index.html CHAPTER ONE


Background of the Study

Preparing teachers for the 21st Century has been a concern for both political and educational leaders in this country during the last two decades. In the fifth State of the Union address on February 4, 1997, President Clinton challenged America to make teaching a national priority. In response to the president's address, the U.S. Department of Education developed priorities that focus on strategies to improve education. These strategies called for a talented, dedicated, and well-prepared teacher in every classroom, clear state standards of achievement and accountability for all children, technological literacy for every young person entering the workforce in the 21st Century, and a safe, disciplined school environment (U.S. Department of Education, 1997b).

Public education reform was triggered a decade earlier by a report, A Nation at Risk, which claimed that U.S. students generally achieved at lower skill levels than those of other industrialized nations (National Commission on Excellence in Education, 1983). The Goals 2000: Educate America Act enacted by Congress in 1994, provided the framework for education reform for the 21st Century. This legislation called for the establishment of high-quality, internationally competitive content and performance standards for all students, promoted the use of technology to enable all students to achieve national goals, and emphasized the need for teacher education and professional development. Teachers were to be given the opportunity to acquire the knowledge and skills needed to instruct and prepare students for the next century. They were to have access to programs to improve professional skills and encouraged "to use emerging new methods, forms of assessment, and technologies" (The National Education Goals Panel, 1998, Goal 4, p. 1).

Three themes of significance for this study converged in recent education reform documents concerning the preparation of teachers for the 21st Century: teacher accountability to professional content and certification standards, performance-based authentic assessment for both teachers and students, and the need for educators to have technological expertise. The U.S. Department of Education's New Teacher's Guide stated: "The highest academic standards, the best facilities, the strongest accountability measures, and the latest technology will do little good if we do not have a teaching force of the highest quality" (1997, September, p. 1). Providing well-prepared, technological literate teachers who meet high professional standards has presented a challenge to pre-service teacher training institutions.


This first aspect of school reform related to this study involved teacher effectiveness and accountability to professional standards. In 1986, The Carnegie Task Force on Teaching as a Profession issued a report called "A Nation Prepared: Teachers for the 21st Century." This resulted in the establishment of a National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS). The NBPTS was to establish high and rigorous standards for what accomplished teachers should know and be able to do, develop and operate a national, voluntary system to assess and certify teachers who meet these standards, and advance related education reforms for the purpose of improving student learning in American schools (NBPTS, 1998b).

The Goals 2000: Educate America Act encouraged states to coordinate their own standards reform efforts and provided funds to states and school districts for better teacher training and professional development. In California, the Challenge school district reform initiative called for fundamental changes needed to move to a high-performance, standards-based system of public instruction for all students (California Department of Education, 1998). The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC) began to redesign their program approval and evaluation process for teachers. The California Standards for the Teaching Profession (1997) document presented updated standards for professional teaching practice. The Advisory Task Force on Teacher Preparation for Reading Instruction established additional literacy standards and factors to be considered in September of 1997.


The second theme of this paper addressed the assessment reform movement that is necessarily linked to the demand for accountability to standards. The establishment of the NBPTS teacher certification system involved the setting of standards for teachers and the development of an assessment system that utilizes performance measures designed to demonstrate the meeting of standards. This system was to be performance based, requiring data collected in a school setting, as well as data collected at an assessment center. The school site module was to consist of portfolio documentation and on-site observation. The portfolio developed by the teacher candidate was to include curriculum guides, a reflective essay, student projects and essays, evaluations from other teachers, students, and parents, as well as videotapes of classroom instruction (NBPTS, 1998a).

In April of 1997, the U.S. Department of Education Studies of Education Reform published a research report on 16 school sites that were developing and implementing performance assessments for students. The purposes of performance assessment were stated as: monitoring student progress, holding schools and teachers accountable for student achievement, certifying student skills and capabilities, achieving better alignment of curriculum, instruction, and assessment, and informing and influencing curriculum and instructional practice. Performance assessment was defined as including alternative assessment, authentic assessment, and performance assessment. Alternative assessment was distinguished from traditional multiple-choice testing, authentic assessment involved real world tasks and contexts, and performance assessment referred to student demonstration, performance, or product development. Portfolios, described as collections of student's work and developmental products, were included among the possible authentic assessment tasks (U.S. Department of Education, 1997a).


The U.S. Department of Education stated that technology offered "numerous possibilities for integrating assessment into the daily life of the classroom" (1997, April, p. 6). The use of technology in education was the third theme addressed in this study. As a part of the 1993 U.S. Education Reform Studies, a document entitled "Using Technology to Support Education Reform" reviewed ways in which technology and educational reform fit together. This study reinforced the belief that using technologies in education supported constructivist forms of authentic and active learning. According to this study, "technology can support the assessment of student work in ways that are useful for guiding instruction. Specifically, technology facilitates (1) obtaining a trace of student thinking processes, (2) collecting real-time feedback from multiple students, (3) storing and retrieving student work and associated comments, and (4) setting individual goals and managing instruction" (U.S. Department of Education, 1993, chap. 4, p. 2).

According to the 1997 U.S. Department of Education Studies of Education Reform, "the potential for applying new information and communications technology to performance assessment remains unrealized at all levels of education" (p.7). The report stated that technology offers possibilities for integrating assessment into the classroom, but knowledge in how to use technology in conjunction with performance assessment is lacking. The report described the problem as a "lack of technology experience and equipment, coupled with a lack of knowledge about how to develop and implement performance assessments" (p. 6).

The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) issued a report called "Technology and the New Professional Teacher: Preparing for the 21st Century Classroom" in 1997. The NCATE Task Force on Technology and Teacher Education recommended that NCATE stimulate more effective uses of technology in teacher education programs. In order to prepare students to teach in tomorrow's classrooms, "they must experiment with effective applications of computer technology for teaching and learning in their own campus practice" (NCATE, 1997). The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) presented guidelines for accreditation to NCATE for the use of technology in teaching and learning in schools of education (1995).

NCATE has challenged higher education to incorporate technology across the entire teacher education program, not just as a "computer literacy" class added to the existing curriculum (1997, p.7). A study done by the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) entitled "Teachers and Technology: Making the Connection," stated that far too many colleges of education are teaching about technology as a separate subject, rather than teaching with technology across the curriculum (OTA, 1995). A 1996 study of 56 colleges of education sponsored by the Northwest Technology Consortium (NETC), resulted in two recommendations: technology needs to be a pervasive part of how faculty teach; and preparation of pre-service teachers to use and integrate technology in their future classrooms needs to be emphasized (Queitzsch, 1997).

The NCATE task force stated that "today's teacher candidates will teach tomorrow as they are taught today" (p.4). This report emphasized that teacher education has the responsibility to prepare students for teaching in the 21st Century, even though that future is impossible to predict with the rapid developments in technology. The task force stated that teacher education is in a time of transition, calling for experimentation and a new attitude that is "fearless in the use of technology" (p.6). NCATE recommended that teacher education programs provide early experiences for their students and that technology be integrated into other education reform efforts (p. 8). This study focused on the use of technology as a tool for performance assessment of teacher candidates as evidence of achieving certification standards.

Research in the use of technology as a tool for performance assessment, particularly in the form of the electronic portfolio, has been seriously lacking at all levels of education (U.S. Department of Education, 1997a, p. 6). Future teachers have been required to carry out educational reform in the classrooms of the future by being technologically literate, accountable to rigorous standards, and knowledgeable in the use of performance assessment integrated with instruction. However, the school reform study on assessment of student performance (1997) emphasized that knowledge of how to use technology in performance assessment has been lagging behind (p. 5). The NCATE task force challenged teachers to experiment and incorporate technology into their teaching and learning, even when future technology is impossible to anticipate (p. 10).

Problem Statement

Education reform documents focused on the importance of rigorous standards for the certification of teacher candidates, authentic assessment aligned to these standards, and the use of technology as a potential tool for assessing these standards. The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) emphasized rigorous standards for teachers and encourages the use of portfolios in assessment. The U. S. Department of Education stated that technology can potentially facilitate the storage and retrieval of student work within the portfolio assessment processes and products. The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) advised teacher education programs to experiment with computer technology in teacher training. The possibility of using technology to preserve and present authentic evidence of achievement provided the researcher with the motivation for this study.

The potential for using computer technology as a tool for assessment has been explored in a small Northern California university teacher preparation program. Multiple subjects credential students enrolled in reading methods classes participated in an electronic portfolio project. The electronic portfolio provided a framework in which teacher candidates demonstrated mastery of course objectives based on state teacher certification standards. The researcher designed templates using Hypertext Markup Language (HTML), a web page authoring language, as well as Hyperstudio, an interactive authoring program. Both programs allowed the student to organize and present evidence in the form of text, graphics, sound files, and video. Students were able to include personal reflections, course assignments, photographs, pictures, audio recordings, and video within the electronic framework. Whether the electronic portfolio could be considered an effective tool for documenting teacher candidate performance and the achievement of course objectives was the primary question investigated in this study.

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this study was to analyze the effectiveness of electronic portfolios in the assessment of teacher candidates. The researcher explored the process of preparing an electronic portfolio using computer and multimedia technology from the teacher candidate's perspective. The final electronic portfolio products were analyzed for evidence of self-reflection and self-assessment. The teacher candidate’s written explanations of artifacts within the portfolio were examined for evidence of reference to meeting course objectives based on state certification standards. The strengths and weaknesses, as well as the software and hardware problems that teacher candidates encountered during the electronic portfolio process, were examined.

Although the primary focus of this study was on the teacher candidate's perception of the electronic portfolio process, the researcher examined the electronic portfolio project from the course professor's point of view as well. The process of designing the software templates and implementing the electronic portfolio project in the reading methods class was investigated. It was believed that the electronic portfolio project had the potential to enhance the education of teacher candidates and prepare them for using an emerging multimedia computer technology in their future classrooms.

Significance of the Study

The NCATE technology task force has suggested that perhaps the best way the teacher education faculty can inspire future teachers to use technology is "to cast themselves as learners and to experiment fearlessly in the applications of technology," making themselves "role models of lifelong learning" (p. 9). The task force stated that re-educating the existing teaching force requires extensive professional development, but that the problem will be compounded if future teachers are inadequately prepared to use new technology (p. 7). This research into assessment utilizing the current tools of technology has provided teacher educators with greater insight into possibilities of the digital portfolio process.

Research Questions

1. What effect does incorporating technology have on the development of a portfolio for teacher candidates?
2. To what extent does the electronic portfolio process encourage self-assessment and reflection?
3. In what ways does the electronic portfolio provide evidence of student learning and achievement in line with course objectives?
4. What are the problems encountered in putting together the portfolio electronically?
5. What do students perceive as the strengths and/or weaknesses of creating a portfolio electronically?
6. What are the course professor's perceptions concerning the effectiveness of the electronic portfolio as a tool for assessment?

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Copyright 1999 by Carla Hagen Piper