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e-Portfolios – a teacher's perspective

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In this Ministry of Education seminar, staff, students, and a parent from Red Beach School discuss the use of e-portfolios as a teaching and learning tool. In the fifth part of the series, teacher Lucy Finlayson describes how the learning journals not only inform teaching and learning, but also helps to forge strong relationships between teachers and students.

This seminar is presented in six clips:

  1. The Red Beach School vision
  2. How we have developed e-reflection in our school
  3. Students' perspectives
  4. A parent's perspective
  5. A teacher's perspective
  6. Where to next and questions

Professional learning conversations

These questions and suggested actions encourage you to reflect on your own school context.

Learning to learn

The curriculum encourages all students to reflect on their own learning processes and to learn how to learn.
The New Zealand Curriculum

Pupils’ learning is more productive if it is reflective, intentional, and collaborative, practices which may not come naturally but can be taught and can lead to pupils taking responsibility for their own learning. 
Black et al., 2006, page 126

When students and teachers routinely reflect they will be able to easily describe:

  • what is intended to be learnt
  • where they have got to
  • the learning process
  • where they will go next
  • the learning culture in the classroom.

Reflect on these points in your own school context.  What steps could be taken to embed this learning behaviour in your school?

Have you seen?

Assessment for learning in practice
Students who are involved in their learning can be thought of as assessment-capable or active learners. They know what they need to learn, where they are with that learning and what their next learning steps are. The seven key capabilities described show how teachers can develop this dynamic in their classrooms.


Teacher – Lucy

I just want to share a little bit with you about how this has actually really changed how we do things in our classroom and the relationship that Chris and I have with our students, and really just the environment of our classroom. You can already see a little bit with what the kids have been telling you and what Turanita has been saying about that parent relationship as well.

So, last year when Chris and I started looking at those online reflection journals, we really just had the basic version of it. Even then, the kids began to share on that learning journal about how they felt about specific lessons. So they might say: ‘I didn’t really get what was happening in that maths lesson, and it would have been easier if we had had blocks to do that with’ or something like that. They would post that on, even though they knew we’d read that. Or they might put: ‘I didn’t enjoy that reading lesson as it was too easy for me, and I feel like I wasn’t challenged’.

Chris and I actually questioned the kids about that online, like: ‘Why didn’t you feel challenged?’ ‘Why was it too difficult?’ And things like that. Things that you normally didn’t hear from them, and I also questioned children about why they could actually say that online, but not come and say it to our faces. Their response from most of them was that they didn’t want to be disrespectful by coming straight up to us and saying ‘I don’t get it’ or ‘That was too easy for me’ and things like that. So it really changed the way we started doing lessons and everything.

So really two things came out of that. One, obviously, was feed-forward for me as a teacher about what my lessons were like, whether the kids got it, or whether we needed to revisit it, or whether that group or individual needed to go to a higher level or whatever. So it was really informing me as a teacher, my teaching and the kids learning. Also it really forged this strong relationship between ourselves and the students. They really just started to be able to say what was going on. They felt like they started to have a buy-in to what was going on. So when they started coming down to those maths lessons or reading lessons they felt they could come with that feeling of ‘Is this challenging me?’ ‘Is this too easy for me?’ So all those sorts of conversations really started to come out more, and it just made our whole class environment change as you can imagine.

So I think that it has forged stronger relationships between ourselves and our students at least, and has definitely changed the quality of our learning and teaching in our classrooms. Then we went on to having to think about deeper ways of the kids reflecting. As Nadija showed you, she showed you a before and after reflection. When they first started going on in February they would only put one line about their learning and even their buddies would go ‘That’s great’ or ‘That’s cool’ or something like that.

So we started to have really deep conversations about what does really good reflection look like. So as a class we pulled down a whole lot of the reflections that were already there. So we looked at those and examples of those and we came up with our own success criteria. So the kids came up with to be better at reflecting they had to have an actual ‘artefact to show in their learning’ because if they just went ‘in maths yesterday I did this…’ it didn’t make it easy for their parents or their peers to see what was going on. They had to tell ‘what they were learning about and why you did it’, so they had to be much more obvious about that because, obviously, their parent wasn’t there seeing what was happening or their peer wasn’t necessarily in that group seeing what was happening. They had to ‘tell what was tricky or what the problem was and how they dealt with it’. They had to tell a bit more about ‘how they would solve the problem OR what they were going to do next in their learning’. And as Nadija talked about ‘they had to keep asking themselves why’, so ‘why do I think that?’ ‘Why do I need to do it that way?’ ‘Why were we learning about that’ and things like that.

Then we had a good look at how to give clear and really helpful feedback to our buddies. So all the stuff that the kids are beginning to do now didn’t just happen overnight, obviously, it was from us having really deep talks about all these things. So we came up with we were allowed to write encouraging comments like ‘that’s cool’, they were allowed to be there because that made us feel good, but then we also needed to back up our comments by telling ‘what is good about their learning and why it was good’, and then to start ‘asking questions that challenged the person to thinking deeper about their learning’.

Lastly we talked about actually responding to that feedback, because there was no point the kids going on posting something and us as their teachers, parents and peers saying ‘oh that’s great, but what do you think about this?’ ‘What was it you were really learning about?’ and then never going back and responding to that feedback, as otherwise there was no point in doing the feedback in the first place. So, we have really been encouraging the kids to go back on, and you can see that these guys have done that, and to actually respond thoughtfully to that feedback and do something about it in their learning. So we expect to see that in their books and the way they are doing things. So they had to think really carefully about the question and make a connection to their learning, and that’s part of our lifelong learning qualities as well. They had to think about the best way to answer the question with an explanation of ‘why’, and also thanking the person for their help.

So just coming back to what Chris brought up before about our first idea of having an artefact and everyone bringing in the feedback and feed-forward for the kids. Once again, two really positive things have come out of that. Really it’s this part here – much stronger relationship between the teacher and student because they feel they can say it online better than they could say it in the classroom. Maybe because you aren’t available at the time, things like that, or maybe because they just feel more comfortable putting it on there. You might like to ask them that later actually.

The second amazing thing that came out of it was the parent’s perspective – the parent’s being able to see those learning conversations we have with the kids. You have seen a little of that from Sophie’s mum and Turanita’s mum, but also a lot of other parents have said to us/mentioned to us they see the kinds of things that we ask the kids and we challenge the kids about and they are starting to see that world of the relationship that we have with the kids that they can actually mirror at home.

Really there is no way that we could have got to the point in our learning journals that we have so far without these three things at the top that are embedded in our school culture at Red Beach. Shirley talked about ‘language of learning’ that we’ve got, and you have heard the way the kids talk – it really is the language of learning that comes through in all our classrooms in our school. Without that they wouldn’t do as well in the learning journals I don’t think. Also, Chris talked about the ‘assessment for learning pedagogy’ that is now throughout our school with all our teachers having been through that training; and that has to be there as well because the kids have to have that culture of thinking ‘what I know’ ‘where am I going’ ‘where to next’. Also it has just come in to place this year in our school, our own learning progressions in maths, reading and writing, so the kids have a really clear look at where they are going. I definitely feel that all those things have to come in to place to make these learning journals work really well.
Thank you.

Published on: 19 Jul 2010