Web 2.0 technology, such as blogging, allows for locally developed, cost effective, and holistic alternative portfolio assessment systems. By enhancing critical reflection and fostering social interaction, blogging portfolios are seen as an integral learning tool for all students enrolled in a university program.
As Ellis (2001) noted, metacognition is simply thinking about thinking. Metacognition in practice can serve as, "the critical revisiting of the learning process" (Georghiades, 2004, p. 171). Critical reflection, as a form of metacognition, occurs when learners construct their own narratives based on learning experiences and professional practice. As applied to professional practices, approaches that support the examination of beliefs that emerge from these practices promote the development of more flexible and intentional approaches to effective teaching and learning (Sockman & Sharma, 2008).
Web 2.0 systems (O'Reilly, 2005), including blogs and social networks, are proposed as effective online vehicles for fostering critical reflection and feedback (Godwin-Jones, 2008). These systems can act as a form of an electronic portfolio (ePortfolio) which can serve the dual role of personal reflection and program evaluation (Barrett, 2009; Yang, 2009). Blog portfolios, or bPortfolios, are one form of electronic portfolios well suited for enhancing the professional learning of teachers (Lumpe, Wicks, & Williams 2011; Wicks, 2009; Tan, 2006). The following characteristics of bPortfolios enhance critical reflection:
Social interaction – Students share their learning reflections in an open format.
Developmental - The reverse chronological order of posts shows learning growth.
Organization - Categories and tags allow students to classify their reflections.
Autonomy - Students have ownership of their personal content management system.
Reflective - Students consider which standards are being addressed and what key words best describe the post.
Digital citizenship - Students practice using social media to enhance digital reputations (Chaplin, 2011).
Barrett (2009) described how electronic portfolios can capture both the process and product of learning over time. The portfolio can be used as a workspace to document ongoing learning (process) and as a final showcase of achievements during a program (product). She proposes using blogging tools for such portfolios.
Up until 2009, Seattle Pacific University was using a commercially available electronic portfolio system. In addition to being rather costly, this system did not enhance aspects of critical reflection (see Chaplin’s list above), was cumbersome, and was perceived by students and faculty as a hoop to jump through in order to graduate. A more holistic approach that fostered both the process and product side of electronic portfolios was sought. A switch to bPortfolios using the freely available WordPress blogging tool (www.wordpress.com) was implemented by SPU’s School of Education beginning in 2009.
Programs using bPortfolios include the following: undergraduate teacher education, Masters of Arts in Teaching, Masters of Teaching Mathematics and Science, and Masters of Education in Curriculum and Instruction. Early during a degree or certification program, students sign up for a personal account on WordPress and set up a professional bPortfolio. The following screencasts are designed to help with bPortfolio setup: 4 Steps to Set up Your bPortfolio and 10 Questions about bPortfolios.
Since 2009, 113 bPortfolios were created by Curriculum and Instruction (C&I) Master’s degree students. These students are practicing K-12 teachers who already held teacher certification. On average, C&I students made 46 blog posts including formative course reflections and summative meta-reflections. For the students completing this program in 2011 (the first group required to maintain a bPortfolio), the bPortfolio passing rates ranged from 89 – 95% for each of the 12 program standards with the average overall passing rate being 93.1%.
Since 2009, there were 236 bPortfolios created by teacher certification students from both graduate and undergraduate programs. On average, certification students made 95 blog posts including formative course reflections and summative meta-reflections. The number of reflective posts by certification students is twice the amount made by non-certification students possibly due to the high stakes nature of state standards for certification. In end of program evaluations, one student describes how the bPortfolio served as a holistic tool for documenting her growth.
“I felt that there was little duplication (of performance assessment data) as the bPortfolio is so much more comprehensible. The performance assessment material served as evidence in some of the bPortfolio sections, but the bPortfolio paints a more complete picture of our skills and experience.”
A research study on student use of bPortfolios tags was recently conducted (Lumpe, Wicks, & Williams, 2011). The most used blogs tags were compiled, and it was noted that they represented the key themes from the students' degree programs. Due to the high stakes nature of state standards, certification students made almost twice as many more blog posts than students in non-certification programs. Students averaged about 3 tags per post and used about 40 unique tags. Students self-annotated reflective posts with a wide variety of tags. The tags co-occurred and clustered together to annotate similar blog content. Tag phrase use can significantly predict group membership (certification vs. non-certification).
There is a strong interrelationship among the pillars of learning effectiveness (above), access, scale and student satisfaction.
Students only need access to a web browser and a freely available WordPress.com account. Faculty only need a browser to access student bPortfolios.
Since WordPress accounts are free of charge, there are few costs involved. Students are charged a onetime $60 institutional fee to help cover the costs of ongoing training, support and portfolio assessment.