Using open source platform mahara to build teaching e-portfolio support management of professional development of teachers

Abstract. Professional development is a cornerstone for any reform efforts designed to increase teachers’ capacity, and this is the key task of leveraging new fundamental and comprehensive educational reform in Vietnam. Regarding the management of professional development of teachers, this paper focuses on the e-portfolio as a technological platform to be used to manage the professional development of teachers. One specific open-source system, Mahara, is used to illustratethis idea.

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JOURNAL OF SCIENCE OF HNUE Interdisciplinary Science, 2014, Vol. 59, No. 5, pp. 158-164 This paper is available online at USING OPEN SOURCE PLATFORMMAHARA TO BUILD TEACHING E-PORTFOLIO SUPPORT MANAGEMENT OF PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT OF TEACHERS Do Thanh Toan Department of Training, Hai Phong University Abstract. Professional development is a cornerstone for any reform efforts designed to increase teachers’ capacity, and this is the key task of leveraging new fundamental and comprehensive educational reform in Vietnam. Regarding the management of professional development of teachers, this paper focuses on the e-portfolio as a technological platform to be used to manage the professional development of teachers. One specific open-source system, Mahara, is used to illustratethis idea. Keywords: Professional teaching development; teaching portfolio; e-portfolio. 1. Introduction Approved by the government, new, fundamental and comprehensive reform of education is taking place national-wide in Vietnam. One key task of reform groups is the improvement of professional qualifications, competency and skills of teachers in all levels of the education system. The professional development of teachers is thought to be critical for this task and this is confirmed by numerous studies carried out around the world. This paper does not look at the professional development of teachers per se but rather focuses on the e-portfolio as a technological platform for the management of the professional development of teachers. We use one specific open-source system, Mahara, to illustrating this idea. 2. Content 2.1. Professional teaching development and portfolio Professional development is understood and described in different ways. Joyce et al. ([1], p. 6), for example, defined professional development as “formal and Received January 2, 2014. Accepted June 10, 2014. Contact Do Thanh Toan, e-mail address: dothanhtoan.dhhp@gmail.com 158 Using open source platform mahara to build teaching e-portfolio support management... informal provisions for the improvement of educators as people, educated persons and professionals, as well as in terms of competence to carry out their assigned roles.” Gall and Renchler ([2], p. 6) described professional development more specifically as “efforts to improve teachers’ capacity to function as effective professionals by having them learn new knowledge, attitudes and skills.” Fullan ([3], p. 265) defined professional development as “the sum total of formal and informal learning pursued and experienced by the teacher in a compelling learning environment under conditions of complexity and dynamic change.” In term of professional teaching development, MacLaren [4] identifies three main trends that support and promote professional teaching development: accreditation, teaching portfolios and reflective journals. Brockbank and Magill (in Light & Cox 2001 [5]) note a fourth trend: reflective portfolios, which combine features of teaching portfolios and reflective journals. ‘Accreditation’ is shorthand for the promotion of accredited learning and teaching programs. Teaching portfolios support these activities by allowing academics to: i) document teaching practice, ii) provide evidence of quality and a professional approach to development and iii) provide evidence in support of an alternative route to accreditation (rather than undertaking formal qualifications in teaching and learning), professional membership or postgraduate qualification. Reflective journals are: i) maintained on an ongoing basis; they are never completed, ii) usually produced during a period of teaching (reflection-in-action), iii) personal and iv) often structured by the individual maintaining the journal (although it may be that they follow an outline or template). Thus, while a teaching portfolio provides evidence of teaching experience and expertise for a particular purpose (promotion, accreditation or qualification), a reflective journal supports the continuous development of teaching practice. A reflective portfolio, on the other hand, focuses on the importance of reflective writing, but usually also includes other media, such as artifacts used in teaching, flipcharts, presentation materials and feedback from students or teaching evaluation. By common concept, a teaching portfolio is a collection of evidence, and reflections on that evidence, documenting your teaching development and achievements. Portfolios are used for a number of purposes, including applying for promotion and awards. As portfolios for these purposes rely on a thorough and extensive collection of evidence and reflection, it is a good idea to start developing a professional development portfolio as soon as you begin teaching. 2.2. Building an effective professional teaching portfolio In [6, 7], a professional development portfolio can be developed in five steps: i. Develop your personal teaching philosophy: your teaching motivations can be 159 Do Thanh Toan summed up in a teaching philosophy which forms the basis of the portfolio. Seldin ([8]) recommends that, when developing your teaching philosophy, you ask yourself: - What are your beliefs about teaching? - What are your aims for students, and why are these aims important to you? - How do your actions as a teacher reflect your beliefs about teaching and learning? - What evidence will show that your actions reflect your beliefs? (p. 7) ii. Collect evidence: the evidence you collect should show the scope and quality of your teaching, and come from a variety of sources. It can include both traditional (e.g. written documents) and electronic (e.g. videos) media. A review of sources that have influenced your approach may be useful. Evidence may include: Background Information Presentations and Best Papers Teaching Artifacts Reflections ( with commentary) Professional Documents - Resume - www Homepage - Background information on teaching context - Background information on teacher preparation program - Involvement in professional organizations - Community service record - Philosophy Statement related to teaching for understanding and professional development - Personal Statement describing reasons and motivations for choosing the teaching profession - Goals and statement regarding immediate and future goals as an educator - Analysis of curriculum, teaching and/or student learning - Outlines of formal presentations - Case studies of student learning - Representations of your use of technology (e.g. computer generated teaching materials) - Overview of unit goals and instructional plan that represent teaching for understanding and professional development - List of resources used - Sample lesson plans - Assessment tools - Evaluation of student learning - Evidence of meeting individual students’ needs - Photographs of class projects or displays, discussions, bulletin boards - Sample student work - Reflective commentary and self-evaluation - Feedback from colleagues on teaching - Transcripts - Letters of Recommendation - Letters of Appreciation - Awards and certificates iii. Organize the evidence: professional development portfolios can be organized in a number of different ways. Some examples of headings could include: - Table of contents - Goals - Teaching philosophy - Appendices - Teaching responsibilities - sample course syllabi 160 Using open source platform mahara to build teaching e-portfolio support management... - Teaching materials - course hand outs - Teaching methods - summary of student evaluations - Innovative teaching practices - comments concerning supervision of graduate students - Assessment of teaching effectiveness - Awards - statements from peers on teaching effectiveness [6;5]. iv. Write reflections on your evidence: reflections help connect the evidence to your teaching philosophy. Your reflections present the process you have undertaken to further understand and develop your work as a teacher. It incorporates both your teaching philosophy and evidence into a single narrative. v. Seek feedback from others and implement this into your portfolio and practice: feedback from others will help you to edit and develop your teaching portfolio and may give you ideas on how to extend your practice. It may be useful to work with colleagues who are also developing their portfolios and to work together to develop and refine your portfolios. Figure 1. E-portfolio functionalities in professional development 2.3. E-portfolio Working life environments are explored as an individual and social context for professional learning. Improvement of professional development activities and resources, aimed at quality learning research, is increasingly focusing on: - web-based communities for learning and communities of practice, - e-portfolio as a learning tool for assisting reflection in authentic collaboration. 161 Do Thanh Toan The traditional portfolio has limited options of flexibility, collegial and group work, all of which significantly contribute to the success of an individual at learning and development. The role of learning context, societal and cultural environment in an individual’s learning was emphasized by theoreticians of sociocultural constructivism (Vygotski [9]). Among the more established forms is the e-portfolio, which has the functions of valuation, presentation and development in the educational process and professional development of a teacher. Figure 1 shows E-portfolio functionalities in professional development [10]. 2.4. Mahara as an e-portfolio for professional development Figure 2. Portfolio work with Mahara Mahara is two things: an e-Portfolio and a social networking system combined. An e-Portfolio is a system in which teacher can record “evidence of professional development” such as essays, artwork or other things they produce that can be stored digitally. Such things are known as artifacts in Mahara. The other features that Mahara provides are file repository, a comprehensive blogging tool, social networking and a resumé builder which allows users to create digital CV’s by entering information such as: contact and personal information; education history; certifications, accreditations and awards; books and publications, professional memberships; personal, academic and work skills; and personal, academic and career goals. With Mahara, you control which items and what information within your portfolio other users see. Such items and information are termed artifacts. To facilitate this access control, all artifacts you wish to show to other users need to be arranged into one area. In Mahara this compilation of selected artifacts is called a ‘page’. You can have as many pages as you like, each with a different number of artifacts, intended purpose and audience. Your audience, or the people you wish to give access to your page, can be added 162 Using open source platform mahara to build teaching e-portfolio support management... Figure 3. Mahara framework as individuals or as a member of a group. It can even be made publicly available. For example you could create: - a page for your friends and family that includes holiday photos and a personal journal - a page for your tutor, which includes assessments and your reflective journal - a page to showcase your best pieces of work and your résumé for promotion 3. Conclusion This paper introduces the concept of professional teaching development as a process supported and promoted by professional teaching portfolios that, in turn, can manage the process of the professional development of teachers as well. It shows how to build a teaching portfolio, and the content and organization of evidence within the teaching portfolio. It then describes the connection of professional teaching development with e-portfolio and illustrates the open-source e-portfolio system of Mahara that fits the teaching portfolio. This is a design guide to setting up a specific teaching portfolio used to manage the professional development of teachers. REFERENCES [1] Joyce, B. R., Howey, K., & Yarger, S., 1976. I.S.T.E. Report I. Palo Alto, California: Stanford Center for Research and Development in Teaching. [2] Gall, M. D., Renchler, R. S. et al., 1985. Effective staff development for teachers: A research-based model (ERIC). College of Education, University of Oregon. 163 Do Thanh Toan [3] Fullan, M., 1995. Professional Development in Education: New Paradigms and Practices. (Guskey, T. & Huberman, M. Eds.) New York: Teachers College Press. [4] MacLaren, I., 2005. New trends in academic staff development: Reflective journals, teaching portfolios, accreditation and professional development. In Emerging Issues in the Practice of University Learning and Teaching, eds G. O’Neill, S. Moore & B. McMullin, All Ireland Society for Higher Education (AISHE), Dublin, pp. 111–116. [5] Light, G. & Cox, R., 2001. Learning and Teaching in Higher Education: The Reflective Professional. Sage Publications, London. [6] Rodriguez-Farrar, H.B., 2006. The Teaching Portfolio: A handbook for faculty, teaching assistants and teaching fellows (2nd ed.). Providence, RI: Brown University. [7] National Centre for Teaching and Learning. Massey University, New Zealand. Professional development portfolio. [8] Seldin. P., 2004. The teaching portfolio: A practical guide to improved performance and promotional/tenure decisions (3rd ed.). Bolton, MA: Anker. [9] L. S. Vygotsky, Mind in Society, 1978. The Development of Higher Psychological Processes. London: Cambridge, Massachusetts, Harvard University Press. [10] Andreja Istenic Starcic, 2008. E-portfolio for professional learning community. WSEAS TRANSACTIONS on ADVANCES in ENGINEERING EDUCATION. Issue 7, Volume 5, July 2008. 164