Digital Portfolios like FreshGrade Have Been Found to Improve Student Performance

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One Elementary Teacher Finds a Nearly Doubled Increase in Growth From Fall To Spring With Portfolio Process in Place

Elementary School Principal Matthew Renwick Found Portfolios Improve Student Performance

Matthew Renwick

Asking the students to become more self-aware of their own learning and more involved in goal-setting through teacher questioning and feedback most likely made the difference.

Matthew Renwick, an elementary school principal in Wisconsin, performed a schoolwide action research project spanning the 2015-2016 school year focusing on literacy and engagement utilizing three strategies to measure growth from fall to spring:

  • Instructional walks: Speaking and listening within daily instruction, including questioning and student discussion
  • Engagement surveys: Reading, specifically self-concept as a reader, the importance of reading, and sharing our reading lives
  • Digital portfolios: Writing, with a focus on guiding students to reflect on their work, offer feedback, and set goals for the future

His school had a comprehensive portfolio process in place. He then compared the results from his first year as a principal (no portfolio process in place) and 2015-2016 (a comprehensive portfolio process in place):

2011-2012: 10% growth from fall to spring
2015-2016: 19% growth from fall to spring

The digital portfolio that was used, FreshGrade, was well received by families. Survey results with these families revealed an overwhelmingly positive response to the use of this tool for sharing student learning regularly over the course of the school year. In fact, many parents asked for more postings.

“Technology was important in this process, but my hypothesis is the digital piece was secondary to the portfolio process itself,” said Renwick. “Asking the students to become more self-aware of their own learning and more involved in goal-setting through teacher questioning and feedback most likely made the difference.”

While the study was not done with formal research methods, these anecdotal results look promising because no formal professional development was done to improve teachers’ abilities to increase speaking and listening in the classroom. Only the writing portfolio process using digital portfolios to document and share this process were addressed in faculty training.

For more information on portfolios and assessments, and to read Renwick’s article on the study, download the free white paper, “Enabling the Future of Education --- Portfolios and Assessment for 21st Century Learning.”

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Jim Reams
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