Exploring Electronic Portfolios: An IHE NCATE Assessment Journey

Exploring Electronic Portfolios: An IHE NCATE Assessment Journey

By Jerome Ammer, Ph.D. University of San Diego (ammer@sandiego.edu
Cheryl Getz, Ed.D. University of San Diego
Lea Hubbard, Ph.D. University of San Diego

With our first NCATE visitation two years away, the University of San Diego was in search of a viable mechanism for formal and summative assessment. Three key designs to implementation solutions seemed to create a roadblock. The three-dimensional lynchpin solution includes a grounded pedagogical frame, an integrated school wide assessment model, and a format for gathering and evaluating candidate performance. Bringing faculty from five different programs together to contemplate a major shift in instructional design and a fear of loss of academic freedom seemed insurmountable.

Hiring a statistician to lead the design of a comprehensive assessment system was our first moment of genius. The Assessment System provided the foundation for linking differing accreditation/licensure programs with flexibility for addressing a widely different set of state and national professional standards.

Pulling all these factors into a system that would be pliable by faculty, students, staff, administrators and the assessment accountability team seemed insurmountable. The Department of Learning and Teaching adapted a rubric based system portfolio system over a decade ago. However, the paper portfolio rubric evaluation process did not provide the types of measurable formative and summative accountability performance outcome required by recent revisions to the National Consortium of Teachers of Education Accreditation (NCATE) procedures. Converting to a standards grounded electronic portfolio evaluation system required long hours of discussion, explanation and convincing.

At the same time the university was engaged in a capital plan to enhance the technological capacity of the university for administrators, faculty and students. Moving away from a course specific introduction technology literacy model, the Department of Learning and Teaching was attempting to infuse technology literacy into all credential coursework. The Assessment Team brainstormed the idea that an electronic portfolio assessment model. This would expand upon the existing paper portfolio evaluation system and provide incentive to expand the technology literacy of faculty, staff, students and yes, administrators. Now the challenge was to figure out how to implement an electronic portfolio through which student performance outcomes could be aligned and evaluated in terms of standards based accountability and the rigor of NCATE self assessment to inform program decisions.

Simultaneously, the Dean of the School of Leadership and Education Sciences (SOLES) established a Building Committee consisting of staff, faculty and a student from each program of study. The charge was to be creative and envision the design and resources for a modern era, pedagogy enhanced education facility. Yes! A new, first time ever building on our campus solely dedicated to education studies. Everyone agreed that innovative planning for the workforce of the 21st century and nurturing a learning community of faculty and student scholars. On the recommendation from a potential interior space designer that committee members visit other innovative technology integration college sites including Stanford University. Receiving a flyer announcing the Syllabus Conference in San Jose with a day visit for sessions at the Wallenberg Hall at Stanford, our Dean instantly funded five faculty and staff to attend the proceedings. Armed with photos and excitement related to the technology wonderment of Stanford, the traveling committee also discovered exhibitors who were demonstrating the services and e–portfolio assessment gathering tools the NCATE committee was looking for in their accreditation work.

The university faced the challenges encountered by any newbie to electronic portfolios. What are we looking for? What questions should we ask? Where d'es a school go to learn about potential electronic portfolio provider? Would the selected purveyor provide onsite training and/or 24/7 telephone support?

The decision to go with TaskStream (www.TaskStream.com) seemed to solve one need area. However, converting assessment practices at the course level and discovering how time consuming and complex such an undertaking would be is a case study to hear.

Stumbles made, lessons learned and what comes next frames the University of San Diego faculty participation in the electronic portfolio panel on Wednesday July 27 at the Los Angeles Syllabus Conference.

The authors are presenters at the upcoming Syllabus Conference in Los Angeles.
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