Promoting Competence-Based Learning and Assessment Through Innovative Use of Electronic Portfolios

Promoting Competence-Based Learning and Assessment Through Innovative Use of Electronic Portfolios

Joyce W. Gikandi (Mount Kenya University, Kenya)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-6331-0.ch012


This chapter focuses on how innovative use of electronic portfolios (e-portfolios) can contribute towards meeting the needs of 21st century learners by promoting competence-based learning and assessment. The author explores various strategies and functionalities of e-portfolio application in higher education. Further, fundamental issues that relate to successful implementation of student academic e-portfolios are examined. Specifically, the relevance of congruent theoretical perspectives and teacher's involvement in the process of e-portfolio development are articulated among other key issues. Based on the emergent perspectives elucidated through this chapter, best practices to inform innovative and effective uses of e-portfolios are identified. The chapter illuminates how the effective use of e-portfolio can promote meaningful learning experiences and development of core competences including interactive collaboration, creativity, critical thinking, digital literacy, problem solving and self-efficacy.
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Empirical research has shown that synergy between learner and assessment centeredness is antecedent to knowledge and competence development in higher education (Gikandi & Morrow, 2015, Gikandi 2015). In the same vein, assessment is one of the most influential factors that affect learning in formal educational settings (Bransford, Brown, & Cocking, 2000). Competence-based learning and assessment focuses on nurturing learners to actually engage in real-life scenarios and demonstrate relevant skills and knowledge within similar contexts or contexts that mimic workplace (Mcclarty & Gaertner, 2015). Proliferation of e-portfolios in higher education has led to increased interests among researchers and practitioners to closely examine the role of e-portfolio in teaching, learning and assessment. Previous research has demonstrated how multiple purposes of e-portfolio have co-existed and to some extent competed especially in relation to being used for both formative and summative purposes.

This chapter focuses on use of e-portfolios in higher education as a pedagogical strategy that can support meaningful learning and assessment of desirable competences. While research on e-portfolio functions have been previous documented as introduced above, gaps still exists in regard to adequate understanding on how e-portfolios can be applied to best support 21st century learners in development of relevant competences and lifelong learning skills. Following this viewpoint, application of e-portfolio from an interactive collaboration approach can foster sustained engagement, critical thinking and reflective learning. It can also promote shared responsibility among learners and the teacher in ways that nurture creativity and self-efficacy. Based on review of available literature, there is limited research on e-portfolio application that is based on such an approach. This chapter therefore explores application of e-portfolios from this perspective. The chapter also explores appropriate level of teacher’s involvement in the process of e-portfolio development by the learners. More importantly, fundamental issues that relate to successful implementation of student e-portfolios are examined. These issues include elucidation of congruent theoretical perspectives which forms a key contribution of this chapter.

Concurrent to the identified theoretical perspectives, the author further attempts to illuminate a number of relevant perspectives in the 21st century higher education. Firstly, the author’s viewpoint is that emphasis on continuous assessment while leveraging on potential of e-portfolios can promote digital literacy which implies increased use of ICT to search for, analyze, integrate, manage and evaluate information. Digital literacy is a fundamental core competence in the modern information-based society and is instrumental to efficient and effective communication. More importantly, it is precursor to interactive collaborations between the teacher and learners and among learners. These in turn, increase opportunities for active learning and formative feedback. In these ways, use of e-portfolio can synergetically promote digital literacy and stimulate meaningful learning experiences in ways that nurture learners’ capabilities and stimulate them to progressively focus on mastery of knowledge and valuable skills, hence competence-based education. However, these opportunities have not been fully explored in many higher education settings.

Secondly, the chapter articulates how e-portfolios can contribute towards shifting from high stake examinations to continuous assessment with emphasis on formative assessment in ways that provide a framework for departure from rote learning to deep and authentic learning. This is particularly essential to support learners hone skills and core competences that involve creativity, decision-making and problem solving. Engaging learners with activities that relate to real-life situations and experiences stimulates situated learning that is relevant to the societal needs and aligns with Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Authentic Learning: Learning occurs through active participation in activities that reflect real-world practices and contexts within a social context.

Emergent Authenticity: Shared meaning which is influenced by learner perceptions about the value and meaning of the learning activity in their own real world.

Formative Assessment: Also known as ‘assessment for learning’. It’s a holistic iterative process of establishing what, how much and how well students are learning in relation to the learning goals and expected outcomes in order to inform tailored formative feedback and support further learning.

Engaged Learning: Sustained interactions that involve exchange of ideas and information among learners in which they progressively become intrinsically motivated to deepen the interactions accompanied by in-depth thoughts, critical analysis, and purposeful discourse essential to construct and validate meaning.

Reflective Learning: A three-stage processes which entail learner’s preparation, engagement, and processing. In the preparatory phase, the learner examines the situation, in engagement stage, the learner reviews the experience received from the practice, and in the processing stage, the learner consolidates the experience to apply it in new context.

Meaningful Learning Experiences: Learning that is robust and transferable to real-life professional practices and contexts; it is manifested as active, interactive, collaborative, multi-dimensional and reflective discourse in ways that foster self-regulation.

e-Portfolio: Technology supported learning method for the development of competencies whose entire developing process involves purposeful collection of artifacts and reflections on achieved learning goals and results in which learning processes and products are progressively demonstrated and documented via digital information objects.

Situated Learning: Learning that occurs when learners are engaged actively in performing authentic activities that reflect real-world contexts within a learning community of both teacher and peers are key learning resources; and in which learning opportunities are shaped by learning experiences within a social context as opposed to prescribed structures.

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