Interesting Things I’ve Learned This Week

Screen Shot 2015-10-03 at 7.39.17 PMSo as I’ve been reviewing the resources I found last week, I’ve discovered something about myself as a learner – I prefer to use Google and Twitter rather than the library. Is that blasphemous coming from the mouth of a future librarian? Let me elaborate a bit. I’m not saying that library databases are not extremely valuable; I’m just stating my preference for finding information. While researching digital portfolios, I used EdITLib through the UBC library.  It was cumbersome and time consuming. Google and Twitter found information on inquiry, assessment and digital portfolios very quickly. I spent time wading through Google links and my Twitter feed, but I use these tools daily and can determine the value of the information more quickly.

I reviewed three articles and two books in three different, but connected, areas – inquiry, assessment and digital portfolios.   Another epiphany about myself as a learner – I prefer to focus on reading articles and videos, rather than sitting and reading a book. If I read an academic book, I do so in short spurts, reading a specific chapter or idea, rather than reading the book from cover to cover. Two interesting things I’ve learned so far this week.

The inquiry resource I reviewed was a seminar paper about the Spirals of Inquiry.  Halbert, Kaiser and Temperley explain how the spirals encourage “you to adopt a curiosity mindset to identify what is going on for learners and to develop some hunches about what is leading to the current situation, before deciding what to do about it” (Temperley et al., 7, 2014). At this time, my school is setting professional learning goals for the next three years. Our staff focus is on assessment. We are struggling with how to pursue our goal and I believe using the Spirals of Inquiry may help us focus. While reading this seminar paper, I discovered  “Leading in the use of Spirals of Inquiry” by Rebecca Sweeney.   She provides practical examples of how teachers can apply the spirals of inquiry “to enable teachers and learners to determine what they need to learn and do to promote learning” (Sweeney, 1). I am planning to use the spirals of inquiry to lead my own personal professional learning with assessment and digital portfolios.


In my original list, I had two assessment books. I chose Interweaving curriculum and classroom assessment: Engaging the 21st century learner. This book was given to school-based Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment teams by the district. It forms the basis for district discussions about the new curriculum.   The chapters focus on understanding the curriculum, the importance of assessment when using backwards design, exploring inquiry (one of my keywords) and ways to integrate across the curriculum. This book included two of my keywords – inquiry and assessment.  This book has been very useful as I work with the new BC curriculum and focus on transforming assessment in my classroom.  My last keyword is also related to assessment because it allows students to demonstrate their learning in the form of a digital portfolio.

IMG_4759 IMG_4760

Digital portfolios are not new.   When searching the EdITLib, I noticed studies dating back to the late 1990’s.   I chose two more recent studies, one from 2007 and the second from 2013.  The first study from 2007, “Electronic Portfolios: A Panorama of Learning for Students and Teachers” was done with Texas elementary students. It explored how teachers, students and parents responded to using portfolios for demonstrating learning. The teachers, students and parents discovered that digital portfolios allowed students to reflect on their learning; teachers the ability to see students apply their learning; and parents the ability to see into the life of their child’s classroom.   This study was in contrast to the one from 2013, which was conducted in Canada.

The focus of the 2013 study was to determine whether digital portfolios could be used “as a form of standardized assessment to measure literacy and self-regulated learning at the elementary level” (Bures et al, 1). Electronic portfolios were created, called ePEARL,  and used in Grades 4, 5 and 6 in three Canadian provinces for the duration of the study.   Standardized rubrics were created to assess the students’ writing and self-regulated learning.  First, I do not agree with using a rubric that has not been co-constructed with students.  Secondly, it is difficult to assess students “without a sense of the classroom context” (Bures et al, 16). Every classroom is different and if you do not have an understanding of the diversity of students, assessing using a standardized rubric is unfair.   The authors did cite the benefits of digital portfolios as “rich evidence of student skills and learning”, but “found it difficult to measure literacy and self-regulated learning” (Bures et al., 17).

8491264842_99dc83d854_mAs I reflect upon the interesting things I’ve learned this week, I realize there is a solid connection between inquiry, assessment and digital portfolios.  Twitter is my best resource for finding information and connecting with others around these three topics.  My goal is to continue to explore assessment and digital portfolios using the spirals of inquiry, but first I need to come up with my question, which is still a work in progress.

photo credit: <a href=”″>Question Mark Yield Sign</a> via <a href=””>photopin</a&gt; <a href=””>(license)</a&gt;


Bures, E., Barclay, A., Abrami, P., & Meyer, E. (2013). “The reality of assessing ‘authentic’ electronic portfolios: Can electronic portfolios serve as a form of standardized assessment to measure literacy and self-regulated learning at the elementary level?” Canadian Journal Of Learning And Technology 39(4). Retrieved from, on September 26, 2015.

Drake, S., & Kolohon, W. (2014). Interweaving curriculum and classroom assessment: Engaging the 21st century learner. Don Mills, Ontario: Oxford University Press.

Halbert, J., Timperley, H., & Kaser, L. (2014). A framework for transforming learning in schools: Innovation and the spiral of inquiry . Centre for Strategic Education, Seminar Series.

McLeod, J. & Vasinda, S. (2007). “Electronic Portfolios: A Panorama of Learning for Students and Teachers.” In R. Carlsen, K. McFerrin, J. Price, R. Weber & D. Willis (Eds.), Proceedings of Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference 2007 (pp. 128-132). Chesapeake, VA: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE).

Halbert J., & Kaser, L. (2014).  Spirals of  Inquiry,  Networks of Inquiry and Innovation, retrieved from

Sweeney, R. (2015). Leading in the use of Spirals of Inquiry. Adminfo, October 2015, 6-9, retrieved from

One thought on “Interesting Things I’ve Learned This Week

  1. Excellent wrap up post! You’ve reflected, learned a bit more about yourself, your best avenues for engaging research and through this, how to help your students best. A good evaluative and summative post that captures the essential artifacts and resources to help you move forward. A good works cited list that will assist in any future writing and sharing you might do on this topic. Great job!


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