The path of portfolio management has been well covered for this traveler. I began my trek as an artist wielding a massive 24” x 31” portfolio case. The main purpose of the artist portfolio was to land a graphic artist job. Then the change in career from artist to teacher came about. I began assembling an educator’s portfolio; it too was for a single purpose – to land a teaching job. This portfolio, while not as cumbersome as the artist portfolio, was paired down to a 3” binder showcasing my accomplishments. The teaching position was achieved and the portfolio went into hiding only to come out again when I changed districts. Truly, I thought that was all there was to it. However, this has proven to not be the case.
Pros and Cons of the Development of a Portfolio
First, before embarking on creating a portfolio, the purposes, benefits, and challenges, need to be addressed. The purposes for portfolio development are numerous. Of the four purposes of portfolio development cited in Developing Portfolios in Education, three of the purposes focus on student learning, progress, and competency (Johnson, Mims-Cox, & Doyle-Nichols, 2010). The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) affirms this in their purpose for national certification – accomplished and effective teachers should know and be able to improve student learning and achievement and show a direct link to it via the portfolio process (Jennings & Joseph, 2004).
A purposeful and carefully prepared portfolio will showcase your achievements, document the scope and quality of your knowledge, training, and experience as well as display your skills, abilities, and beliefs. It will include artifacts with supporting documentation – the epitome of self-evaluation and reflection. It can provide you with the means to further promote professional growth for yourself and the students you impact and influence. As evidenced, the benefits of developing an e-portfolio far outweigh the challenges.
Nevertheless, some of the challenges that may be encountered are limited technology skill and equipment, insufficient knowledge of graphic design, (Kilbane & Milman, 2003), and a deficiency of appropriate technology equipment (E.g., multimedia equipment). Additionally, new organizational mapping will need to occur which will take time and effort, both for the creator and the assessor. Not to be overlooked are the legal issues. The NBPTS have mastered this component with copious forms and legal documents to gain permission to use students’ work, photos, and actions documented in videos. The largest challenge, as purported by said authors is “meeting the challenge of being accepted as authentic assessments for candidate evaluation” (Johnson, Mims-Cox, & Doyle-Nichols, 2010, p. 12).
An art portfolio is a “thoughtfully designed visual selection and presentation of art and/or design. It embodies your ideas, research, innovations, skills, and work process” (Cooper Union, 2013). Similarly, the professional educator’s portfolio is a systematic organizational approach lending a platform to document real life situations and learning. Additionally, as evidenced in Developing Portfolios in Education, portfolios have been viewed historically as one of the most comprehensive and effective forms of authentic assessment” (Johnson, et al, 2010, p. 8). Furthermore the said authors advocate that portfolios be used as an assessment tool while employing other traditional methods tools such as “comprehensive exams, field observations by supervisors, and licensure exams” (Johnson, et al, 2010, p. 9). Danielson and McGreal take portfolio assessment a step further. They assert that evidence has proved that using observation as a form of evaluation has been a dysfunctional practice used for over 50 years. They suggest a more effective alternative would be developing portfolios. The portfolio approach involves the teacher. No longer is something being done to the teacher but rather the teacher is a part of it. The portfolio approach to evaluation changes the whole nature of judgments about people’s performance. As well as promoting authentic assessment in the form of portfolio development the authors also suggest alternative options and activities such as participating in peer coaching, conducting action research projects, and writing and carrying out self-directed professional development plans. (Danielson & McGreal, 2000).
Action Research and the Portfolio
Action Research and portfolio development’s common thread is that both are a continuous, cyclical and systematic process of reflecting, evaluating, and improving the quality of professional practices and methodologies that are specific to a field or immediate environment. Combining action research experts, Lewins, Kemmis, Calhoun, and Wells, Geoffrey Mills lays out four steps of the interactive action research spiral: identify an area of focus, collect data, analyze and interpret data, and plan action while incorporating ongoing analysis and reflection (Mills, 2003). Each action research approach includes stages or levels and compliments the portfolio development: problem identification, action planning, implementation, evaluation, reflection, and self-evaluation.
The professional portfolio is an anthology of achievements with a purpose, fulfilling a predetermined goal. Whether that is for national certification, job advancement, mentoring, sharing with colleagues, or promoting change, an integral goal is to facilitate student academic learning. Combined with Action Research, the portfolio development is a recursive process – a continual moving from one stage to another. The natural progression from the reflective stage is to move into the evaluative stage – whether the portfolio’s purpose is formative-developmental, formative and summative-assessment and evaluation, or for marketing. However, the evaluative stage cannot be the ‘end all’ – The reflective practitioner continually ruminates, evaluates, and revises her teaching methodologies, practices, beliefs, and goals. This cyclic process maintains the portfolio as a living and active entity – One that will exhibit constant growth and will not fall by the wayside making months and possibly years of work, compiling and developing a portfolio, a waste of time.
Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, (n.d.). Portfolio. The Center for Career Development. Retrieved from http://career.cooper.edu/students/art/portfolio.php.
Danielson, C., & McGreal, T. L. (2000). Teacher evaluation to enhance professional practice. Alexandria, VA, USA: Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development (ASCD). Retrieved from http://site.ebrary.com.library.capella.edu/lib/capella/docDetail.action.
Jennings, B.A. & Joseph, M.D., (2004). Accomplished teaching: The key to national board certification. Dubuque, IA: Kendall Hunt.
Johnson, R.S., Mims-Cox, J.S., & Doyle-Nichols, A. (2010). Developing portfolios in education: A guide to reflection, inquiry, and assessment. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc.
Kilbane, C.R. & Milman, N.B., (2003). The digital teaching portfolio handbook: A how-to-guide for educators. Boston, MA: Pearson Education.
Mills, G.E., 2003. Action research: A guide for the teacher researcher (2nd ed). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education.
National Board of Professional Teaching Standards. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.boardcertifiedteachers.org//about-certification