ETEC 648- Session 8: Authentic Assessment and Portfolios in eLearning

Provide a project update. What is your working title?

Working Title: Evaluating Online Discussions of Elementary School Students

Update: My project is going well. I have been testing two different structures for online discussions asynchronously in my traditional elementary school classroom. The two structures that I have tried are the Haiku discussion board and using a Google Document to have an online discussion that I have shared with my students using Google Classroom. The major component of my project is creating a rubric to grade the discussion posts that assesses the most important categories of online discussion posts and responses. I have already added one set of revisions to my rubric, and I am currently working on the second set of revisions. My goal is that my sixth grade team will use this rubric to grade online discussions.

  1. How is your project connected to eLearning?

Online discussions are a key component of eLearning because it is an important way to engage students in the class. Students in online classrooms often never meet face-to-face and online discussions are one way that students can interact with one another and with their instructor. In my traditional classroom, I am looking for ways to integrate technology in ways that help my students learn. Online discussions provide a way for my students to continue learning and engaging in discussions even when they are not in my classroom.

  1. How is your project relevant for you?

Using online discussion boards in the classroom is one way that I can give all of my students an equal opportunity to participate in a discussion. When we have a regular classroom discussion, I find that my gifted students tend to have more to contribute to the discussion than my English learners do. It also gives the students who are embarrassed to speak in front of the class an opportunity to have their voices heard. Obviously, I will still require all of my students to participate in classroom discussions, but online discussions that are carefully planned with carefully created questions will extend their learning. I expect my students to analyze, argue, assess, make claims, conclude, discuss, provide evidence, justify, summarize, and support their responses with relevant information.

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

Bradley, M. E., Thom, L. R., Hayes, J., & Hay, C. (2008). Ask and You Will Receive: How Question Type Influences Quantity and Quality of Online Discussions. British Journal of Educational Technology, 39(5), 888–900.


Bradley et al., 2008, researched how the type of questions that students responded to affected the quantity and quality of their responses. They used Bloom’s taxonomy to determine that online discussions are a higher level thinking skill. The six types of questions that they analyzed and focused on were direct link, course link, brainstorm, limited focal, open focal, and application. The goal of the study was to determine whether these different types of questions would influence the types of responses that students wrote on the discussion board. Direct link questions were taken from an article or a quote and were considered to be analytical and higher order. Course link questions were from the course and students had to make a connection between the information from the course and from the readings. They were also considered higher-order questions because students had to synthesize information to respond. Brainstorm questions were written so that students could generate all the ideas that they could come up with about an issue. They were higher-order and synthetic questions. Limited focal questions required students to take an issue with alternatives and justify their positions, and were higher-order and evaluative. Open focal questions gave an issue with no alternatives and asked students for their opinion. These were also higher-order and evaluative question types. Application questions asked students to respond to a scenario based on information from the reading and justify their response with that information. These questions were lower-order Blooms and applied. The dependent variables were the word count and the degree to which the question was completed. The questions they researched were: “1. Which question type generated the highest word count? 2. Which question type generated the most complete answers? 3. Which question types resulted in higher-order thinking in answers and responses?” (p. 891).

The study required students to participate in the online discussions as part of the grade for the course. They had three questions to respond to for each discussion, for a total of twenty-four questions in the semester. The study found that limited focal and direct link question types resulted in the highest word counts, followed by open focal and brainstorm questions. Students wrote more when they had to give their opinions as a part of their response. The questions that generated answers that were more complete were also limited focal and direct link question types. The types of questions that were least completed were application and course link questions. The questions that resulted in higher-order thinking were course link, brainstorm, and direct link questions. The questions that provided the lowest levels of thinking according to Bloom’s Taxonomy were the open focal and application question types.


This article is valuable to my research because it outlines major themes in online discussions that I can research deeper now, but it gave me a good starting point as I look to begin my own discussion board and to think about how I will assess what my students write and how they interact with each other. Some strengths in the article included that she used eleven articles to gather her data from, and that they included three different types of data: quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods. I found that the quotes from the students gave me a better understanding of their points of view regarding online discussions. One weakness in the article were that it did not go in depth in the research, but just gave an overview of online discussions and the major themes surrounding them. The articles she chose were written between 1998 and 2010, but I think that she should have chosen a more current span of data since she wrote the article in 2012. I know that when I was doing my research, I tried to find articles that were written within the past six to eight years. Overall, I would recommend this article if they want a good overview of trends in online discussions.

McLoughlin, D., & Mynard, J. (2009). An analysis of higher order thinking in online discussions. Innovations in Education & Teaching International, 46(2), 147–160. doi:10.1080/14703290902843778


This study by McLoughlin and Mynard (2009) analyzed how higher-order thinking was effectively facilitated in asynchronous online discussion boards. The study focused on two courses that were twenty weeks long and they were taught by McLoughlin and Mynard. They decided to incorporate online discussions because not all of their students participated in the face-to-face discussions. Since the students were taking an English class, and their primary language was Arabic, the authors thought that the students might benefit from having more time to form their responses if they wrote them online rather than coming up with them instantly in class. Higher-order thinking includes the comprehension, analysis, synthesis, evaluation, and application levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy.

Some benefits of online discussion boards are that they are student centered, they can be non-intimidating, and teachers and students are equal participants and can contribute whenever they choose to do so. Another positive aspect of online discussion boards is that the teacher does not dominate the discussion because they only contribute from 10% to 15% of the discussion, unlike what can happen in a traditional classroom in which the teacher talk can take up to 80% of the time in the classroom. Online discussion board are one way to have students work collaboratively with their peers as they take into account multiple perspectives and share ideas. However, just because these are benefits of online discussion boards, it does not mean that these benefits are evident in all online discussions. In order to attain these benefits, instructors must carefully think about the types of questions they can ask that will lead to students using higher-order thinking skills. McLoughlin and Mynard focused on the Community of Inquiry framework by Garrison et al., (2000) in which the learner constructs knowledge through a collaborative process. Social, cognitive, and teaching presence are the three elements of the framework and they are evident in the components of an online discussion. The phases of cognitive presence are the triggering phase in which the question is posed on the discussion board, the exploration phase in which students are thinking about and exploring the question as they brainstorm and question, the integration phase is where students make connections as they integrate their thoughts to construct meaning, and resolution where the question is resolved. Integration is the stage in which higher-order thinking skills are used most by students.

The researchers found that discussions that take place online have the potential to require students to use higher-order thinking skills as they respond to the prompt given by the instructor. They found that the wording of the question made a large difference in the type of response students would write. Students were assigned grades, given time limits, clear guidelines, and examples which all contributed to students participating with higher-order thoughts in their posts and they stayed on task and did not engage in social conversations on the discussion boards.


The limitations in this study include the small size of the sample and that the researchers were the instructors of both classes. A strength of the article is that it is an example of active research because they noticed a problem and designed the study when they realized that their students were having issues in the face-to-face discussions. I have not read many articles in which the research is conducted this way, but it makes me feel that it is more applicable because an actual teacher recognized a problem and worked to solve it by using writing a review of the literature and designed their own study. I recommend this article as a good overview of the Community of Inquiry model and of higher-order thinking, and as a good starting point for any teachers who would like to begin using online discussions in their own classrooms.

Szabo, Z., & Schwartz, J. (2011). Learning Methods for Teacher Education: The Use of Online Discussions to Improve Critical Thinking. Technology, Pedagogy and Education, 20(1), 79–94.


According to Szabo and Schwartz (2011), technology is a tool that can enhance the process of learning if it is used in a meaningful manner that develops critical thinking skills. It has been shown that asynchronous discussion can develop those critical thinking skills and increase the satisfaction of students in online courses. Critical thinking skills include “logical reasoning, analyzing arguments, testing hypotheses, making decisions, estimating likelihoods, and creative thinking” (p. 80). Higher order thinking skills include the upper levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy and the revised taxonomy that include metacognition. Traditional face-to-face discussions can also help students achieve higher order thinking skills, but constraints such as time and having one or a few students dominate a discussion are present that are not issues in online asynchronous discussions. Online discussions give students the opportunity to have more time to come up with their thoughts and give everyone an equal opportunity to participate outside of the regular hours spent in the classroom.

Szabo and Schwartz conducted a study on four sections of an Educational Psychology course and two of the four sections participated in online discussions in Blackboard. Two professors taught the courses, and they were identical in everything as far as objectives, requirements, assignments, assessments, grading criteria, textbooks, syllabi, and calendar. The “technology” group participated online and in-class, while the “traditional” group was given short writing reflection assignments to make up for the work that the “technology” group had to do online. They found that by giving students in the “technology” group rubrics that specified that higher order thinking was required, students knew what was expected of them in their discussion board posts. The analysis of the Blackboard discussion posts showed that students were increasing in their critical thinking skills, while students who were in the “traditional” group did not show the same increase in their use of critical thinking skills. The quality of the posts changed over time as students were asked lower level questions in the beginning of the trimester and higher-level questions as the semester progressed.


This research was limited by a small sample size and because it was only tested in one type of course. However, its findings are important for traditional classroom teachers as they look for ways to integrate technology into their teaching. Teachers are always trying to find ways to make the time spent in class more valuable and how to give every student an equal opportunity to share. It is difficult to do that in a classroom with more than thirty students. I recommend this article to instructors who are looking for research that shows that online discussion boards can lead students to think critically because it will help them determine what kinds of questions they should pose to their students if they want them to respond in a way that demonstrates higher-level critical thinking.

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

I teach sixth grade in a traditional elementary school classroom. We have a 1:1 ratio of technology to students with 20 Chromebooks and 11 iPads. I teach math, language arts, social studies, science, ELD, physical education, and try to find time to incorporate the arts. Authentic assessment in the context of my project involves students using multiple resources to respond in an asynchronous online discussion. Since I am focusing on social studies for my project, I will ask questions that require them to respond from the point of view of a historical figure. They will have to use multiple perspectives to think about how they would respond compared to the response of the historical figure.

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

Reflective Portfolios- include artifacts and a reflective product such as a video about their portfolio

Performance Portfolios- includes the best examples of a student’s work chosen by the student

Learning Portfolios- contains examples of what a student has learned bases on the specific curriculum

I would like my students to create performance portfolios online using Google Apps. I could have them create a folder for the portfolio with folders for each subject. Students would choose the best three examples of their work and write a rationale for why they have chosen each example. If there was work that they didn’t complete digitally, they could scan it or take a picture of it. This would make more sense in my classroom since they do not complete every assignment online. It would be great if they could share their portfolios with the middle school counselors who decide which classes to enroll them in because it would be easier to make those decisions with actual examples of their work along with the other criteria. Ideally, they would create their own website for their portfolios at the end of the year when they have everything they need in their Google folder.

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

Competency based learning is personalized learning that is based on what the individual needs to learn and it allows them to learn it at their own pace. When students feel they have learned it, they take an assessment that determines whether or not they have learned it. It is an individualized learning plan.

This could impact my career in several ways because personalized learning is something that my district has been working on since last year. Recently, I asked our Director of Innovation and Learner Engagement what personalized learning was and I was surprised that teachers in my district were already teaching that way. Some schools in our district received a Gates Foundation grant and that is why they are participating in personalized learning. My question was and still is how do all those teachers find the time to create the content for their students and how have they changed the content that they already created to meet the Common Core State Standards. One of the projects I created last quarter to teach the Standards for Mathematical Practice took many hours to complete, so I can’t imagine how they find ways to make all of their content available to their students online. I also do not know how all the teachers at a school participate when their levels of proficiency with technology vary widely. So, one day soon, I might be teaching competency based learning using the personalized learning model.

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

My participation in the discussion board this week was meaningful because I had good ideas about the use of portfolios with my own students. I always look for ways that I can apply what I am learning in my own classroom with my sixth graders.

My original post:

What are some great portfolio tools and practices?

How could we make a portfolio work in a class like this one?

One of the purposes of creating a portfolio is to share it, so creating a portfolio that can easily be shared with others is very important. Depending on the type of portfolio that students are creating, students may choose what evidence of their learning they want to include. If it is a growth portfolio, they will want to choose early evidence of their work and later evidence to show growth. If it is a showcase portfolio, students will only want to choose their best work. If it is an evaluation portfolio, the instructor should provide a list of what needs to be included. One of the most important components of any type of portfolio is the reflection piece and it can include a reflection on their progress, a reflection on the process of creating the work sample, and/or a teacher reflection on the student’s progress and strengths.

Our students all have a Gmail account provided to them that they keep the entire time they are in our K-12 district. As I was thinking about ways to create a portfolio that includes more than just text and images, I was thinking that if they each created a folder in their Google Drive and named it portfolio, they could share it with me so I could have access to it. I would give them a list of the pieces I wanted to see in their portfolio. It would be great, as Laura mentioned, for students to have a portfolio of their K-12 work. We used to have a folder for language arts that would go in each students’ cum folder, but we stopped doing that years ago. I always liked seeing their progress from K through sixth grade.

The same could be done for an online course such as this because we all have Gmail accounts provided to us by CSUSB. We could share our portfolio folders with one another. This seems more tedious for an online course than it does for my sixth grade students, so I think that creating a website for our portfolios would make more sense and that is what we have to do for the instructional technology program. One website that I am familiar with is Weebly. My students use Weebly to create their National History Day websites. I am going to read more about how I can use Weebly to create an electronic portfolio.

I have used blogs in the past with my students and they are great, especially for writing because you can really see how they have grown from the beginning of the year through the end of the year. I really like using because it is easy to use with sixth grade students and I have a lot of control over the settings of their blogs and the comments.

  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.

Hye Su wrote a great original post about portfolios. She made a connection between what she has been doing on her blog and what she has read about and came to the conclusion that her blog is in fact a portfolio. She also did some research and found benefits of e-portfolios.

Hye Su’s Post:

According to my experience with the e-portfolio, I can reflect what I learned in classes through it and have opportunities to learn new aspects toward an issue by communicating with classmates. Moreover, I can share and understand other classmates’ ideas who came from various different fields. For this ETEC648 class, students can upload a post every week. It could be a reflection what they learned, essay, or journal review so that they can recognize their progressive. I think the way which we are doing posting every week is really helpful for learners’ learning process. The instructor and students’ replies make students encourage and motivated students to search or learn new knowledge in order to comment to their reply. The e-portfolio also can assessment tool for grading learners’ performance.

According to Banks(2004) found several benefits of e-portfolio; (There are many other benefits of portfolio we did not mentioned; thus, I want to share with my classmates.)

  1. Support coherent management of a variety of achievements and pieces of work. These can be restructured and viewed in different ways for different purposes, for example, for reviewing learning, planning future learning, or providing evidence for an award or an employers
  2. Help learners take control of their learning and their lives, by reflecting on their activities and planning future directions.
  3. Provide a learner-centered rather than course-centered view of learning
  4. give appropriate views of achievement and learners’ work to appropriate people, for example, the learner, teachers, mentors, careers advisers, potential employers, educational institutions to whom the learner is applying
  5. Support “just in time” or “bite-sized” learning, by contextualizing which bite of learning is needed at this moment in time and helping place it in the context of a long-term learning journey
  6. Facilitate a wider variety and more authentic forms of assessment and accreditation
  7. complement credit-based approaches to flexible accreditation
  8. provide continuity through a learner’s lifelong learning as they more between learning providers
  9. Help with continuing professional development, by encouraging reflection on practice, linking this with learning activities and sharing with one’s team
  10. Link learners’ achievements and work with the skills required by their employers, helping to identify learning needs and close the skills gap. As well as holding this information for perusal, it can potentially be available, through feeds such as RSS, to “skills broker” – whether human, or computer agents, which match skills to skills needs, stimulating regional and global economies

-e-portfolio can also be used to record the skills, assets, achievements and plans of a group of people – for example a team, a school, a community

Source from

  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.

This week I learned more about different types of assessment in online instruction. This is important for me because I am looking for better ways to assess my students, especially online. I think that taking the time to have my students build a digital performance portfolio for sixth grade will be a valuable experience for them. It might even motivate them to create one each school year, or to add to the one they have already created. Competency based learning is also something I need to think about because my GATE students may have already mastered some of the sixth grade standards and I need to think about what assessments I can give them to show their mastery. Then, I can think about creating a personalized learning plan for them.


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