Impressionism on your digital portfolio

Using an e-portfolio enables students to regulate their learning anytime, anywhere and see their accomplishments over a long period of time.


 Have you considered asking your students to create an e-portfolio? See how this scenario uses e-portfolios to combine ICT skills with an art topic and develop the self- and peer-assessment skills, and collaboration skills of students. E-portfolios bring multiple dimensions into formative assessment. They help students develop agency in their learning and set learning goals. With the help of curated material from their teacher, students can also prepare for the next lesson before coming to class. Later students can look back at what their goals and expectations were, and where they are now. They will become better at assessing what they know, what they need to learn, and how they can learn that. This practice can be implemented in any topic, not just for art history.


Download the scenario in PDF format


Art, e-portfolio, self-assessment, goal setting, peer-assessment, digital diary

Quick reference
Students develop autonomous learning by creating e-portfolios that identify the characteristics of an art movement.
Art, Informatics
Account on Mahara
Implementation level
Target group age
11-15 years
Digital tools
DFA tool
E-portfolio/Digital diary
4-5 sessions


An e-portfolio (or digital portfolio) is a collection of course-related media (e.g. videos, images, essays) that includes student reflections and comments on these media and their own learning. E-portfolio platforms also offer the possibility to collaborate with peers. Students can thus learn from each other and gradually become more autonomous in their learning. 

Christos Christakoudis explains how this can be implemented in the context of an art history project. He says: “Social network techniques (uploading, commenting, sharing, presenting, etc.) among students are powerful teaching tools.” 

Mahara is an open-source web application; it is free, without your data being used for commercial interests. It is being improved by the community of users, hence it is a great opportunity to introduce your students to the concept of open source. 
In this example, Mahara is used for teaching the Impressionism art movement, but this template can be used for teaching other topics within art classes (e.g. cubism, realism), as well as any other topic. It involves 6 tasks to be implemented within 4-5 school lessons and includes synchronous face-to-face activities in the classroom as well as asynchronous students’ activities at home.

There might be a learning curve if students lack the ICT skills, which means that they need time to familiarise themselves with the platform. Nonetheless, this is a good opportunity for students to learn digital skills and for teachers to collaborate with an ICT teacher colleague.

Following this activity, students are expected to: 

  • Name famous impressionist artists.
  • Write down characteristics of impressionism.
  • Identify whether a given painting in digital representation is an Impressionist painting.

Their challenge is to use ICT tools for enhancing:

  • Collaboration
  • Autonomous learning
  • Digital and information literacy

Each student needs to create their own e-portfolio, called a “myLearning” cycle in Mahara. Students build up their portfolios by adding files of impressionist paintings. Each pupil will have their personal page, but also group pages where they can collaborate with each other and post and reply to comments. Students are self-assessing their work by sending feedback to each other. Based on this and the feedback they receive from their teacher, they update their "learning cycle".
If you would like to know how to carry this out in detail, Christos has defined the steps below. If you would like to read more, this is an activity adapted from the ATS2020 project (in English).

The activity

Before the lesson, the teacher needs to set up a group on Mahara, which will contain pages, shared files and a forum. At home, students prepare their personal view on the new topic that they are going to be taught during the next lesson. They follow the steps below:

  1. Login to Mahara. Each student needs to create their own account with their personal email address. 
  2. Enrol for the group created by the teacher.
  3. Set up a “myLearning” cycle, and provide data for: 
    • Prior knowledge about Impressionism (Figure 1)
    • Personal goals (Figure 2). Students decide and note down what they want to gain from the lesson.
    • Strategies (Figure 
    • Evidence
  4. Add a print screen of their e-portfolio page about prior knowledge to a Padlet (or shared document), using their mobile phones or their personal computer.

Setting their own personal goals is a practice that students can get better at, by practicing with their e-portfolios in lessons. For instance, one goal could be to know the key characteristics of an impressionist painting (e.g. use of light and colors); to be able to recognise if a painting is impressionist; to discover the highlights of the impressionist movement, etc.

At school, students work individually using computers (one student per computer), reading a set of written information about Impressionism on their own. Their task is to post questions that could be answered by their peers based on the given text. Students follow the steps below:

  1. Locate the introductory page prepared by the teacher and read the text for 10 min
  2. Post a question (e.g. ask about historical or social info about impressionism, famous artist etc) at the bottom of this page
  3. Read the questions posted by their peers
  4. Search for the answers (e.g. read the whole text, use CTRL+F for local search, Google search, ask their peers or the teacher, etc.)
  5. Update the Learning cycle page (lessons learned, strategies followed, evidence, etc.)

The teacher can provide feedback online in the students’ myLearning cycles or face-to-face in the classroom. For instance, one of the students did not finish reading the introductory text on impressionism because she had to leave for 10 minutes while the personal study task was in progress. When she re-joined, she had difficulties in answering the questions posed by her peers. The teacher encouraged the student to answer some of these questions that were simple and concerned facts (e.g. where impressionism emerged) or dates (e.g. what happens back in 1874). In order to find the related information in the study text file faster, the teacher reminded using the CTRL+F function to search for a word or phrase in the text. The student was then able to quickly locate the text references using the appropriate keywords and search function. 

At school, students work individually searching for digitalised paintings of famous artists organising them into files and folders. Students must follow the steps below:

  1. Visit "Impressionist Artist Folder", upon having folders with famous impressionist artists on groups' page prepared by the teacher.
  2. Search on the internet for paintings of famous artists that are freely available under Creative Commons licenses.
  3. Download images, rename the file following a proposed template (i.e. “Monet sunrise”) and upload them into the proper folder. 
  4. Update their myLearning cycle (lessons learned, strategies followed, evidence, etc.)

At school, students are arranged into groups of 2-3 by the teacher having in mind (a) the prior knowledge of students about impressionism (Task 1); (b) the students' ICT skills (upon observing students' work during Task-2 and Task-3). Ideally mix groups to balance the prior knowledge and the ICT skills. 
Teachers encourage students to provide evidence on myLearning cycle about their contribution to the group work (e.g. their comments, images that they downloaded, characteristics that they proposed, etc).
Students follow the steps below:

  1. Change location into the computer lab 
  2. As a group (face to face):
    • Navigate into folders with selected paintings by their peers (see Task-3).
    • Discuss and decide about the painting they choose based on their own criteria.
    • Open their group's page (prepared by the teacher - copy and paste).
    • Embed the selected painting into their group's page (Mahara's page has a set of tools for editing pages - import an image).
  3. As a group (through online collaboration):
    • Visit the group's page on their own. 
    • Observe the selected painting in groups.
    • Post comments on the bottom of their group's page about the characteristics that they recognise, focusing on painting techniques, colours, and the painting theme.
  4. One member of the group summarises the comments of the whole group, edits the group's page and writes down the set of characteristics of the work they have chosen (at the end each group's page will have one selected painting, a set of characteristics based on the proposed criteria and comments posted by group members).
  5. Update myLearning cycle (lessons learned, strategies followed, evidence, etc.). This can also be continued at home.

The teacher can monitor the group work and give feedback. For instance, the teacher noticed that some students' comments do not refer to the impressionist characteristics which they recognise on the painting, instead they are very simple comments such as "very nice painting" or "I do not like this painting very much" etc. The teacher asked the student to observe how the colours are used, by comparing the various paintings. The student observed that a common characteristic is that the details of the subjects are not illustrated and that the colours are not very vivid. He also remembered that a peer had posed a related question in the beginning of the lesson (Task 2). He then went back over the introductory page where he read that the impressionists use the basic colours slightly mixed. This helped him to post comments in the pages of all the different groups regarding the colours.      

At school, students provide feedback to their peers about their group work and reflect on their learning path. They usually need some time to think about and formulate their paths. The teacher’s role is crucial in supporting them in this process.
Students follow the steps below:

  1. Visit the other group’s page.
  2. Post comments (on Mahara, or any e-portfolio platform) at the bottom of the pages.
  3. Update their myLearning cycle, focusing on self-assessment data based on feedback.

At school, the teacher provides more detail about Impressionism, then comments on students' work face-to-face. Finally, students are asked to prepare their personal page (view) and submit it to the teacher for evaluation. Students follow the steps below:

  1. Self-assess their knowledge acquired by answering a quiz with multiple choice questions about impressionism based on the introductory text (Task 2) and the teacher's presentation (Task 6). The quiz can be prepared as a Google form and embedded in Mahara.
  2. Create their portfolio (Mahara) under the content menu (Figure 4).
  3. Include into the page: (a) a text box with their names; (b) their favourite impressionist painting as an image; (c) the basic characteristics of impressionism as a text; (d) their myLearning cycle. For instance, ‘we chose the artwork “Monet – Grenouillere” because it has the following features’:
    • The subject of the painting is an everyday subject.
    • In terms of style, there are small touches that create a characteristically thick layer of paint on the canvas. Emphasis is also placed on the way light is reflected on objects.
    • Finally, the colours are bright and intense. Black is only used because it is part of the theme.
  4. Submit the page for evaluation.

Students could prepare their pages at home as well. The teacher assesses students based on evidence of work (individually or in small groups) that have been recorded basically by the students during their myLearning cycle.  

Online collaboration is possible provided that the students have the digital skills and the directions by the teacher are clear. Precise instructions and guidelines with references to sources could be posted as a comment on the class learning management system. Students will need to communicate within their groups. This can be done through backchannels like using messaging tools or creating smaller groups within an online platform like Edmodo or Microsoft Teams.
In a fully remote setting, it is important to use an online conference tool that allows online communication and collaboration. For example, students can work in breakout rooms monitored by the teacher, who can move from one room to another to assist them and provide scaffolding.

Outcomes and lessons learned

The students took greater responsibility for their learning and this could have an effect at school level, if supported by more teachers. Neighbouring schools could come closer through suitably designed activities (e.g. graphics design students at the vocational high school could turn simple paintings into impressionistic ones based on elements spotted by the lower secondary school students. 

The e-portfolio tool facilitated giving continuous feedback. The main obstacles were that not all students had the adequate skills in using ICT for learning and some students did not have internet access from home and not all teachers were aware of the value that this digital formative assessment tool can add to their teaching. In the future, alternative digital environments could be tried for the implementation of the main steps of the activity (e.g. Moodle, eClass, Google classroom).

Figure 1 Students write down their prior knowledge on the topic before the lesson. It could be a simple text or an uploaded file (e.g. a mind map, a word document, etc.)

Figure 2 Setting goals as a student is not so easy. Students need to practice this during lessons that are based on e-portfolios.

Figure 3 During lessons based on e-portfolios, students are developing their own strategies to enhance their learning process

Figure 4 Sample page created by the student and submitted to the teacher for evaluation (Task 6)