I just finished reading Matt Vilano’s article on ePortfolios in the September issue of Campus Technology. I’ve been intrigued by the notion of ePortfolios for some time now, but I’ve never really taken the time to understand them. I may have to now.

In my first year seminar I’ve asked students to blog on a regular basis, but rather than grading the posts in a more traditional way, I’ve decided to try a portfolio approach to assessment. I’ve asked students to identify, by the end of the semester, a collection of postings that they want me to evaluate for a grade. While I read each of their postings when they are published, I don’t grade them. One surprise is that I’ve found this frees me to read their posts differently. I don’t read with an eye to “taking points off”, but rather with an open mind to see what they have to say, much like I read the other blogs I subscribe to.

As I was reading the article on ePortfolios, I had an insight, which in retrospect seems obvious. One fundamental and pedagogically important difference between a portfolio approach to assessment and the standard approach is that with the former the same assignment takes on a higher level of cognitive complexity due to the required reflection. With the traditional approach, students can do the assignment, turn it in, and be done with it. By contrast, with a portfolio approach where students choose what to include, there is an additional piece to the “assignment,” a level of metacognition where students have to think about and make decisions about what to include.

While I hadn’t considered this originally, perhaps I’ll ask students to add a commentary to explain why they chose the posts they did and how the choices fit the assignment, which you can find here.

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