Evelyn Dickson Elementary SD#91 Nechako Lakes

I. General Information

School Name: Evelyn Dickson Elementary

School District: SD#91 Nechako Lakes

Inquiry Team Members: Stephanie Carpenter: scarpenter@sd91.bc.ca
Sylvia O’Meara: someara@sd91.bc.ca
Wade Fitzpatrick: wfitzpatrick@sd91.bc.ca

Inquiry Team Contact Email: someara@sd91.bc.ca

II. Inquiry Project Information

Type of Inquiry: NOIIE Case Study

Grade Levels Addressed Through Inquiry: Primary (K-3), Intermediate (4-7)

Curricular Areas Addressed: Applied Design, skills & Technology, Arts Education, Career Education, Language Arts – Literacy, Language Arts – Oral Language, Language Arts – Reading, Language Arts – Writing, Mathematics / Numeracy, Physical & Health Education, Science

Focus Addressed: Community-based learning, Core competencies (for example, critical thinking, communication, problem solving), Differentiated instruction, Experiential learning, Flexible learning, STEM / STEAM

In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? Will students become more engaged learners when they are able to demonstrate their competencies in a wider variety of ways when using a digital portfolio?

III. Spirals of Inquiry Details

Scanning: Stephanie asked 8 students the four key questions and recorded their answers. The older students seemed to have an understanding of the importance of the writing skills and math skills they were developing, but mostly as they related to their future self. They had a decent grasp of how they were doing and what we were working on to improve their skills. Interestingly, they all named teachers and staff that they had in the current or previous year as adults who believe they would be a success. Not one student identified a teacher in the earlier grades unless they were prompted with the question.

Focus: We both began using a competency and proficiency-based digital portfolio system this year to document student learning. As we became familiar with it, we realized the potential it could have for our learners to engage with and take ownership of their learning as they were able to demonstrate their competencies outside of the scope of traditional learning. It also provided families with the opportunity to have a window into the learning being done at school and allowed them to support this at home.

Hunch: In the beginning, students did not notice the purpose for each activity and why it was important. As students became more aware of the assessment criteria within the app, they became more strategic about how they would demonstrate their understanding. Parents of the younger students did not understand what their role could be by using a digital portfolio or how to effectively engage with it beyond the standard, “good work” comments. However, they were eager to work on learning with their kids at home when they had a specific direction.

New Professional Learning:

  • Connect the portfolio (SpacesEdu) benefits to the new reporting order
  • Track progress through proficiencies
  • Assess growth through competencies instead of individual assignments
  • Incorporate student self-assessment (Katie White, “Student Self-Assessment”)

Taking Action: We implemented group portfolios for each of our students in kindergarten and grade six. The grade six class also had individual portfolios to document all of their assessed work. We documented student learning throughout the year in these portfolios – including the non-traditional learning activities. In the older class (grade six) we also implemented a core competencies space for students to reflect on their own learning, with teacher feedback, so they could better self-assess their progress.

Checking: We found that both parents and students were more engaged with learning. There were more check-ins from parents and comments left on individual activities and group posts. Grade 6s were able to identify the purpose for their learning and make choices regarding time management and mastery. Assignment completion became strategic for some students as they got closer to report cards because they actively looked to ensure they had enough documentation to assess outcomes. Both groups were able to identify learning that they wanted to share.


  • Having a buddy class was helpful
  • Digital portfolios increase engagement
  • Students have ownership over their work – including activities they submit outside of school

We plan to continue with this app and include the following: parent workshops, core competency spaces, and reporting spaces. Parent education next year is a top priority for us. Spaces was a new platform this year, so we were all learning as we go. Next year, we hope to meet with parents at the beginning of the year to show them what the portfolio can do and how they can engage with it. We are also excited to expand our core competency space so that it becomes ongoing and interactive for the students. Often, it feels like core competency reporting is a one-off activity instead of a real reflection for the students; we hope to change that.