Electronic portfolios in early childhood education: Parent-teacher communication
Electronic portfolios (ePortfolios) are a new phenomenon in early childhood education (ECE) and there is minimal existing research available on their use and effectiveness as a learning and communication tool in ECE. This thesis presents an exploratory case study of an ECE centre, positioned within a constructive-interpretivist paradigm, which investigated communication between teachers and families via ePortfolios. Data used in the study were drawn from online surveys, document analysis of ePortfolios, individual interviews, and focus group interviews with parents and teachers. Thematic analysis identified three main themes; the benefits and drawbacks of communicating via the ePortfolio, the online tools that supported or constrained communication, and the types of communication that were evident. Several implications for teachers’ practice arise from this study. First, the ePortfolio enabled communication to easily flow between settings, and provided another avenue for teachers and parents to communicate. Second, the different levels of communication parents and teachers engaged in via the ePortfolio had potential to influence their on-going communication, relationships, and children’s learning. To extend on-going learning and positive learning outcomes for children, online communication could be scaffolded so that a focus on relationships moves toward to a greater focus on children’s learning. Finally, levels of trust between teachers and parents were apparent, though more complex elements of trust such as competence and openness were less evident. Teachers could consider ways to develop these with parents to further enhance trust and communication.