UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Digital portfolios : engaging parents to support early learning Fadum, Karen Una


Although connections between school and home have been shown to positively impact student learning, it can be challenging for parents and teachers to build relationships and engage in effective two-way communication. This study examined the potential of using digital portfolios to communicate student learning and strengthen the relationship between teachers and parents. Personalized learning goals, evidence of progress through notes, photographs and videos, along with timely access to assessment data, make digital portfolios a viable option to narrow the home-school gap. Moreover, the digital portfolio becomes a virtual space where parents, students and teachers can communicate in a timely manner focused on individual learner strengths and needs. Digital portfolios are being increasingly used by school districts throughout Canada to supplement or replace paper report cards; however, there is limited research available to inform their use. Through a qualitative case study, this research gathered insight into how digital documentation might improve parent engagement and influence early literacy learning. Participants included six parents from a grade one/two classroom in a large school district in British Columbia where digital portfolios are used as a formal reporting tool. Drawing on an ecological theory of development and sociocultural view of learning, the researcher examined parents’ perceptions of digital portfolios as a means to support learning at home and communicate with their child’s teacher. Data were gathered through an online survey, semi-structured interviews and portfolio artifacts. The findings suggest that parents appreciate the virtual window into the classroom offered by digital portfolios, as it allows them to feel more connected and engage in conversations about school with their child. As a platform to support learning, the findings reveal the importance of portfolio documentation. Without personalized feedback and curriculum connections in parent-friendly language, digital portfolios can be viewed as a scrapbook and under-valued as an assessment platform. Although the results suggest digital portfolios have the potential to improve parent engagement, more research is needed to determine how they might be used effectively to address specific learning goals. This study provides initial recommendations for educators, suggestions for future research and digital portfolio samples.

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