standards has been listed at least once (and usually more).
The second way we ensure that you will meet the standards is by expecting you to have a working knowledge of the standards and to be aware of how you are progressing towards achieving them. This is where the ePortfolio comes in. As you progress through your course, you will need to collect evidence that you are meeting the standards and be able to use this material to demonstrate your learning over time. At various stages in your course you will be asked to draw on this material to reflect on your development as a teacher, usually in the form of an ePortfolio presentation. Further, by the time you complete your course, it is essential that you have a comprehensive collection that will form the basis of your own-going professional portfolio.
This focus on standard based portfolios for teacher education has been specified in the Action now: Classroom ready teachers report(TEMAG, 2014). The TEMAG report identifies that pre-service teachers need a 'Portfolio of Evidence'.
The report recommended that:
The Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership develop a national assessment framework, including requirements for a Portfolio of Evidence, to support higher education providers and schools to consistently assess the classroom readiness of pre-service teachers throughout the duration of their program.
Pre-service teachers develop a Portfolio of Evidence to demonstrate their achievement of the Graduate level of the Professional Standards.
Beginning teachers build on their Portfolio of Evidence to reach full registration at the Proficient level of the Professional Standards.
This government report will be guiding the implementation of teacher education over the coming years.
The professional experience is a powerful and core component of any teaching qualification. When you are participating in professional experience you are required to immerse in the education environment where you are on placement and then use this experience to develop as a teacher. It is not surprising then, that the TEMAG report considered that your professional experiences are an important part of your 'Portfolio of Evidence'.
The report specifies that
Higher education providers and schools work together to assist pre-service teachers to develop and collect sophisticated evidence of their teaching ability and their impact on student learning for their Portfolio of Evidence.
In response to the TEMAG report, the Practicum Office in the Faculty of Education has identified that every student on a UTAS Professional Experience is required to document their planning, observations and reflections and store these along with resources and artefacts in a collection that could equate to the 'Portfolio of Evidence'.
This material is important while you are participating in the experience because you will be required to use it as a stimulus to discuss teaching and learning with your colleague teacher and perhaps your university supervisor. Your collection of materials has impact beyond the individual practicum, however. It is essential that you store your practicum content across your course so that you can draw on it for assessment and ongoing reflection that includes representing:
- Your growth over time
- Connections and comparisons between placements
- Your capacity to influence the learning of children you work with
Of course you will also need this content as evidence for ongoing portfolio presentations too, including end of course submissions, when you are applying for jobs and when you are applying for your ongoing full registration as a teacher.
When you start your collection, you may decide that you will begin with paper-based documents, however, the limitations of relying on a physical collection will soon become evident. For example, you are likely to find that:
- Your collection will need significant storage space
- It will become impractical to carry your material with you
- Paper-based materials are likely to deteriorate after a while
- Some evidence (eg video and audio recordings) isn't paper-based
For these reasons and others, we strongly suggest that you use a digital system for collecting and storing your materials. Having a digital system as a foundation for your portfolio means that you can:
- Use a password protected, secure storage location in the Cloud
- Access your collection from various locations via the Internet
- Store a large volume of evidence including video, images and audio
- Attach relevant information to your content by naming, dating and tagging resources
- Use hyperlinks to connect your evidence, your reflections and web based resources
- Build customised ePortfolios as an interface to present and annotate evidence for your audience
The first step towards developing a digital portfolio is to establish a large, secure storage space for your digital content. In the first instance you may edit and store your resources on a local technology device such as your laptop, but you will need to systematically store these in a location specifically for this purpose. We recommend that you use a cloud drive for this purpose. While there are a number of options for cloud storage, UTAS has provided cloud storage for all UTAS students through the Office 365 software system. The cloud storage facility in Office 365 is called 'One Drive' and you get one terabyte of storage space, that is 1 000 000 megabytes – that's a lot! This option is very secure and is suitable for storing content that needs to be private, such as your assessment.
You can also use another cloud system, as long as you are confident that your data is secure and you can generate a URL (a web address) for each item in your store. Some common cloud storage sites are:
Some specialised software environments or mobile apps offer online storage space too. For example, AITSL provides a 'My Standards' app where you can write reflections on each standard, save online and then 'share' through a URL. This is quite handy but be aware that it gets quite confusing if your resources are in different locations.
Remember, an ePortfolio is a digital artefact that you prepare and send to someone to showcase your work and your understanding of a field, concept or topic. As you progress through your pre-service teaching course, you will be asked on numerous occasions to 'build a portfolio'. These may range from a simple assessment portfolio, eg. where you present a collection of lesson plans and then discuss them in relation to the theory or concept, through to a Practical Experience Portfolio where you showcase your learning during a placement or even a job application portfolio where you show your capacity to meet the Graduate Standards.
Technically you could probably build this type of resource in a linear document, for example a Word document, but the limitation of this is that it is a single use – a 'static' artefact where the content is copied in to the actual document. An ePortfolio is a non-linear document that references your resources in your storage space through hyperlinks.
Really, any software or web tool that lets you build a digital document with hyperlinks would be OK for creating an ePortfolio but some tools are better than others. It is actually worth spending some time exploring the options for creating your ePortfolios and then also take some time to learn how to use the tool confidently for your purposes.
Again the University-supported Office 365 might be a convenient choice. Word or PowerPoint might be OK for the job but OneNOTE is probably a better option to investigate. OneNOTE lets you put together 'digital scrapbooks' connected to your OneDRIVE resources that you can then share with others. You will notice too that MyLO has a 'ePortfolio' option that you access directly under the 'My Home' option on the left hand side of the top menu bar. The option allows you to reflect on aspects of your learning as you use MyLO by clicking on the 'reflect in ePortfolio' button on MyLO pages. You can go to the ePortfolio centre to organise these reflections and build presentations for sharing with others. This MyLO feature currently has some limitations for portfolio development, however, the University is working with the MyLO support team in order to develop the ePortfolio tool further.
There are also a number of web-based environments that can be used for building websites or blogs for sharing. These include sites like:
There are also some digital tools that are custom built for the purpose of building professional ePortfolios. These usually provide a storage facility and the tools to create the ePortfolio document. Again, you will need to investigate thoroughly before you choose a tool. In particular, be very careful of free portfolio builders that may add advertising to the work you create. A very effective ePortfolio tool that has been custom built for students building portfolio is called Pebble Pad. This is not a free option (it has a yearly subscription) but it provides a supported personal learning space for storing resources and tools to help you produce reflective content.
Here are some web-based resources that may be useful for learning more about building ePortfolios. Remember, that any examples included in these resources are designed for a particular purpose. The content of your ePortfolios will vary, depending on the purpose.
This resource was built from a collaborative funding project to support students in Creative and Performing Arts to produce creative portfolios.
A resource developed for students at the University of Chicago. It includes useful information on copyright and privacy as well as examples of a variety of student portfolios
A resource developed for Griffith University Students to learn about ePortfolios. Provides links to a range of web sites for building ePortfolios and examples of career orientated student ePortfolios.