E-Portfolios: Deepening Student Engagement in Learning

E-Portfolios: Deepening Student Engagement in Learning

Judith A. Giering (University of Virginia, USA) and Yitna B. Firdyiwek (University of Virginia, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-0119-1.ch010
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This chapter describes the experiences of a liberal arts college that is part of a large research university implementing e-portfolios with a focus on learning engagement. Using qualitative data collected over time and programmatic experience, the team assesses the depth of engagement their students are experiencing, to determine whether most students are using e-portfolios to engage in learning on their own, or only when prompted to do so by faculty within the confines of a single course. Too few students have taken full ownership of their e-portfolios and engaged with them as a meta-high impact practice. Implications of this finding suggest faculty using e-portfolios need to be intentional about student engagement at the meta-high impact level. Part of achieving this is developing further clarity on what it looks like when e-portfolios are designed to be used as a meta-high impact practice while applying more rigorous methods to determine when students have reached this level of engagement.
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While the evolution of any particular method of teaching and learning can be as varied as the number of practitioners involved, its salient features may be used to identify key stages of movement and change in the practice over time. The portfolio method has gone through such identifiable stages in its evolution over the last several decades. The following section briefly sketches the progression of the pedagogy from its roots in studio art education, to its surfacing in writing instruction and other academic subject areas, followed by its widespread adoption during the digital and network technology revolution. Finally, the new status the ePortfolio has gained as one of the high-impact practices (Kuh, 2009) found to engage students in higher education is discussed. The path outlined here traces a dramatic shift in responsibilities involving teaching, learning, and assessment. As Yancey notes in the introduction to Situating Portfolios: Four Perspectives, the objective of portfolio pedagogy seems to be “nothing short of changing the face of American education” (Yancey and Weiser, 1997).

Portfolios have typically been associated with a specific practice of teaching, learning, and assessment in disciplines such as design and visual arts (Eisner et al., 1996; Gardner, 1996; Castiglione, 1996; Madeja, 2004). As Madeja (2004 p. 8) explains it below.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Reflection: The act of reviewing one's own actions, work, decisions, positions, or perspective in order to gain more insight of one's self.

Liberal Arts Education: A curriculum providing students with broad general knowledge and intellectual skills in preparation for engagement in advanced domains of study or challenging fields in the workplace.

High-Impact Practice: Courses and other academic and co-curricular activities shown to elicit a high level of engagement in students.

e-Portfolio: A collection of digital artifacts gathered and organized to show one's skills, experiences, and achievements.

Engagement: The degree of involvement and vested interest shown by students towards their own learning.

Digital Literacy: Having the technical knowledge for producing content, as well as understanding the rhetorical conventions for effective communications, through a variety of digital applications.

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