November 5, 2012

Using the SHERPA e-Portfolio to Chart Student Progress

This text was initially published by Profweb under a CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 International licence, before Eductive was launched.

A presentation portfolio is used during the program exit assessment in the Fine Arts program at Cégep Limoilou. The presentation portfolio is de rigueur in a number of related departments there, such as Graphic Arts, Design, Architecture, and Fashion Industry Studies. This final review, based on a selection of the student’s most meaningful achievements, has been judged so useful that the idea of extending the exercise to beginning students has been instituted in the form of an acquired learning portfolio.

In the classes of Dgino Cantin, this portfolio activity has been placed onto the SHERPA Digital Platform, a resource specifically designed for colleges and universities.

SHERPA is a project of the PCUC (Programme de collaboration universités-collèges), in which the author has contributed from initial development. During these first steps, he did in-class experimentation and testing. For the last year, he has participated in another phase of development by integrating SHERPA into his courses. A significant part of his assignments are submitted directly to SHERPA for evaluation!

Using SHERPA as an Acquired Learning Portfolio

I have integrated the acquired learning portfolio into my course Dynamique visuelle 1 (510-133-LI) in order to encourage students’ analysis of their own visual creations. The development of these portfolios enables students to see the evolution of their achievements within the course through the context of their total production. In analyzing their work, both good and bad, students come to recognize their errors and understand their strengths. The process promotes metacognition.

The SHERPA Control Panel

The SHERPA Control Panel

Not only is a reflective distance created between the time of production and that of analysis, but through the transfer to a new medium as well. Indeed, by adopting an e-portfolio, this change of medium is inevitable in my course, as we work with traditional materials (graphite, paint, clay, etc.). Of course, when the pixel is the original material, this factor is missing! This distance allows the student to make a more objective analysis. The process is less emotional. The significance of the difference is evidenced in the types of comments made ​​by students when they display their work in class as compared to those on SHERPA.

In addition to promoting metacognition and effective self evaluation, the portfolio has the effect of structuring information and organizing student work in a single location. This provides a favorable context to promote critical judgment by allowing an overview of achievements. Before, it was difficult to perform a complete review. Students sometimes lost their work. The different media used also complicated the activity. Therefore at the review, the student’s oeuvre was rarely complete!

Now, student work is progressively archived. The collection and conservation of small exercises adds to their relevance. The archiving and broadcasting of material in SHERPA can be done during the course. Often when students leave for break, I take the opportunity to photograph their projects. After attending photography classes, students take their own photos to add to their portfolios!

Using SHERPA as an organizational tool

The acquired learning portfolio promotes individual monitoring, feedback and even communication between students. The SHERPA platform fosters group exchanges increasing the visibility of student projects among their peers. These links result from contact requests and the granting of viewing rights. In addition to a comments feature, it is possible to create a forum. Students therefore benefit from comments left about their portfolios. They are immediately informed by e-mail when one is added. I find it extremely convenient to have access to all the components of a project. I can evaluate a work within the total context of the student’s production.

Projet étudiant mettant en relief  une valeur ajoutée du portfolio : l’attrait esthétique

A Student Project Displaying a Portfolio Advantage – Visual Appeal

For this reason, I believe that it would be advisable to adopt the acquired learning portfolio in several courses during the same semester. This support encourages a better work schedule leading right up to the program exit assessment itself.

An Integration Scenario

This semester, I created assignments in SHERPA beginning the third week of classes for students to rapidly integrate the portfolio into their work. The students adapted to the tool without difficulty. It is advisable to begin using SHERPA from the start of classes to enable students to get into the habit of putting everything into their portfolios.

Exemple d’un gabarit de projet
Gabarit personnalisé par le travail de l’étudiant

An Example of a Project Template (left) et A Template Modified by Student Work (right)

Up to now, students have used my course templates in SHERPA. They copy this model, and then add their own comments and images. Soon, they will manage their own information. I will be able to see how they add, organize and personalize their projects. This is an aspect that I will be able to formatively assess!
It is interesting to note that as soon as some students get their accounts they begin personalizing their profiles without any suggestions to do so. This is certainly an indication of their level of comfort with Web networking tools as well as an indication of their commitment!

Do you use a portfolio in the classroom? Do you think it would be helpful in your discipline?

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