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Exploring the Use of E-Portfolios in Madares Al-Ghad Schools in the United Arab Emirates

Tabib, Faiza
A Master of Arts thesis in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) by Faiza Tabib entitled, "Exploring the Use of E-Portfolios in Madares Al-Ghad Schools in the United Arab Emirates," submitted in August 2011. Available are both hard and soft copies of the thesis.
The use of electronic portfolios (e-portfolios) is gaining widespread popularity around the world. Currently e-portfolios are very popular in higher and further education, particularly in North America and Britain. The relevant literature provides a wealth of information on the potential of e-portfolios and on the role of technology in enhancing reflective and lifelong learning and increasing students' engagement and motivation (see Barrett, 2006; Barrett, 2007; Butler, 2006; Stefani, Mason & Pegler, 2007; Kocoglu, 2008; Wang, 2009). However, a very limited number of studies have examined teachers' attitudes and perceptions regarding the adoption of e-portfolios in secondary schools. In Madares Al-Ghad (MAG) schools in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), developing paper-based portfolios is a curriculum requirement. The language portfolio is added to at each grade level (grades 10, 11, and 12 in high schools). It is an archive, which is comprehensive in nature, accumulating students' work over three years of instruction. Although portfolios were originally paper-based, many students in MAG schools are already using a number of technology devices to present their portfolios. Since most students have prior knowledge of computer technologies, and are familiar with Web 2.0 tools, there is a possibility that implementing e-portfolios may enrich students' learning, increase their engagement, and make their learning more enjoyable. Additionally, using e-portfolios in place of paper-based portfolios can encourage the use of the digital environment available in MAG classrooms. However, as reported in the literature about e-portfolios, a successful move from paper-based portfolios to e-portfolios depends, to some extent, on teachers. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to investigate MAG teachers' views of e-portfolios. It sought to find, first, whether e-portfolios would be any different from paper-based portfolios in terms of concept, educational purposes, and learning opportunities, from MAG teachers' perspectives. Second, the study aimed to investigate MAG teachers' personal views regarding the benefits of, challenges to, and future possibilities of e-portfolios. Finally, the study also aimed to understand MAG teachers' personal beliefs about the feasibility of incorporating e-portfolios in their classrooms. Teachers' views can help indicate the likelihood of e-portfolio success or failure in their schools. Teachers from six schools in three different educational zones in the UAE participated in this study. Forty-three MAG teachers were surveyed, ten teachers were interviewed individually and four Emirati female teachers joined a separate Emirati group interview. In addition, ten MAG teachers joined a focus group discussion with the researcher. Findings of this study indicated that for the participating teachers in this research, learning was the major purpose of e-portfolios. Learning for these teachers was rather related to learning technology skills and applications. These teachers appreciated some of the benefits of e-portfolios for their students, mainly the digital documentation of students' achievement over time, the use of multimedia, electronic storage of artifacts, and the possibility of improving students' ICT skills. The participating teachers had also some concerns about e-portfolios, mainly lack of sufficient time to learn the software and to support students with their e-portfolios. Other concerns were lack of adequate ICT training for teachers and students. Slightly less than half of all the participants felt they were willing to learn about e-portfolios but they would not use them in the future in their classrooms due mainly to time constraints and privacy and security issues. Overall, findings of this study revealed that 13 participants thought e-portfolio implementation was feasible, 10 participants thought it was conditionally feasible, and 18 participants thought it was not feasible.
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