The Minister for Education and skills, Richard Bruton TD, has launched a major report from Centre for Evaluation, Quality and Inspection on the use of ePortfolios in Irish schools. The report Evaluation of the PDST ePortfolio initiative: Formative Assessment using ePortfolios examined the extent to which a model of continuous professional development created by the Professional Development Service for Teachers (PDST) supported the greater use of ePortfolios in transition year programmes. The overall outcomes of the evaluation were very positive. There was substantial agreement by participants that the professional development provided by the PDST, particularly the ongoing engagement of PDST management and advisors with participants enabled the initial adoption and understanding of ePortfolio use in the participating schools.
Speaking at the event Minister Bruton placed the increased usage of ePortfolio in the continuum of initiatives that has seen Irish education re-focus in recent years. He emphasised that society in general and employers, in particular, we're asking the education system to look at the types of skills it is providing for students. He acknowledged that collectively ‘ We have been used to doing things a certain way ….but we have to be thinking about the challenges ahead’.
The President of DCU, Professor Brian MacCraith also spoke about how the increasing use of technology is impacting on education at all stages. Highlighting the commitment of DCU to provide every student with an ePortfolio from their first day in the University Professor MacCraith welcomed the focus in the report on using research evidence to enhance the capacity of students to learn in innovative and relevant ways. He also congratulated Dr. Martin Brown, coordinator of the evaluation and other members of EQI on the completion of the evaluation.
Dr. Anne Looney, Dean of the DCU Institute of Education also spoke of the risks that students were asked to take when changing the way in which they engaged with teaching and learning situations in schools. While in the past students were focused on the product of learning, ePortfolios challenged them to take risks and to provide evidence of the process. While this could be uncomfortable it was also potentially hugely rewarding she said.
Ms. Ciara O’Donnell, National Director of the PDST further emphasised that the process of innovation should be seen as being a longterm one that needed to be nurtured and developed in different ways and by different organisations along the way. In a wide-ranging contribution, she paid tribute to the central role played by teachers in encouraging and facilitating innovation. She acknowledged the contribution of Rachel Farrell, Anthony Kilcoyne, Sean Gallagher, Mark Finlay, Brendan Waldron and other members of the PDST to the success of the initiative.Finally, she thanked EQI for dedicating the report to David McMahon who spearheaded the PDST ePortfolio initiative, and in acknowledgement, many other aspects of education in Ireland.
In response, the Director of EQI, Professor Joe O’Hara, paid tribute to the school communities who took part in the research praising their honesty and commitment to innovation. He also acknowledged the professionalism and openness of Ciara O'Donnell and the PDST to a process of evaluation that asked difficult questions about their practices. Finally, he noted the huge efforts of the EQI team who were involved in the project led by Dr. Martin Brown, evaluation project coordinator and also consisted of other EQI members, Prof Gerry McNamara, Dr. Shivaun O’Brien, Dr. Denise Burns and Ms. Paige Poole.
The EQI evaluation report together with the PDST report schedule showcasing ePortfolio projects by those schools involved in the initiative can be downloaded from the following links: