Seeing the Big Picture
Currently, in the Special Education department within our high school building, our student population is expected to complete transition activities each year to assist them in narrowing their post-secondary focus. These activities are mandated by the federal Individuals with Disabilities Act and are placed in every student’s IEP when they turn 14 years of age. While these activities are helpful to the students in the moment, the students are not required to hold onto their completed work or reflect on the learning process that took place while completing them. When our students graduate, the completed activities stay within the students’ file in our special education records office. The students do not realize how much value these activities hold and often forget about the research they have completed due to lack of reflection.
What I have come to realize through my own ePortfolio and through my coursework in the DLL program, is that reflection, as it is associated with ePortfolios, can be beneficial for our students. Student motivation and engagement is increased when the students see the purpose of an activity, as well as the opportunity for them to individualize their work. Using ePortfolios to enhance students’ post-secondary transition plans is my innovation plan, and the information below will outline how the ePortfolios will be put into action.
Action Research: Updated Outline
|Topic of Action Research:||Through my coursework I have determined that reflection can lead to more meaningful learning. The transition from a physical/paper transition portfolio to an ePortfolio will demonstrate to students that they can deepen their learning while incorporating their individuality and taking control of their learning. I will be focusing my action research on the use of reflection in ePortfolios to support special education students post-secondary transition plans.|
|Purpose of the Study:||The current transition portfolio system within our high school building is outdated and does not positively support our students’ post-secondary plans. Students were completing activities simply to complete the activity and earn a grade – they experienced no value in the activities – and often times, it became a struggle to have the students complete them. Using a digital ePortfolio system will provide students with the opportunity to reflect on their work at any time, using any device they have access to, while expressing their individuality, as well as sharing and reflecting on their interests over their four academic years in our high school. The purpose of my study is: to determine if transition ePortfolio reflections will positively impact student engagement.|
|Fundamental Research Question:||My fundamental research question is: What impact will reflection in transition ePortfolios have on student engagement? I will research this question through our 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th grade learning support students. I will track the data within my classroom, and then in the future months, incorporate more classrooms and grade levels in order to chart progress within our full department.|
|Research Design and Methods:||The most appropriate type of data for me to collect is qualitative data within a case study design. I will be using this approach since my research question is open ended and because I will initially be monitoring/collecting the data directly within my classroom. I will work towards observing other teachers and classrooms in order to gather and share ideas and to assess the implementation. The case study design will allow me to observe and gather responses from a real life, applicable environment.|
|Data to be Collected:||To measure the outcome of the research question, the following data will be collected and analyzed: individual student work submissions taken throughout the school year, student responses to Google surveys, teacher responses to Google surveys. The survey data will be collected four times throughout the school year (one time per marking period), while the student work submissions will be tracked weekly.|
|Measurement Instruments:||The measurement instruments I plan to use are the student reflections and artifacts (see Appendix A), student and teacher interviews, (see Appendix B and C) and observations (see Appendix D). These types of measurement instruments will be able to provide me with the most immediate feedback. My observations, as well as the interviews and the reflections and artifacts from the students will be equally important in analyzing the effectiveness of this reflective process.|
|Focus of Literature Review:||The literature review will provide insight from those who have researched ePortfolios, the trends in educational technology, and the impact of reflective learning. It will be instrumental in guiding my goal of ePortfolio implementation. There will be a brief overview of what ePortfolios are and their effectiveness, as well as what transition is and how it pertains to our special education students. The main focus of the literature review though will be the impact that reflective learning will have on student engagement and motivation.|
Action Research: Literature Review
In order to carry out the action research, it is important to review literature about ePortfolios, reflective learning, and the effect reflection has on student engagement. This literature review provides insights from researchers who have studied ePortfolios, trends in educational technology, and reflective learning, and will be beneficial to me as I continue to conduct action research myself within my special education department.
Action Research: Timeline
Below is the timeline for the implementation of my innovation plan. I have adjusted this timeline to include when and where I will be implementing my plan, collecting and analyzing gathered data, developing the action plan, sharing/communicating my results, and reflecting on the process. Throughout the beginning of my timeline, I will be implementing my plan and gathering data regarding how the reflective learning process in ePortfolios affects student engagement within the special education department. After the first year, once ePortfolio use expands to all special education classrooms, I will gather additional data on how they impact student engagement in those areas. (*Note: Because our department does not see our students on a daily basis (in some cases we see students only once per week), full departmental implementation will take a longer amount of time than it would in a core class which meets more consistently. The plan below shows the expected timeline necessary to implement the use of ePortfolios with a goal for full departmental implementation by the 2021-2022 school year.)
2019-2020 Pilot Year: Implementing the Plan and Collecting Data
During this time-frame, I will be piloting the ePortfolio program in four Learning Support Seminar classes, one at each grade level (grades 9-12). Based on my observations in those classes, I will be working to collect data and develop the action research needed to make my innovation plan successful. I will be using both observations from the classrooms as well as feedback from the students and my colleagues to develop the next steps of the action plan.
1st marking period:
- August – Introduce ePortfolios to Special Education and English departments and district Transition Coordinator and ask for input. Present literature.
- Early September – introduce/discuss digital accountability and appropriate online behaviors/interactions to students. Student survey on reflection/engagement given (baseline data).
- Remainder of September- Introduce the ePortfolio plan to students and discuss benefits/purpose. Model my ePortfolio as an example. Have students choose their preferred platforms (i.e. Google accounts, Canvas accounts, WordPress, etc).
- October – Designate multiple Wednesdays in classes as “ePortfolio days” during which students will begin to design their sites: create Home/Why and About Me pages, and upload/organize previously completed transitional assignments. On the “why” pages students will share their reason for creating their ePortfolio. Students will conference with peers 2x to provide suggestions/feedback.
2nd marking period:
- November- Teacher checks in individually with students to view progress. Afterwards, provide samples of teacher/student work for whole class viewership/discussion in order to provide feedback to one another. Introduce/Incorporate lessons about “how and why to reflect.”
- December- Initiate monthly blog post requirements in all classes pertaining to the students’ learning about their post-secondary interests (i.e. college, career, military). Connect posts to their initial “why.” English department connects core curricula to posts.
- End of January (midpoint of the school year) – Review student ePortfolios. Meet with the department to show progress, ask for teacher feedback, ask for student feedback, and determine implementation for full or partial departmental roll-out.
3rd and 4th marking periods:
- February-June – Initiate student document requirements to add to ePortfolios (i.e. resumes, career research, college/military research, job/college fair attendance, English curricula, etc). Students will complete a required bi-weekly post and a minimum of 2 comments on others’ posts. Posts will demonstrate student learning and experiences, as well as appropriate writing skills (as determined by the English department) when completing transition assignments and/or activities.
- February-June – Students and teachers will complete 2 feedback surveys during this time frame to gather data regarding reflection and engagement.
- May-June- Designate each Wednesday as an organization day during which students will work towards completing organizational tasks in their ePortfolios. They will adjust the design of their portfolios to work for them post high school. Students will be required to post an end of year reflection.
- Summer 2020- Continue ePortfolio development with department teachers and Transition Coordinator. Review implementation process in order to adjust as needed.
2020-2021 School Year: Collecting and Analyzing Data
Once the action research plan is implemented, my next step will be to analyze the data which was collected during the previous school year. The data I will be collecting and analyzing is qualitative data because my research question is open ended, and because I will be monitoring/collecting the data directly within my classroom. Collecting data throughout the school years will allow me to review what changes are occuring, if reflection is improving engagement, and what additional changes, if any, need to be incorporated. Throughout the 2020-2021 school year, I will continue to gather data in the four grade level Learning Support Seminar classes while other teachers within the department begin to incorporate ePortfolios into their classrooms and gather their own data.
- Beginning of school year – Begin implementation/discussion with Special Education and English departmental teachers who will be implementing ePortfolios for this school year. View student ePortfolios from previous school year.
- Guidance counselors will be included in the initial conversations during this school year to ensure all appropriate post-secondary tasks are being included.
- I will provide teachers with surveys to collect data about their experiences 4 times per year. Students using ePortfolios will also receive/take surveys 4 times per year. This will provide additional data relating to student engagement.
- Teachers will conduct interviews with students, as well as to observe their classrooms to gather additional data. This will occur 2 times per year.
- Students will continue to update and add to their ePortfolios. Students will complete age/grade appropriate transition tasks per their IEP’s.
- Each month throughout the school year will include a specific task for special education teachers to implement with their students, which will be based on grade level expectations and IEP criteria.
- At annual IEP meetings with families, teachers will explain and show the ePortfolio initiative.
- Prior to the end of the school year, schedule a meeting with administration to determine if ePortfolios could be the project-based option to replace state assessments for special education students who do not earn proficiency.
2021-2022 School Year: Develop the Action Plan/Share and Communicate Results
Once the data is collected and analyzed, I will organize the results in such a way that will allow me to share and communicate with the stakeholders. It will be important for all special education department teachers to review and consider the data collected. The data collected will also be shared with the students, families, and administrators.
- Required professional learning sessions in August during in-service for all remaining departmental teachers to learn about ePortfolios and implementation plan. Guidance counselors will be included to determine if any additional requirements are necessary.
- These sessions are where the data which was previously collected and analyzed will be shared with teachers and administration.
- Data shared with families during Back to School night presentation and parent-teacher conferences.
- Each monthly departmental meeting will focus on the implementation of ePortfolios in each classroom and reviewing the data.
- Staff will continue to incorporate ePortfolios into their classroom lessons and to share with their students’ families.
- By the end of the year, all special education teachers will be consistently integrating learning ePortfolios into their classrooms and IEP transition planning. English teachers will continue to implement appropriate reading, writing, analytical, and reflective skills opportunities to strengthen students’ ePortfolio design and presentation.
End of 2021 School Year and Moving Forward: Reflection on the Process
During the action research process, as well as after completing the process, teachers will need to reflect on the progress of their action research. These moments of reflection will lead the teachers to make any necessary changes or adjustments throughout the process to ensure the success of the action research and should be an important part of the action research for all of those involved.
- Make adjustments to transition/post-secondary expectations and ePortfolio usage based on the reflections of the teachers and students.
- Continue with the professional development sessions which allow time for reflection and adjustments within the innovation plan and implementation timelines.
Appendix A – Student Activity Sheets
Career Research Form: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B5o2-fHSUDNMYWsxT1dEYXJSN1k/view?usp=sharing
Post-Secondary School Research Form: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1OOF5Sa3OslwNAPZzbMF8vpOLAtKIXBpHu_Q0tjdadMw/edit?usp=sharing
Appendix B – Student Survey
Google Survey – Students
What is your current grade?
What is the highest level of education you expect to complete?
How much do each of the following interest or engage you:
- Research activity
- Group project
- Work involving technology
- Revisiting previous work samples
- Reflecting on work samples
- Freedom to design your own responses/submissions
- Face to face feedback
- Digital feedback
Appendix C – Teachers Survey
Google Survey – Teachers
Is there a visible increase in your students’ engagement?
What percentage of your students have increased their engagement?
What characteristics are your students displaying that demonstrate their engagement?
What factors could improve your students engagement?
Appendix D – Teacher Observation
Pixabay. Royalty free images. Retrieved from https://pixabay.com/
Classroom Weekly Report Template.com. (n.d.). Meaningful Engaged Learning Walk Through Form. Retrieved from http://www.classroom-weekly-report-template.com/classroom-observation-checklist-for-student-engagement