Using Digital Portfolios To Engage Students and Parents To Communicate and Support Learning

-by Deirdre Bailey and Kevin Sonico

The School Act states that one of the roles of teachers is to “regularly evaluate students and periodically report the results of the evaluation to the students, the students’ parents and the board” (2000 cS-3 s18(e)). The Guide to Education (2013) states dandk-blog-1that “The assessment of student progress in relation to outcomes outlined in the programs of study is important…” and “…required for reporting student progress clearly to students and parents.” Engaging both parents and students in the students’ learning is essential to learning and success of the student (Jeynes, 2005).   Finding meaningful ways to do this is a constant and significant endeavour for a teacher in that it involves a consideration of philosophies far more encompassing than a teacher’s own; it must also be aligned with school and provincial philosophies.  For us, digital portfolios seemed like a medium that had the potential to engage both students and parents more effectively in the learning of the student.

A digital portfolio or e-portfolio is a curated collection of digitized multimedia artifacts that reflect the learning of a student (Cooper & Love, 2007).  There is generally believed to be three general uses for digital portfolios in the classroom.  “For assessment purposes, e-portfolios include rubrics-based documentations and assessment files, […] for showcase purposes, e-portfolios present artifacts of accomplishments, [and] for learning purposes, e-portfolios can be useful for on-going learning and reflection.” (Wang, 2009, p. 419)   For this action research, we strived to answer the question: “to what extent is FreshGrade as a digital portfolio and online assessment tool effective in communicating students’ learning to both students and parents in a manner that is informative, accurate, fair, and designed to support learning?”  The question arose as a result of our work with the Alberta Assessment Consortium and their “Dimensions of Sound Assessment Practice” so a major goal of our research was to examine FreshGrade as an effective tool for classroom assessment. We identified key themes for effective classroom assessment from a previous action research project focused on characteristics of effective assessment in the inquiry-based classroom (Bailey, 2014).  These themes identified that effective assessment practice should focus on emphasizing student autonomy, further developing student metacognition, and promoting further conversation, between students, student-teacher and student-parent. Our reflection on the use of FreshGrade in the classroom examines the tool’s efficacy in allowing for classroom-based assessment in each of these categories with a specific emphasis on the participation of students and parents, as well as a reflection on the quality of information, its accuracy, fairness, and support of further learning. In the reflections that follow, we hope to provide further practical and philosophical questions and considerations for educators as well as recommendations for next possibilities.

Stay tuned for additional blog posts where Kevin and Deirdre will share the process they undertook to investigate their action research question.


Bailey, D. (2014). Bridging the gap: Aligning classroom assessment with inquiry-based learning experiences. Retrieved from

Cooper, T., & Love, T. (2007). Electronic portfolios in e-learning. In N. Buzzetto-More (Ed.). Advanced principles of effective e-learning. Santa Rosa: CA. Informing Science Press.

Jeynes, W. H. (2005).  Parental involvement and student achievement: A meta-analysis. Retrieved from

Wang, S. (2009). Inquiry directed organization of e-portfolio artifacts for reflection. International Journal of E-Learning and Learning Objects, 5, 421-433. Retrieved 06/07/2016 from:



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