Session Eight: Portfolios and Authentic Assessment


Session 8

  1. Provide a project update. What is your working title?

eLearning Rubric

I hit a bit of a snag in that I discovered that my college’s Ed Tech committee has recently submitted Chico State’s Rubric for Online Learning: to the Board as part of our Online Learning Training for new faculty. My original plan was to create my own rubric from scratch, but now I have been asked by the Ed Tech Chair to look at Chico’s Rubric and consider ways I might adapt it to our school’s needs. I’m now trying to decide whether I create a separate section for assessing how the course is meeting Basic Skills students’ needs, or if I should incorporate the various criteria into the already existing sections.

  1. How is your project connected to eLearning?

This is as connected as it can get since I am creating a rubric to assess all of our online and hybrid classes.

  1. How is your project relevant for you?

Improving the success rate of online students at my college is the entire point of my sabbatical. My interest in studying in the eLearning program at CSUSB is minimally about my own instruction but much more about how I can help other teachers at my college improve their classes. I believe having a comprehensive rubric for evaluating online classes as part of our training for all new online teachers will lead to improved success. Our most recent data shows that the success rate of our online classes is up to 57.4%, but that’s still considerably lower than our f2f classes that are at 71.6%. I want to see that online percentage closer to our f2f classes.

  1. What are the three most interesting/relevant/informative/important articles in your bibliography for your project?

Cassens, T. (2010, January 1). Comparing the Effectiveness of Online and Face-to-Face Classes among California Community College Students.

Without doubt this has been the most useful article. This dissertation focuses on exactly my topic- the success rates of CA community college students in online classes (taking into account basic skills, first generation, ESL, etc.).

Kaupp, R. (2012). Online Penalty: The Impact of Online Instruction on the Latino-White Achievement Gap. Journal Of Applied Research In The Community College, 19(2), 8-16.

This proved to be the most useful for data showing that Latino students are twice as likely to drop online CA community college classes.

Menager-Beeley, R. (2001). Student Success in Web Based Distance Learning: Measuring Motivation To Identify at Risk Students and Improve Retention in Online Classes.

This article was the most surprising. Up until now I have not offered any ESL classes online because I doubted the success rates. I strongly warn my ESL students against taking online classes. Much to my surprise, this article documents that ESL students are actually more successful in online classes than f2f because the asynchronous communication gives them more time to process the information and respond. Wow- this has me totally rethinking offering ESL online.

  1. What is authentic assessment in your context. Please explain important details like grade level, content area etc.

In college ESL classes authentic assessment happens daily.

In a non-credit ESL classroom that would be Comprehensive Life Skills English, student are learning to communicate in the real world. For example, socio-dramas are a great assessment tool. If students are studying modals (can, could, will, would, may, might, etc) I might ask students to act our a restaurant scene between a waiter and a customer.

In credit ESL classes our emphasis is on Academic and Professional Fluency. Since much of the focus of our classes is on preparing them for non ESL classes, the focus is on college English which isn’t necessarily what comes to mind when one thinks “real world” = authentic assessment. It’s easier to see the real world connection to the assignments that are more job related. For example, the Pronunciation students search for a job, apply for the job, and must participate in an oral interview specifically for this job. I create the type of questions I think the perspective employer would likely ask.

  1. What are three types of portfolios? Choose one type of portfolio and explain how you could implement it in some eLearning setting.

  • Reflective
  • Learning
  • Performance or Demonstrative

Reflective Portfolio

Reflection Portfolio

I really like the simplicity of the above prompts. I would like to use a Reflective Portfolio as my final assignment. I would list the course objectives and ask students to reflect on how their work demonstrates the knowledge of the objectives.   I think the final part about what student will do with this knowledge in the future is the most important. I don’t think I have shown students a clear picture of how/why they will need essay writing and MLA/APA citation in their future classes. I think I might ask them to email interview their next semester teachers to ask about the types of writing and researching they will use.   My hope is that if students can see a scaffolding of skills, they might recognize the importance of building a strong foundation in my basic skills classes.

  1. What is competency based learning? How could this impact your career?

I know competency based learning is the new hot trend being pushed by the Department of Education, online learning sites like MOOC, the Business Industry, etc. but for ESL teachers this has been around forever; we just called it the Communicative Approach. The idea is that English language classes are trying to teach English skills for various purposes: academic, real life, or for a specific employment. This describes a bit about how the Communicative Approach resembles Competency Based Learning-

I think one area where they differ in online education is with assessment. From what I have read, the benefit of competency based online learning is with the ability for students to self-pace and complete skills at their own pace. So far I haven’t thought in terms of designing a self-paced class. I think I could and should do this with my grammar courses. To be honest, I don’t know if I can do this at the community college level because we are funded by FTES which is linked to weekly attendance based on a semester length course. Hmmmm, now I am curious if it is even an option in credit community college classes? According to these articles, there are pilot programs going on in community colleges, but no CA colleges are listed. Even though it seems like a perfect fit for community colleges, it looks like Universities are leading this movement-

  1. Evaluate your participation in the discussion this week. Provide at least one quote from the discussion that supports your evaluation.

When I first started at my college I’ll never forget seeing a descriptive writing assignment where students were told to describe their rooms- terribly boring ineffective topic. Now students are asked to write a cover letter applying for a job of their choice, and they have to use descriptive language to show why/how they are a strong candidate for the position.  It’s not innovative but it is brimming with practicality.  I want students to connect the writing we do in English with other writing in their lives: either other courses or in life.  I can assess different writing strategies in a variety of modes.

I’ve tried letting students use an assignment from another course in my class where they would focus on their essay organization, documentation, and sentence skills.  The problem was that I had a tough time evaluating an assignment with another teacher’s requirements.  For example, I commented on one student’s paper that she needed to use “I” for her own ideas; however, she later told me that her other teacher has said she wasn’t allowed to use “I”.  I let another student use a letter she had written her child’s teacher, but that too was hard to assess since it was challenging to understand my student’s exact objectives; for example, did she intend her tone to sound stern or not?  Had she meant to be friendly or rude?- it required a discussion between us.  So I guess the answer is yes using authentic assessment is more work for the teacher.  I do think it is valuable and can work well using real life scenarios (that the teacher sets up), but it is challenging to asses actual real life abilities.

  1. Identify the student you think was the most important participant in the Blackboard discussion. Explain why and provide at least one quote from that student’s contributions to the Blackboard discussion.

I was most surprised by Laura’s posting this week on the lack of computer skills her 8th graders have.  For a few years now I have felt like the computer mastery of incoming Freshman is just amazing.  If I can’t make something work or want to find a good youtube that relates to the class, I just ask the students.  I look around at young kids and they seem to have better technology skills than most adults.  It really surprised me that her 8th graders are having trouble.

Hi Christen,

I too have tried portfolios at different points in my teaching career and they ended up as a mess of papers in folders. …and kids lost much of it. However, with the online opportunities, I think it might be easier to have portfolios. I would not want to have to go through all of them at the end of the semester, or school year however. Maybe, there is a way for students to present their best work on a portfolio. I am thinking maybe I could try it with my 8th graders first. They might like building their own website. It would take a lot of direction from me though. I am finding that kids are lacking many computer skills in work processing alone. Many have no idea how to make a PowerPoint and it is an assignment they are responsible for. I think I have to lower my expectations and just get the kids started and do what we can.  Laura

  1. Reflect on what you have learned this week. What have you learned that has the potential to inform or influence you or your practice of online learning going forward? Explain why.

I wasn’t really a fan of portfolios before this week, mostly because of my outdated image of overflowing folders full of a whole semester’s worth of work and yet always missing some key piece. I have to admit that the combination of e-portfolios and reflective portfolios has me reconsidering my aversion. I am certain I will give my students a reflective assignment; whether or not I have them actually attach the work remains to be seen. I guess as long as it is online, there really isn’t any reason for them not to include links to their assignments.


3 thoughts on “Session Eight: Portfolios and Authentic Assessment

  1. The graphics are great Christen.
    As for my kids and computer skills, a lot of the kids in our district are without computers or internet. Some of our kids access the online program through their phone or tablet.


    • Me too Laura,
      How I wish we could be having such facilities because what we learn is so fascinating that you want the students to receive the same but you find your hands are tied.

      Thanks for sharing Christen,
      The URLs are very resourceful



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