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Release: Oct. 30, 2002

College of Education ePortfolio project draws wide interest

In response to overwhelming interest in its ePortfolio project, the University of Iowa College of Education has published a white paper describing the web-based repository where aspiring teachers can store and showcase their academic, field and professional work.

The 23-page "Performance Assessment in Teacher Education: The Iowa ePortfolio Model" is being distributed this week to state departments of education, colleges of education, school administrators, legislators, policymakers and media. Seven years in the making, the project has garnered keen interest from the Iowa Department of Education, universities across the nation and around the world and school districts, prompting UI College of Education officials to explore options for trademarking and even patenting elements of the project.

At its simplest, the ePortfolio is free web space provided by the college to all declared education majors, a place where they can upload samples of their academic work -- called "artifacts" -- from lesson plans and research to digitized photographs and audio and video files showing them working in schools as part of their student-teaching experience. Templates help students organize the materials so they can chart their progress toward meeting their academic requirements, as well as state and federal standards for teacher certification.

But ePortfolio is also much more. Education majors scheduled to graduate next May will be the first able to use their ePortfolio websites as highly interactive showcases of their work as they apply for teaching positions around the country. And ePortfolio can be used by educators throughout their careers as a professional development tool.

"While the original impetus for this work was in professional placement -- we wanted a platform where students could represent their strengths to potential employers -- it has since become the means by which we can address state and national mandates for standards performance assessment," Rebecca Anthony, director of the Education Placement Office, John Achrazoglou, director of the UI College of Education Technology Center, James Marshall, associate dean, and two coauthors write in their introduction to the white paper.

"The Iowa ePortfolio Model provides the architecture within which students can develop their skills, reflect on their practice and showcase their strengths and attainment of performance standards to a range of relevant audiences including accreditation teams at both state and national levels," the authors add.

Three components make up the ePortfolio project.

  • Digital BackPack™ This is an individual student website maintained for the collection of materials from courses and field experiences with elements of their learning linked to approved performance standards and available for review by faculty and assessors.
  • Electronic Portfolio The second stage of the project involves selecting key documents and evidence of best teaching practices to showcase for potential employers.
  • Cyber ToolBox™ In the third and final stage of the project, the student's website becomes an evolving repository from Digital BackPack™, Electronic Portfolio and selected professional items for career use as the student transfers from the campus to the professional world.

In the process of assembling their websites, students also become adept at using the latest computer technology, from web design to digital imaging. In fact, one of the first classes that students who are accepted into the education program at Iowa must take covers academic technology, including the use of ePortfolio.

What really makes ePorfolio sophisticated, however, isn't the technology -- it was created using off-the-shelf web editing software -- but the organization of its content, a process that took several years using little more than a pen and paper.

Anthony and Achrazoglou said they knew from the beginning that students needed more than a vanity page or scrapbook of their college experience, or simply an online resume. So they made it a priority to create an interface that would correspond to, and dovetail with, listings of the UI College of Education's course requirements with state and federal standards for teacher certification.

From the beginning, the College of Education has consulted with more than 500 hiring officials across the country, asking through surveys and personal interviews what they would like to see in the ePortfolios. Of all the potential content on an ePortfolio site, they ranked the following as among the most important:

  • Some demonstration that the education major understands how students learn
  • Evidence of effective communication with students
  • Evidence of the education major's command of a variety of instructional strategies
  • A demonstration of how an education major assesses student learning
  • Evidence of subject matter knowledge
  • Evidence and samples of the student's ability to plan instruction

"Seventy-nine percent of the respondents stated that a job seeker's ePortfolio could be a significant selection tool along with references, credentials, transcripts, resume, cover letter and interviews," the white paper concludes.

Copies of the white paper can be ordered by contacting Rebecca Anthony, director of the UI College of Education's Education Placement Office, at (319) 335-5353, or via email rebecca-anthony@uiowa.edu. A PDF version of the white paper is also available online at http://www.education.uiowa.edu/eportfolio/whitepaper.pdf A sample ePortfolio project can be viewed online at http://www.education.uiowa.edu/eportfolio.

Founded in 1872, the University of Iowa College of Education was the nation's first permanent college-level department of education. Since then the College has gained an international reputation of excellence in fields as diverse as rehabilitation counseling, testing and measurement, and language and literacy. It is home to the Iowa Testing Programs, developer of the widely used Iowa Tests of Basic Skills; to the Connie Belin & Jacqueline N. Blank International Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development; and to such top-ranked programs as Rehabilitation Counseling, Counseling Psychology, Educational Psychology, Elementary Teacher Education, Secondary Teacher Education, and English Education and Literacy.