I wrote most of these articles and conference reports while I was doing my M.Ed.(CI). Originally put up on the website TeachAsiaOnline.com (defunct since 2009), I have decided to archive them here as I think most of the information is still relevant and useful for others. (2012) I'm now picking up where I left off to write about more recent seminars I attended.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Portfolios in Education: Tools or Threats?

Speaker: Asst. Prof. Dr. Linchong Chorrojprasert, Bangkok
Organised by: ABAC Faculty of Education, Bangkok
Date: 9 September 2006
Location: Hall of Fame (Ramkhamhaeng Campus), Bangkok

Dr. Linchong is the Dean of the ABAC Faculty of Arts. She has just finished her research on teacher portfolios in Thailand at the University of Wollongong, Australia.

Lecture
Portfolios generally contain typical samples of performance. In education, students, teachers, administrators and other educational personnel can keep portfolios.


Student Portfolios
Student portfolios can contain their best work, but may also contain process information (drafts, self-assessment, parents assessments etc.) Portfolios generally provide lots of information and use a variety of measures. We can assess not only the results, but also the development, based on extensive breadth and depth. Assessing the authentic evidence in the portfolio can serve as an alternative for traditional test approaches.

For a portfolio to work, it has to fulfil the following requirements:
  • Nurture complex understanding
  • Help develop reflections as a habit
  • Document learners' evolving understanding
  • It should be a moment of learning, a part of the instructional plan.
Using portfolios requires a lot of preparation. The steps can be as follows:
  • Set purpose
  • Focus on specific learning goals (not all!)
  • Identify performance tasks and instruments
  • Set criteria
  • Select students that may benefit
  • Collaborate with other teachers and/or staff
  • Conduct
  • Involve the parents (acknowledge, collaborate).

The benefits of using a student portfolio are:
  • A portfolio is a more accurate check of student learning
  • A portfolio can improve student learning
  • A portfolio can improve teacher learning

Other reasons to use a portfolio may be that it is a requirement of the school or the Ministry of Education.

Portfolio results can be used for diagnosis and placement, to monitor progress, feedback on the effectiveness of instruction, communication with other teachers, student feedback and comments from the parents.

Dr. Linchong ended her presentation by stressing the importance of reflections with quotations of Donald Schon, Dandelin and Boud. We need to reflect to be able to learn.

Teaching Portfolios
After the break Dr. Linchong gave on overview of her doctoral research on the use of teaching portfolios by secondary school teachers in Thailand.
"The purpose of this study was to investigate the use of portfolios as a part of the mandated quality assurance requirements by teachers in secondary schools in Thailand and their impact on the teachers’ beliefs about their practices in teaching and learning." (Linchong)

The portfolio was made mandatory through the National Education Act of 1999 in order to assess teachers' performance and to support their professional development. All teachers received portfolio training through conferences and workshops.

Teaching portfolios should contain personal data, work-related documents, innovation projects and school data, but research showed that many portfolios are incomplete.

"The findings of the study reveal that though teachers in general do object to the mandated change policy in relation to the use of teaching portfolios as a part of the quality assurance scheme, there are still doubts, uncertainty and questions among them when it comes to the implementation." (Linchong)

Question: How much time does it take to keep a portfolio (teachers are complaining about a lack of time)?
Dr. Linchong: It takes a long time, because teacher portfolios are badly organised, the teachers are not prepared and don't have enough knowledge. If they are trained better and prepare the portfolio better (following the steps mentioned earlier), it doesn't have to take a lot of time.

Question: What is the purpose of the social work (photo of teacher donating blood)?
Dr. Linchong: It doesn't really prove anything.

Reflections

Student portfolios
(...)I asked Dr. Linchong how teachers motivate students for a "portfolio project" (as she calls it). She acknowledged that most students don't see the purpose of the portfolio, although some may understand at the end.
I think students shouldn't be keeping a portfolio for the purpose of keeping a portfolio; it should serve a higher purpose that is more useful for them. In my project work the portfolio is always part of a bigger project.
For example, last year I did a project about their professional naval training with my (naval) students. The purpose of this project was to present their training programme to foreign visitors. Assessment of the project was through written work (the presentation scripts and presentation materials), the presentations and the portfolio. The portfolio was a collection of all the work done during the course of the project and just one of the components used for assessment.

Teaching portfolios
Dr. Linchong's lecture on teaching portfolios was quite interesting. I think teaching portfolios are a good idea for teachers to keep track of where they are, how they are doing and where they are going. I've started thinking about making one for myself.

Unfortunately teaching portfolios may never become popular with teachers if they are going to be used as an instrument to decide on promotions etc. People don't like to be measured and evaluated, and the portfolio adds another tool for (external) people to measure teachers.

The discussion on social work was interesting. In effect, Dr. Linchong said that we shouldn't focus too much on this and other morality issues, since it is far too difficult to measure. In here dissertation she says, "More emphasis should be on teachers' knowledge and skills of subject contents and pedagogy and less on personal attributes (such as self-sacrificing and morally sound) which are often too abstract and intangible." (Linchong) (...)

In her lecture Dr. Linchong didn't answer the question " Portfolios in Education: tools or threats?" I think the title could have been "tools AND threats", as the Thai government clearly sees portfolios as one of the tools to measure the quality of teaching, whereas the teachers feel threatened by the portfolio requirement.
If Dr. Linchong's recommendations are followed up, the threat may turn into an OPPORTUNITY for teachers to reflect on their own performance and eventually turn out to be a STRENGTH of the Thai education system.

References
Australian Digital Theses Program. Portfolios in Education: tools or threats? University of Wollongong. 2006. 17 September 2006. <http://www.library.uow.edu.au/adt-NWU/public/adt-NWU20060522.100846/index.html>

(c) cafavier, 2006-2011

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