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Monday, 11 October 2010

Garbage in, garbage out

Photo: Three garbage bins neatly arranged for sorting rubbishAs long as I can remember within my teaching career, the acronym, GIGO, has not been far from my lips when describing the data-processing activities of some of my students. Students should be clear in their own minds concerning the nature and purpose of data, how they should organise its storage and how they should present their findings. What is true for the collection and storage of data and its subsequent analysis is equally true of ePortfolio management.

This idea came to me as I read the recent Campus Technology article by Trent Batson, 'Reviewers Unhappy with Portfolio 'Stuff' Demand Evidence'. His opening paragraph illustrates the problem:

Enough is enough,” say faculty members reviewing portfolio reports that resemble scrapbooks. “Where is the analysis?” they ask. “Where is the thinking?” Evidence-based learning concepts offer a way to re-frame the portfolio process so it produces meaningful and assessable evidence of achievement.

As I have repeatedly said, "The ePortfolio is not a pantechnicon of all of one's learning but rather that selection of artefacts, with explanation and reflection, that is appropriate for a selected audience."

The following comment that I made in response to Trent's article might sound a bit dogmatic, but I do feel for the faculty members who are struggling to make sense of poorly presented work:

"It's not so much that the ePortfolio can do so many things (and more) but that the learner should be capable of writing for a particular audience - after all we even teach 10yr-olds about 'audience'. Certainly, the ePortfolio as an application should be capable of allowing the learner to organise and present selected artefacts with reflections etc - I would not even look at an ePortfolio that did not recognise this simple courtesy. However, the conclusions that I reach following Trent's excellent article are simple: Faculty should know what they are asking of the students in the first place and secondly, should be providing appropriate guidance before allowing this mess to occur."

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