The Big Idea of the Tomlinson Report is to replace coursework assignments with a single portfolio, produced by the student over the course of two years. When the report came out, I expressed some scepticism about this which remains, but I have got interested in the whole area known as e-portfolios.

The fundamental idea: give the student the tools to create their own website, representing themselves and their area of study as best they may. Control access sufficiently to alleviate concerns about paedophiles. Provide tools for teachers to assess the work, to record the assessment and to communicate it to students. Each e-portfolio developer has an individual take on just how much freedom to give the student in developing their own site; there’s a clear tradeoff to be made between ease of authorship and flexibility of form.

E-portfolios get really interesting when you start thinking about assessment. The big problem with coursework is that it assessed by the teacher under uncontrolled conditions. Different teachers assess differently, and give different degrees of support to pupils. Exam boards wanting to award grades to national qualifications find this extremely frustrating. With an e-portfolio system, the exam board is able to overview the process right from the start. They can watch each student’s portfolio develop, read the teacher’s comments and see how the teacher awards marks.

All three UK schools exam boards are experimenting with this; OCR provides a good start point if you want to research more deeply.


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