Exploring the Influence of Web-Based Portfolio Development on Learning to Teach Elementary Science

Exploring the Influence of Web-Based Portfolio Development on Learning to Teach Elementary Science
Lucy Avraamidou and Carla Zembal-Saul

This qualitative case study examined web-based portfolio development in the service of supporting reflective thinking and learning within the innovative context of Professional Development Schools. Specifically, this study investigated the nature of the evidence-based philosophies developed by prospective teachers as the central part of the web-based portfolio task and the ways in which the technology contributed to it. The findings of this study illuminated the participants’ understandings about learning and teaching science emphasizing a student-centered approach, connecting physical engagement of children with conceptual aspects of learning, becoming attentive to what teachers can do to support children’s learning and focusing on teaching science as inquiry. The way the task was organized and the fact that the web-based format provided the possibility to keep multiple versions of their philosophies gave prospective teachers the advantage to view how their philosophies were changing over time, which supported a continuous engagement in metacognition, self-reflection, and self-evaluation. Built on these findings we suggest that future research be directed in the area of teachers’ knowledge and beliefs about science teaching and learning and the kinds of experiences that influence their development. The ways in which technology tools can contribute to supporting prospective teachers in developing personal theories consistent with current recommendations of reform focusing on supporting learning through inquiry should also be explored.

In recent years, the notion of a “portfolio” has become easily recognizable as a part of the everyday language. Olson (1991) reported that a portfolio was originally defined as a portable case for carrying loose papers or prints–port meaning to carry and folio pertaining to pages or sheets of paper. Today folio refers to a large collection of materials, such as documents, pictures, papers, work samples, audio, or videotapes.

Portfolios have been used in teacher education in different formats, in a variety of ways, and for different purposes. The diversity of the functions and uses of portfolios have consequently produced multiple definitions depending on the purpose that the portfolio serves. Initially portfolios were associated with a scrapbook that included artifacts that had been saved and which could eventually be shown to a prospective employer (Aschermann, 1999). Portfolios also were described as a purposeful, integrated collection of work (Paulson, Paulson, & Meyer, 1991), and as an extended resume (Wolf, 1994). Dana and Tippins (1998) referred specifically to the science portfolio as “a researched presentation of the accomplishments of a teacher of science documented with teacher and student work and substantiated by reflective writing” (p. 723).

Portfolios can be used to demonstrate effort, progress, and achievement (Barrett, 1998) and to illustrate good teaching (Aschermann, 1999). According to Wolf (1991) portfolios can give teachers a purpose and framework for preserving and sharing their work and stimulate them to reflect on their own work and on the act of teaching. Other purposes of portfolio development involve the enhancement and development of teaching skills (Collins, 1990), the encouragement of reflection upon one’s teaching (Richert, 1990), and professional growth through collegiality (Shulman, 1988). As Lyons (1998a) suggested, “the portfolio may be considered from three perspectives: as a credential, as a set of assumptions about teaching and learning, and as making possible a powerful, personal reflective learning experience” (p. 4).

This study focused on the development of web-based portfolios in science teacher education. Two issues are important in this study: (a) the emphasis on supporting prospective elementary teachers’ reflection and (b) the construction of their knowledge of learning and teaching science. The literature review that follows illustrates the different approaches to portfolio development in teacher preparation programs.

Link: http://uwashington.worldcat.org/oclc/96568591 Off-Campus Access