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E-Portfolios and Languages



Action Research:
Languages and the Key Competencies through:  E-PortFolios in Language Learning

Name of Initiators: (Dave Malloch, HGHS, ICT Facilitator), Ronja Skandera and Patsy Hall (HOD), Language Department, Hamilton Girls’ High School.


The Language Department over the past 18 months has been changing its focal direction away from formal teaching where the learning was totally teacher directed. This is lead by Ronja Skandera who has a particular interest and expertise in e-portfolio use and the pedagogy behind it. The use of e-portfolios is an innovative recent development in the NZ education system.  With the introduction of the NZC, teachers need to change their practice to enable learners to meet its intentions.
The Languages Department at HGHS believes that the use of e-portfolios meets the following components of the NZC:

  • the Vision - for young people to be Confident, Connected, Actively Involved, Lifelong Learners
  • the Principles - High Expectations, Learning to Learn, Community Engagement, Coherence and Future Focus
  • the Values - students will be encouraged to value Excellence, Innovation, Community and Participation, and Integrity
  • the Key Competencies - Thinking, Using Language, Symbols and Text, Managing Self, Relating to Others, and Participating and Contributing

We need to embrace the theories espoused in the NZC regarding effective assessment:
“Effective assessment-
Benefits students - it clarifies for them what they need to know and what they still need to learn.  When students see that they are making progress, their motivation is sustained and their confidence increases.
Involves students - they discuss, clarify, and reflect on their goals, strategies and progress with their teachers, their parents and one another.  This develops students capacity for self and peer assessment, which in turn leads to increased self-direction.
Supports teaching and learning goals - students understand the desired outcomes and the criteria for success.  Important outcomes are emphasised, and the teacher gives feedback that helps the student to reach them.
Is planned and communicated - outcomes, teaching strategies, and assessment criteria are carefully matched.  Students know in advance how and why they are to be assessed. (...)
Is suited to the purpose - evidence is obtained through a range of informal and formal assessment approaches.  These approaches are chosen to suit the nature of the learning being assessed, the varied characteristics and experiences of the students, and the purpose for which the information is to be used.
Is valid and fair - teachers obtain and interpret information from a range of sources and then base decisions on this evidence, using their professional judgement.  Conclusions are most likely to be valid when the evidence for them comes from more than one assessment.”

We like what Absolum, Flockton, Hattie, Hipkins and Reid state in their paper “Directions for Assessment in NZ

  • “Students need to participate as fully in assessment as in learning.”
  • “It is our view that students will only learn how to learn if they are active participants in the assessment of their own learning.”
  • “Students are likely to feel more in control of and accountable for their own learning if they can access and engage with their own assessment records.  We suggest that electronic portfolios and databases offer considerable potential for the interactive compilation of records of learning.”

Our Research Questions:

  1. How can we improve student learning outcomes?

  1. How can students actively embody the Key Competencies of the NZC?

  1. How can we involve the major stakeholders in our students’ education (teachers, peers, whanau)?

  1. How can we make learning less teacher and more student-directed?

  1. How can we give students more voice and opportunities for individualised learning and development?

How are we going to find out what is happening at present?

Collection of Base Line Data
There has been no collection of baseline data. Students previously undertook one-off endpoint high stake assessment.  Writing 1.6 - one essay, Conversation 1.3 - one conversation, Spoken Presentation 1.2 - one speech. With the implementation of the new Achievement Standards in 2011, there was a need to shift to a portfolio based approach with a larger collection of evidence, and more opportunities for peer - peer feedback, teacher - student feedback.  There is now opportunity for students to show progression in their learning over a longer time frame and it is their decision which pieces of work they submit for assessment, as the new  Achievement Standard for Writing 1.5 requires three samples of writing, Interaction 1.3 requires three samples of interaction, and Presentation 1.2 requires one sample.
Ronja Skandera began the implementation of e-portfolios in Y10, 2010 as a trial.
She thoroughly investigated a range of possibilities before deciding on the use of Myportfolio
( www.myportfolio.school.nz ). She spent a lot of time upskilling four department members on the potential of this student managed tool, before sharing this knowledge in the ICT cluster, in the wider learning community and across our school.  Teachers in the Languages Department have learnt to create a group, create a page, to upload Flip Mino files and documents, to insert clips, and to give feedback to individual students on their written and oral work on their e-portfolio.  In 2011, the decision was taken to use e-portfolios to manage NCEA Level 1 assessment in Languages at HGHS. Teachers have been involved in the creation of templates - to give specific language based feedback, and task based templates allowing students to choose when and which assessments they will undertake to contribute to their final assessment portfolios in Writing and Speaking.

Teacher practice data

“As teachers we need to:

  • create a supportive learning environment.
  • encourage reflective thought and action.
  • enhance the relevance of new learning and facilitate shared learning.
  • make connections to prior learning and experience.
  • provide sufficient opportunities to learn.
  • e-learning presents a multitude of opportunities that support increasing student achievement in Learning Language through:

- assisting the making of connections by enabling students to enter and explore new learning environments, overcoming barriers of distance and time.

-facilitating shared learning by enabling students to join or create communities of learners that extend well beyond the classroom.

-assisting in the creation of supportive learning environments by offering resources that take account of individual, cultural or developmental differences.

-enhancing opportunities to learn by offering students virtual experiences and tools that save them time, allowing them to take their learning further.”

(Senior Secondary Guidelines Learning Languages)

Addressing our Research Questions

1. How can we improve student learning outcomes?
Through increasing levels of motivation and interest, by targeting 21st Century learners who are surrounded by technology everywhere but in the classroom.

2. How can students actively embody the Key Competencies of the NZC?
The Key Competencies - Thinking, Using Language, Symbols and Text, Managing Self, Relating to Others and Participating and Contributing.
Students manage their portfolio, their work, and their assessment submission.  Students collect and present evidence of their ability by completing open ended tasks that allow them to creatively and critically process and produce information in a self-controlled and self-directed manner, at times individually, at times in a group. By introducing a different learning tool they are broadening their use of language, symbols and text. They think and reflect critically on achievement and progress. They are developing capacity for self and peer assessment.

3. How can we involve the major stakeholders in our students’ education (teachers, peers, whanau)?
The tool itself is unique in this aspect.  Previously, speaking assessments were recorded on a CD and put in a drawer.  The only person to hear it would be the National Subject Moderator.  With an e-portfolio, students can readily share documents and recordings of everything they do at school, not necessarily just in the language classroom.  A parent can now see their daughter’s speech, watch her act in a play, read her essay AND can leave feedback on her page. The student can give access to others to see their page or can send a secret URL to their page via email.  Students can also control the timeframe that access is available - from one day - to indefinite. This is extremely powerful. Ronja Skandera has seen students embrace this aspect, and has herself received personal emails from parents proud to finally be able to see what their child can do.  Students who have family overseas are also able to share their learning journey with them. This is an incredible new development in education - to be able to bridge vast geographical distance with the click of a button.

4. How can we make learning less teacher and more student-directed?
The learning is co-constructed.  Students have control of assessment tasks and timing - they are as fully involved in assessment as they are in learning.

5. How can we give students more voice and opportunities for individualised learning and development?
We have given them the control and power to choose. Templates before and/or after specific activities require students to reflect on their actions and decisions, develop an understanding of the learning process, evaluate the learning processes and the outcomes and identify future learning needs.

Student Achievement/Learning Data 

Students are working hard to meet goals each term, uploading work to their e-portfolio and acting on feedback/forward.  Rubrics have been designed to help them meet the standards - providing guidance on what makes a piece of writing effective or convincing for example.  Tick boxes ensure that they incorporate requirements of the tasks - different text types, use of past, present, future, sharing opinions, information, ideas.

Student voice:

Student voice is at the very heart of this entire project. Student voice determines every aspect of the teaching and learning including assessment. We have begun to collect examples of student voice. Ronja Skandera has video interviews of students sharing their opinions and experiences with e-portfolios.  Language classes have e-portfolios showcasing their work.

Analyse Data

Research and Professional Readings

Nick Rate, ICTPD National Facilitator, CORE Education


Ian Fox, FoxEd Education Consultants


Dr Helen Barrett, electronicportfolios and digital story-telling


Directions for Assessment in New Zealand on TKI

MOE Guidelines to e-portfolios



JISC e-portfolio Key Resources


Editure Celebrating Learning eportfolios

Becta Impact Study of e-portfolios on learning

Futured - E-portfolios for the Assessment of Learning


Decided Actions

Goal Actions By when By whom Progress
Goal 1
To develop specific criteria and investigate and choose an e-portfolio system based on this criteria.
Development of criteria, after research and PD with current leaders in the e-portfolio sector such as Bethlehem College and Albany Senior High School.
  • web-based therefore accessible by students at home
  • externally hosted therefore no server issues
  • engaging, interesting
  • user-friendly interface
  • low-cost or free
  • support readily available
  • interoperability
June/July 2010 SA Looked into tools such as:

·      Ultranet

·      Knowledgenet

·      Wikispaces

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  • Jo Wilson


    Thank you for sharing this online reflection as this provides a succinct snapshot of your investigations. Right for the onset of your focus questions it was evident that the key focus was on improving student learning and engagement. I particularly liked the quote 'Student voice is at the very heart of this entire project' as this summarised the reflection quite aptly and was evident throughout.

  • Jo Wilson

    Hi Dave


    St Bernards (who are part of the Te AwaKairangi Cluster) have posted an online reflection in regard to using google sites for learning languages. I have suggested they look at your reflective summary and here is the link to theirs


  • Dave Malloch

    Languages are working on updating sudent voice for this year.