How e-portfolios can support learning, reflection and engagement

Case study from Golftyn Primary School in Wales

Gavin O'Loughlin DCF Lead & Teacher, Golftyn Primary School

Last week the Independent Commission on Assessment in Primary Education published its final report and made a number of recommendations for changes to primary assessment. Including that “Holistic assessment of each pupil’s learning during their life in primary school is captured in a profile of evidence that reflects their achievements and draws on a variety of assessment methods.”

In Wales this is already a national aspiration as part of the new Curriculum for Wales, with proposals for assessment change including enabling active learners through e-Portfolios.

In this blog, Gavin O’Loughlin from Golftyn Primary School explains how his school is implementing e-Portfolios and the impact that this is having on pupil learning and engagement. 

Why e-portfolios?

At our school, e-Portfolios have become a core element of our pupils’ learning. We use them to enable our pupils to showcase what they have created within their classroom activities, and most importantly, to give the opportunity to reflect on what they have created in that task, why they have done this work, and how it has supported their development.

In choosing a digital platform for our e-Portfolios we discussed as a school what was needed to support pupils with evidencing their digital work, and to allow them to explain what learning they had gained from their experiences.

Up to the age of 7 we use the Seesaw App, where pupils can add the work they have created independently or within groups. We introduce them to the concept of reflecting on their learning, and explaining any challenges that they have overcome. Concepts such as reflection, and developing an understanding that their work has a broader audience, are all introduced at an early stage.

Pupils aged 7 and above use Google Sites for their e-Portfolio, and initial guidance from the Welsh Government makes it clear that the hope is for e-Portfolios to be pupil-owned. Supported by Wales’ Hwb Digital Learning Platform, the aim is for pupils to be able to take their e-Portfolios with them from their primary schools through to their secondary school.

Our approach

Through developing our school template in Google we decided pupils needed the opportunity to:

1. express who they are through the home page

2. add work relevant to the year group they are in, and make use of the ability to reflect on their learning

3. make note of achievements outside of the school setting and reflect on these

4. store any digital badges or certificates they have gained

Wales’ Curriculum has at its core Four Purposes, and these have several elements which further explain what these purposes comprise. We ask our pupils to reflect against these elements – alternatively, these could be the core purposes, values and beliefs of any individual school or Trust.

In Wales we also have the Digital Competency Framework, which places the integration of technology to support pedagogy as one of three cross-curricular elements; the other two being numeracy and literacy. This allows our pupils to develop and apply their digital skills in practical ‘real-life’ activities.

Through the Digital Competency Framework we make use of a mapping tool to allow teachers to note the learning opportunities they offer their pupils, and Google Classroom supplies the evidence of these.

It’s important to note that our pupils’ e-Portfolios are not used as an assessment tool currently, rather they allow staff to understand what pupils feel they have learnt from their activities in class.

Here one of my pupils explains what each page of their portfolio is used for.

When developing our pupils’ understanding of what purposeful reflection looks like, we use scaffolding for reflecting on activities in years 3 and 4. As they progress through the school these skills are honed to the point where they are able to reflect against the Four Purposes and explain their understanding.

One year 5 pupil wrote ‘This is my diary entry of Dilys from the story of the Queen’s Knickers, in this piece of work I have been able to empathise with a character in a story I have learnt about my country’s culture through learning about the Queen.’

Another wrote ‘While in Forest School this year I learnt new skills to carry out new tasks, like when I had to build a den, I also had to solve problems because it kept falling down. These have helped me to be a more ambitious, capable learner.’

Impact on learning 

Since the introduction of e-Portfolios we have found that our pupils have a greater sense of the purpose of their learning experiences. They are more aware of the purpose of the activities they take part in, and have improved in their ability to think about what they are learning, why they are learning it, and how what they have learnt may be used in their futures.

Having the opportunity to add their achievements from outside the school setting also allows pupils to showcase talents that we may not otherwise be aware of. We do ask our pupils to make reflections on these achievements against the Four Purposes, further supporting the aims of the Curriculum for Wales, but also developing the ‘whole’ child.

I personally believe that e-Portfolios are the CV of the future. Already our pupils are adding presentations – for example the Google Slides they have created, and recordings of themselves delivering the presentations. They are collaborating and creating in Minecraft for Education and recording explanations of what they have built and explaining their reasons for their decisions. The opportunity to reflect on learning in this way, through their own websites, has engaged our pupils beyond our hopes. 

Resources

Here is a guide and resources I’ve created for schools that want to create their own googlesite.

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