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Becta releases "Impact study of e-portfolios on learning"


A study conducted by a team of researchers in the Learning Sciences Research Institute at The University of Nottingham led by Dr Elizabeth Hartnell-Young presents the potential impact of e-portfolios on learning and teaching and is primarily aimed at policy-makers.

This study provides eight case studies in the early stages of e-portfolio use from across the sectors of education, from primary school to adult learning.

The report identifies the three distinct components of an e-portfolio system: the digital archive (repository of evidence), tools to support different processes, and different presentation portfolios developed for different purposes and audiences.

Becta commissioned researchers from the Learning Science Research Institute, University of Nottingham, to investigate the impact that e-portfolios can have on learners in schools, further education, higher education and work-based learning.

Case studies of eight e-portfolio projects were created from document analysis and interviews and surveys of learners and teachers. Findings relating to the impact of e-portfolio systems on learning outcomes and processes and commencing and sustaining e-portfolio development were drawn from cross case analysis.

Key findings include:

  • e-portfolios benefit learning most effectively when considered as part of a joined-up teaching and learning approach, rather than as a discrete entity. The approach should include online repositories, planning and communication tools, and opportunities for both students and teachers to draw out and present e-portfolios at particular times and for particular purposes. There is then likely to be substantial impact on both learning processes and learning outcomes.

  • e-portfolio processes support both pastoral or social needs and curriculum outcomes

  • e-portfolio processes and tools for organisation and communication support the learning outcomes of students with a wide range of abilities

  • e-portfolios make progress and attainment more obvious to both teachers and students, because viewing and revisiting the repository of work reveals development, achievements, strengths and weaknesses

  • Some learners in all age ranges find that software that includes structured processes and organisational tools scaffolds their learning until they are confident enough to progress to working independently

  • Although some institutions are working together across phases to use e-portfolios to support transition, teachers and learners rarely consider the nature of a ‘lifelong’ e-portfolio repository and how this might be managed


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