Currently the School of Education’s Student Teacher Program is the only program that is using ePortfolio for Outcomes Assessment. When the university adopted the ePortfolio concept last year, it was the hope that in time we could use the system for TEAC and Middle States assessment, tenure, and common core. We are moving in the process of changing the culture towards assessment within the School of Education and St. John’s University, and recognize each step will require significant time.
Across the University several departments and colleges are looking into the use of an ePortfolio system to collect data for accreditation. The primary hesitation with using this for outcomes assessment is in terms of what types of artifacts can be used, how this system would interact with other forms of data, and training for part-time and full-time faculty. As with any new initiative developing faculty support and consensus on such an effort is paramount. The University has seen promising results from the current efforts and will continue to consider all options for the St. John’s community.
Setting the Stage: Outcomes Assessment on your campus
Each department in the School of Education designated faculty and administrators to monitor and respond to our accreditation and assessment requirements. This cohort has consistently worked with portfolios as an assessment tool over the years and naturally moved to ePortfolio as a tool for outcomes assessment prior to the state mandate in 2014. Previously, our assessments were conducted at the course level; however, with the recent changes in state requirements and Common Core updates we have implemented additional assessments at the program and co-curricular level.
To facilitate this transition our faculty (full-time and part-time) committed significant time to meet for retreats, workshops, conferences, training sessions and focus group sessions to develop a plan that worked for all stakeholders our community. This took more than two years to complete given the number of changes in New York State over the last two years. Our team also met with Digication Executives and other St. John’s stakeholders regularly to discuss our needs and our expectations for the platform. Now that we are in the implementation phase, meeting beyond our department/faculty meetings is the now the new normal for faculty in the School of Education. We also recognize that outcome assessment is an on-going process and extremely beneficial for faculty and students especially with ePortfolio. This tool allows us to compare student work over time and to examine student work across classes. We identified strengths and weaknesses from the experience and developed appropriate responses to improve the program. This has help us to clearly articulate our commitment to improving education, quality teachers and the student experience at St. John’s University.
Vision and Next Steps
Throughout this entire experience this initiative has received support from administrators on all levels in a variety of ways. The Dean and Dean’s Office in the School of Education fully supported this project with course reductions for lead faculty on this project, part-time administrator, and graduate students over the years. Similarly, the Provost and Provost’s Office provided additional funding and support over the years and facilitated the partnership with a new ePortfolio platform. Collectively, this administrative support helped our initiative in the scaling up process and transitioning process to a new platform. We have also had our some of our administrators attend C2L seminars, retreats, or workshops to gain a better understanding of this initiative. This has helped us in developing this effort and expanding on a larger scale. However, if this initiative is to flourish at St. John’s University, we must continue to invest the proper resources into this effort. In 2013, St. John’s University embarked on a season of change administratively which has placed this initiative in a holding pattern of uncertainty as to the expansion of ePortfolios campus-wide or only in the School of Education. Still, while we negotiate the future of ePortfolios we know we will continue to utilize this tool in some capacity at St. John’s and look forward to other opportunities to impact student engagement.