Putting the “TEAM” in ePortfolio: Building a Culture of Sharing

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Students in LibA robust culture of ePortfolio pedagogy and practice needs to be built on shared knowledge of the field and individual practices.  At Tunxis our two-pronged professional development plan catered to both those new to the pedagogy and more experienced faculty who wanted to continue to share ideas and issues regarding ePortfolio with colleagues on a more structured basis.

Authors: The original authors of this practice are Laura Gambino (formerly CIS Program coordinator, currently at Guttman Community College), Sally Terrell (First Year Writing Coordinator) and Marguerite Yawin (Chair of Academic Strategies Department.)  Amy Feest (Business Administration Program Coordinator) George Sebastian-Coleman (Liberal Arts and Science Program Coordinator) and Jennifer Wittke (ePortfolio Team Leader) contributed to revisions and ongoing improvements.

Description

Part I: Overview and Setting

Tunxis created the ePortfolio Seminar Series in spring 2009 for roll out in the fall.  This was in the early stages of ePortfolio adoption for us.  It is a 4-part workshop series that takes place over the course of a semester. It is designed for faculty members new to ePortfolio pedagogy. The seminar generally runs with 10-12 participants. Participation and attendance in the seminar is voluntary, although the academic dean required newly-hired faculty members to participate.  Initially we had money to pay participants and small stipend.  However, when our funding disappeared, we continued to hold the workshops with equal attendance.  We have run three cohorts of the series:  A, B, and C.

At the end of our first seminar series, faculty participants asked for additional workshops to continue the dialogue around ePortfolio, reflection, and assessment. In spring 2010 we began the practice we now refer to as “ePortfolio: Continuing Conversations” workshops. These workshops are designed for the experienced ePortfolio faculty member who has already completed the initial seminar series. Participation is voluntary and unpaid.

Part II:  Practice Step-by-Step

The Seminar Series consists of four workshops which are 2 ½ hours long.  Participants are assigned relevant readings in advance of each workshop. Workshops consist of small-group and large group activities and time in the ePortfolio lab.  The workshops are facilitated by members of the ePortfolio Leadership Team.  The workshops have been structured as follows:

  • Workshop One:  Introduction to ePortfolios
  • Workshop Two:  ePortfolios and Reflection
  • Workshop Three:  ePortfolios and Assessment
  • Workshop Four:  Planning for Implementation and Wrap-Up

The first cohort, which received a stipend for participating, was required to implement during the same semester as the workshop. In the second cohort, participation was voluntary and there was no incentive. We strongly encouraged implementation either during that semester or the following semester. In the third cohort, we had new full-time faculty. The dean required their attendance in the seminar. Some of them implemented immediately, others implemented in the fall, others are in programs that don’t use ePortfolio at all – they have no plans to implement. We don’t formally track the intensity and quality of activities, although it does get tracked by discipline in many cases.

The “Continuing the Conversation” workshops are held two to three times a semester and are completely voluntary. (Importantly, however, faculty can include participation in such workshops as part of their required workload.) The goal of these workshops is to have an interdisciplinary dialogue among faculty to build on and improve current methods of ePortfolio use in the classroom. Each workshop is two hours in length and is facilitated by one of the ePortfolio Leadership Team.  The workshops follow the format below:

  • Introductions – group
  • ePortfolio Project update – workshop facilitator
  • Best Practices discussion – group
  • ePortfolio Success Stories – one of two designated faculty participants
  • Discussion – group

Part III: The Role of Inquiry, Reflection and Integration:

Our two-pronged professional development was constructed around the three guiding principles to advance integrative understandings:  inquiry, reflection, and integration.  From the beginning we knew that for ePortfolio to be successful, we needed the faculty members to be engaged in the pedagogy and the philosophy of ePortfolio, not merely use the tool.

We asked faculty to read various articles in Electronic Portfolios 2.0 by Cambridge, Cambridge, and Yancey to stimulate their thinking about important issues surrounding ePortfolio.  We challenged them to think about and discuss how ePortfolio would fit into their course or how their course could be changed to incorporate ePortfolio. We designed the sessions to allow for people to ask questions, not just listen to the “experts” talk about ePortfolio. The central question was always “How will this (or did this) work for me and my class?”  After four structured workshop meetings, it was gratifying to see that in the Continuing the Conversations seminar, the focus had shifted from what might happen to actual triumphs or challenges.

One of the first aspects of ePortfolio that piqued the interest of the leadership team was reflection.  We were struck by a quote by Soren Kierkegaard on a LaGuardia student’s ePortfolio:  “Life must be lived forward, but it can only be understood backwards.”  We knew that while collecting the materials in an ePortfolio was important, reflecting on it was even more important.  We used that same guiding principle in our professional development practice.  As homework for our second session, we asked faculty to read two pieces from Electronic Portfolios 2.0: “Reflection and Electronic Portfolios” by Kathleen Yancey and “Studying Student Reflection in an Electronic Portfolio Environment” by Rickards and Guilbault.  The primary aspect of the Rodgers/Dewy framework for reflection that we engaged in was reflection in community.  Participants reflected individually and shared their reflections with colleagues, culminating in a collective reflective activity.

In the leadership team’s reflection on the work we’ve done as reflection, we came to the conclusion that the concept of reflection does not lend itself to a single, functional definition. Reflection can occur in a myriad of ways, has different purposes and forms, and can yield a variety of outcomes. Instead of trying to create a definition of reflection, we created this list of attributes:

Reflection is….

  • In the moment
  • After the fact
  • On-going
  • Habitual
  • Engaging
  • Purposeful
  • Thought-provoking
  • Inchoate

As for integration, our professional development stopped short of true integration.  We did take abstract information (the what, how and why of ePortfolio) and, through the workshops, guided faculty to create a specific, fairly circumscribed ePortfolio practice. One of the last steps of the workshop was to identify a course in which to use the ePortfolio and the design assignments and assessments for that course.  During the follow up seminar, faculty would discuss what was happening regarding ePortfolio and how the course had changed because of ePortfolio (if it had changed.)  In isolated pockets we have seen more sustained changes to departments (many career programs have ePortfolio as an integral part of the program) and beginning in Fall 2014 students with a General Studies major will be introduced to ePortfolio in a First Year Experience course and build the ePortfolio throughout their program, culminating in an ePortfolio-based capstone.  What we have discovered is faculty development centered on the use of ePortfolio as pedagogy needs to be sustained and developed over a period of time. There needs to be a focus on faculty understanding of the philosophy behind ePortfolio. It’s important for us, as faculty developers, to revisit our practices periodically to make sure that faculty don’t view ePortfolio as simply a technology.  Overall we have found that there is no easy answer for how to work with “resistant” faculty members and this continues to be an issue on campus.

Evidence of Impact

Overall, we have found that our professional development practice has been effective because it:

  • Deepens faculty engagement with ePortfolio project
  • Builds faculty understanding of ePortfolio pedagogy
  • Leads to actual pedagogical experimentation with students – involving ePortfolio, integration, reflection, etc.
  • Leads to lasting pedagogical change – sustained change in faculty classroom practice, integrating the above
  • Deepens faculty’s focus on student learning
  • Leads to sustained faculty engagement in collaboration, experimentation, sharing results

We evaluate the effectiveness of the ePortfolio Seminar Series by looking at the percentage of faculty who begin using ePortfolio in their courses after completing the seminar series. From Cohorts A and B, 80% of faculty participants successfully implemented ePortfolio in their courses. Cohort C had a lower success rate due to the required attendance of new faculty.

In addition, the number of faculty members that participate in the ePortfolio: Continuing Conversations workshops indicate that their experience in the seminar was positive. The professional development creates a space for collaboration among faculty members from different disciplines across the college. People who ordinarily do not work together have an opportunity to share ideas.  Informally we know this practice works by the number of participants that continue to attend the workshops on a regular basis. We do solicit informal feedback from them as to future workshop topics. For example, at the last workshop, as facilitators we updated the group on the reflection work we did as part of the first jam. Faculty have asked for workshops which focus on the use of reflection.

The sharing of success stories and examples from faculty participants is also an indicator of the workshop’s success. This practice effectively combines two of Angelo’s principles; build shared trust and build a shared language. As facilitators we work to create an environment where ideas can be shared, success is valued, and issues can be discussed openly and without criticism; in other words, an environment of trust. By coming together in these continuing workshops faculty members are working together to build an understanding of ePortfolio pedagogy and are making pedagogical changes in their classroom practices.

Connections to Other Sectors of the Catalyst

ePortfolios are complex and play an important role in many aspects of the larger  … Our ePortfolio initiative was designed with the four sectors of Catalyst in mind.

Pedagogy :

Our ePortfolio Professional Development was directly connected to improving reflective pedagogy.  We asked participants to engage in reflection and to make reflection an integral part of their practice. We asked people ot reflect on reflection!  Many of the participants in Cohort A and B later engaged in our Integrative Learning sessions.  We saw this as a logical outcome of the initial ePortfolio work.  Members of our currently leadership team are engaged in social ePortfolio practice this semester.  Once ePortfolio is a central component of the course, it is logical to explore ways to enrich the course through ePortoflio.  Although we are not continuing formal profession development,  many of us still work together to keep ePortfolio pedagogy vibrant.

Scaling Up: 

Initially the professional development practice was absolutely crucial to our scaling up process.  We went from a few career programs (for example Dental Hygiene, Early Childhood Education, and Business Office Technology) using ePortfolio to individual faculty teaching more general courses (such as Psychology, Mathematics, and Biology) using ePortfolio in specific classes and broadening it to others.  We had more experienced faculty members mentoring newer members and explaining the underlying pedagogy and philosophy of ePortfolio.  However in 2012, the Community College system in Connecticut merged with the State University system, and the ePortfolio work has taken a back seat to what the administration sees as the more pressing business of creating articulations between the colleges.  At this point, we hope to hold our ground rather than grow the use of ePortfolio.

Outcomes Assessment:

Our plan all along had been to use ePortfolio to collect evidence of the degree of mastery of course, program, or General Education abilities.  Early on we ran into difficulty with expanding the collection of evidence to the entire student body through use of ePortfolio in all courses.  Since that time we have been unable to move the use of ePortfolio for outcomes assessment initiative forward.

Technology:

Digication is our ePortfolio platform.  We have been fortunate to have had a strong working relationship with the creators of Digication and, as an early adaptor, we were able to get personalized responses to our needs.  The technology is fairly simple for students and faculty to use and it allows for robust data collection for our various needs.

There has been some resistance to having a single platform which tends to make one ePortfolio look much like other ePortfolios.  The discussion regarding cohesion and consistency of an ePortfolio project versus freedom of expression in ePortfolio is ongoing.

Conclusion

Overall we found the professional development practice (whether in the formal Seminar Series or the more informal Continuing the Conversation sessions to be useful to both the faculty participants and the ePortoflio leadership team. Most importantly, the participants had a chance to share their triumphs and struggles.  Teaching can be isolating and coming together to talk about ePortoflio and learn from each other was beneficial.  For the leadership team, we got much better feedback from the conversations than we would get from a survey: it was immediate and detailed, and in many cases indicated issues with the college culture that we would need to address.

Attachments and Supporting Documents:

Part I: Discussion prompts, Professional Development Assignments, etc.

Sample Timeline and Homework Materials

Timeline

Summer 2009

Digication Training: July 15th, August 24th

  • Assessment Planning

Fall 2009

  • Attend Seminars
  •  Integrate ePortfolio into course(s)
  • Identify Spring 2010 mentee within department

Spring 2010

  • Continue to integrate ePortfolio into course(s)
  •  Mentor faculty member

 Seminar Dates
8/28/2009

10/2/2009

11/13/2009 (if needed)

1/22/2010

All seminars will take place from 9:30 – 11:30 Location TBA

LaGuardia Visit
10/29/2009 (tentative)

Homework for August 28th Seminar

  • Identify course(s) using ePortfolio/Digication in the Fall
  • Send Laura course abilities with rubrics (if applicable) for those courses by July 22nd
  • Read selected articles from Electronic Portfolios 2.0 for discussion on August 28th:
  •  “Reflection and Electronic Portfolios”
  •  “Studying Student Reflection in an Electronic Portfolio Environment”

Homework for October 2nd Seminar

  • Read selected articles from Electronic Portfolios 2.0 for discussion
  • Briefly share your plan for the semester with your department
      • Influencing Learning through Faculty-Driven and Student-Generated Outcome Assessment”
      • “The Promise of ePortfolios for Institutional Assessment

Homework for November 13th Seminar

  • Finish creating your assessment(s) in Digication.  Copy to LaGuardia Cohort Learning Community
  • Identify and email Laura your Spring semester mentee

 Upcoming LaGuardia Visit

  • Mark your calendar: October 29th 10:30 and 1:00 sessions (tentative times) with cohort members and mentees

Sample Agenda for a Single Seminar Session

Part III:  Connections to other Polished Practices:

After participating in the Seminar Series, Jen Wittke, Marguerite Yawin, and Amy Feest continued to talk about ways to put the theory into practice.  Were it not for our work together on ePortfolio, we most likely would not have created these assignments.  For fall 2013, we are focusing on the Social Pedagogy aspect of ePortfolio in our linked classes.

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