Taking ePortfolios Above & Beyond to Improve Educator Preparation Programs
The third largest university in North Carolina, East Carolina University serves a student population of nearly 30,000 across nine undergraduate colleges, a graduate school, and four professional schools. The university offers 16 doctoral degree programs, four first professional degree programs, 76 master’s degree programs, and 102 bachelor’s degree programs. The oldest school on campus is the modern-day College of Education, and ECU recently renamed the Office of Assessment & Accreditation to the Office of Assessment, Data Management & Digital Learning to better reflect the support they provide to their campus community today.
Founded more than a century ago as a teacher training school, East Carolina University (ECU) is now the third largest higher ed institution in North Carolina with approximately 5,800 faculty and staff serving nearly 30,000 students. ECU’s commitment to excellence has remained a key tenet of the institution’s framework for preparing generations of learners to become reflective education professionals. Dedicated to the empowerment of all learners in all aspects of educational decision-making, ECU’s College of Education (COE) places particular emphasis on assessment, technology, and research.
With this in mind, the COE didn’t simply step up to the challenge when the North Carolina State Board of Education (SBE) introduced electronic portfolios as a criterion for all teacher licensure programs across the state. Instead of viewing the new ePortfolio requirement as a mandate, the COE’s Office of Assessment & Accreditation (OAA) took advantage of the opportunity to improve its teacher preparation programs by strategically implementing a more comprehensive approach to student learning assessment.
Initially, ECU piloted the folio platform officially approved for Banner-SunGard schools. However, they soon found that some of its limitations posed longer-term challenges to institutional goals outside of teacher licensure. The OAA wanted a broader solution that would also enable institutional leadership, faculty, and staff to collect, manage, reflect on, and retain student work and related assessment data long after the immediate ed prep requirement was met.
The OAA decided to request a formal exemption from the Provost in order to find a more powerful, scalable platform that would address several critical assessment initiatives:
- Collect data over time to help align activities across all educator preparation courses
- Locally store, access, and view authentic student work to inform subsequent analysis
- Identify specific indicators and trends within teacher preparation program outcomes
- Develop and test hypotheses that inform decisions to drive improvements
- Analyze scores on teacher prep activities to identify predictors for edTPAⓇ success
After rigorously evaluating potential platforms’ ability to meet these larger goals, the OAA decided to adopt Taskstream by Watermark™. The powerful ePortfolio assessment capabilities would enable the OAA to improve how they tracked students’ progress through programs, assessed teacher candidates’ performance, and evaluated the effectiveness of its many ed prep programs throughout the university.
Working closely with a dedicated Implementation Specialist, the OAA allocated time and resources to building the structure and framework of portfolio templates to support a range of uses across all teacher licensure programs on campus. This high level of flexibility enables departments to tailor their use of portfolios in alignment with specific program needs, including:
- Managing student evidence
- Tracking progression through transition points
- Capturing key assessments
- Supporting edTPA candidates
- Logging observations from university supervisors
- Analyzing data to gauge instructional effectiveness
In addition to successfully addressing the State’s teacher licensure standards, the COE’s implementation and expanding use of Taskstream by Watermark has enabled ECU to align assessment and accreditation efforts across departments, strategically revise its approach to measuring and improving program quality, and engage faculty and students in meaningful, sustainable ways.
Demonstrated Institutional Effectiveness
Using ePortfolios and data collected in Taskstream by Watermark, ECU has been able to confidently prepare for both specialized and regional accreditation.
- Regional and State review boards were granted electronic access to portfolios from anywhere for visibility into programmatic and institutional effectiveness.
- Reports in Taskstream by Watermark helped ECU maintain its CAEP 2015 Accreditation, and their use of “showcase portfolios” eases collaboration among stakeholders preparing for their next review.
- ECU uses Taskstream by Watermark to facilitate ongoing analysis and improvements in various ed prep programs to help maintain its SACSCOC accreditation status.
Ongoing Research & Program Improvements
Beyond the rigors of accreditation, the COE has seen considerable success leveraging Taskstream by Watermark to gain valuable insights that guide critical research, validate change, and drive improvement.
- Collecting, managing, and reporting on data in Taskstream by Watermark enables institutional leadership and assessment stakeholders to discover trends over time and identify common denominators among programs on campus.
- The COE is able to identify key assessments and customize Signature Assessment for Initial Licensure (SAIL) Portfolios that directly address the goals of each teacher preparation program.
- The COE can go back and look at individual elements and relevant paths to use assessment data for subsequent training and knowledge sharing purposes.
Increased Student Engagement
Taskstream by Watermark gives all ECU students the ability to create personalized ePortfolios with helpful pack-and-go features. These highly customizable portfolios make it easy for students to organize and showcase their work, allowing them to reflect on their learning experiences and share their accomplishments with others long after graduation.
- The COE formalized the use of ePortfolios as a culminating activity for its graduating seniors.
- Other seniors choose to build personalized portfolios they later submit to potential employers and graduate school Admissions offices.
After seeing the benefits of using ePortfolios across all of the university’s teacher prep programs, several non-licensure programs are choosing to implement Taskstream by Watermark as a better way to manage key assessments, engage students, and promote intentional learning.
At the institutional level, ECU has had such success using Taskstream by Watermark that they are developing plans to broaden their use of the Watermark platform to support meaningful assessment practices in many other programs and colleges on campus.