Tunxis Professional Development: A bit of everything to meet all needs

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Professional Development began with colleagues trading ideas, evolved to semester long seminars, and now is largely one-on-one introductions (to the too rare new faculty) and one- or two-day mini seminars for adjunct faculty within programs that have integrated ePortfolio for outcomes assessment and capstone courses. Along the way we’ve tried almost any other idea we could come up with.

Authors

George Sebastian-Coleman, Jennifer Wittke, Amy Feest, Marguerite Yawin, drawing extensively on the earlier work of Laura Gambino (now at Guttman College).

Overview of ePortfolio-related Professional Development on our campus

Part I:  Our Professional Development Story

Artroom

Professional development of ePortfolio use at Tunxis began with colleagues trading ideas. Carol Mahmood used ePortfolio in her First Year Experience class. Pleased with the results she suggested it to colleagues Marguerite Yawin and Sally Terrell. Yawin and Terrell along with Laura Gambino attended a seminar on ePortfolio use at LaGuardia Community College and returned ready to spread the good word. The campus joined the LaGuardia “Making Connections” grant program the next year.

At the same time Tunxis was beginning work on a Title III grant focused on developing a campus-wide outcomes assessment program. This work evolved into what we termed “Ability Based Education” (ABE) whose focus was the distribution of General Education abilities across the curriculum. Each course would measure multiple abilities (such as Quantitative Reasoning, Communication, or Aesthetic Appreciation).

The early adopters of ePortfolio saw a direct connection between the reflective pedagogy of the portfolio approach with the distributive model of ABE. Moreover, with the adoption of Digication as the ePortfolio platform, ePortfolio offered a course management system that would aid with gathering and recording evidence and evaluations of the abilities for each course.

Arc of professional development at Tunxis

Our professional development started by what may be the best way: word of mouth sharing of trials and successes in the classroom by early adopters. When a few of those first users joined “Making Connections” at LaGuardia, we began a more formal program of ePortfolio use on campus, and with that, more formal professional development. As describe in the Overview, because ePortfolio was seen as a good adjunct to the assessment work that was the focus of the Title III grant, we were encouraged to introduce it to all faculty. We did so through three cohorts of full-time and part-time (who received compensation) faculty participating in a semester-long seminar series.

By the end of cohort C we had reached most of the full-time faculty who showed any interest and many part-time faculty in the humanities department. However, at that point push-back from part-timers, supported by the union, over the requirement to use Digication to assess for our General Education ability outcomes stalled further large-scale professional development.

Some programs embraced ePortfolio pedagogy (notably Business) moved to embed ePortfolio use as part of their larger capstone project. This circumvented the earlier objections by making eP use part of the course outcomes, and so part-time (and a few full-time who had not been part of earlier cohorts) received multi-part training in ePortfolio.

We’ve had almost no new hiring for several years now, but for the few new faculty, and those who either had missed the cohorts, or had attended but not adopted, but now were re-interested we have continued to hold single-session workshops, peer-to-peer support, and training through our ePortfolio lab.

Pedagogy was what drew the early adopters to ePortfolio and it has remained central to our professional development. However, because of the campus Title III grant that focused on outcomes assessment, some of our professional development work was just on use for ability assessment. In addition, much PD time must be spent simply on the technology. Training on the use of whatever software interface is being used may even trump all other factors, because if you can’t get people comfortable with the software, they won’t use it no matter what value they may see in the larger practice.

The early long seminars were aimed at full-time faculty who could drive adoption on campus, though several adjuncts also participated. Some adjunct development was done within departments and using peer mentors (FT faculty who had gone through one of the seminars). In 2012-2013, Business adjuncts received formal training in eP because using eP was now a course outcome in several intro programs.

Assessing our efforts  

The long seminars provided the largest group of experimenters in ePortfolio, though many have since dropped it as a significant part of the pedagogy, and even for outcomes assessment. In terms of embedding reflective pedagoy in the classroom and continued use of ePortfolio, there’s no question that peer mentoring has been the most successful because it led to a richer use of the portfolio process, rather than just adding it to an existing course model. Nevertheless, the seminars were a necessary part of scaling up the ePortfolio program (much as large lecture courses have a place in the curriculum).

Future

The end of C2L grant money means that money that had provided some stipends for trainees and pay for support personnel is gone. Indeed the eP lab is being drafted into service as an additional computer classroom, although latest word is we will have a smaller space off the main computer lab. Still to be determined is to what degree the whole of IT staff may be trained to support Digication.

There is continued administrative support for ePortfolio because of policies resulting from a new higher education governance structure in Connecticut. However, as with Title III this support is more focused on the assessment than the pedagogical side of ePortfolio.

Part II:  Professional Development Philosophy and Conceptual Framework

Catalyst’s three “guiding” principles were of course not guiding, but recognized through reflection on what we had done (though all have clear antecedants in the wrtingings of many educators who guided our work with ePortflios). And reflection has always been at the heart of Tunxis’ interest and belief in the value of ePortfolios. Reflection is important to the mechanincs of learning regardless of subject and encouraging faculty to see this was a major part of our seminars. Programs such as Dental, Computer Science and Information, and Early Childhood Education, also recognized the value of reflection to assist students to integrate from one course to another and in capstone courses. The other major strategic purpose at Tunxis was outcomes assessment for our Ability Based Education model that was being developed concurrently with our ePortfolio project, which was based on collecting tangible evidence of student competence in each of the abilities.

Part III:  Professional Development for Scaling Up

PD was central to our scaling up as it was our primary means of gaining new adherents. In addition, the administration supported PD in the early phases to help train faculty for Ability assessments. However, because Digication proved unwieldly simply as a recording device, and while we pushed that the nature of ability based education coincided with the pedagogy of ePortfolios, this support weakened. Then some adjunct faculty filed a union grievance that the use of eP was in excess of contractual work load. As a result planned extensive PD for adjuncts was dropped.

Evidence

We surveyed seminar participants for their opinions on the seminar itself and followed up to see how many participants had incorporated eP into their classes. Cohort A, which was handpicked, has had the greatest continuing use of ePortfolio in their coursework. Cohort B, which included over 25% of our full-time faculty resulted in a significant number of adoptions the following years, but there has been a significant drop-off in subsequent years. As described elsewhere this has a great deal to do with work load and the upheavals caused by new state mandates. Not surprisingly, those programs that have adopted eP for outcomes assessment (either ongoing or through a capstone course) have the greatest use of ePortfolio users, though the number who have deeply embraced reflective pedagogy is smaller.

The following report submitted as part of the Making Connections grant reports most of the survey data from the Cohorts. Since then most tracking has been conducted within programs. As we assemble that data we will add it here.

 Making Connections Campus Project Evaluation Reports 

 Tunxis Community College

Farmington, CT

ePortfolio Project

Altogether, how many faculty at your campus will be familiarized with ePortfolio through your project? What is your target number?

The two-year goal is to have all faculty at Tunxis familiar with ePortfolio.  The goal is to have all full-time faculty trained working with Digication, our ePortfolio software, by Fall 2010 and all adjunct faculty by Spring 2011.

What faculty development activities will you sponsor?  How many faculty will take part in different activities?  About how many hours of activity will you involve faculty in? (For example, ”We  will hold a single, 3-hour workshop for all members of the English department.  And we will organize a 4 part seminar for faculty who would be implementing ePortfolio, meeting for 2 hours each time.”)

Two 3-hour training sessions in Digication were held this summer for all faculty with previous experience in ePortfolio and the 10 mini-grant participants.

The 10 faculty participating in our mini-grant are participating in 4, 2-hour ePortfolio workshops during the Fall 09 semester.  These sessions will be repeated in the Spring 2010 semester with 10 new faculty.

Through our Center for Teaching, we will be holding two 1 hour “Introduction to the ePortfolio” sessions.   Two 1-hour follow-up sessions are being developed for faculty as part of the Center for Teaching ePortfolio series, “Reflection and Assessment” and “Working with Digication.” We are currently planning to hold this series of sessions once per semester.

What could you tell us about your faculty’s initial understanding of and attitudes towards the initiative?  How would you know? What are your goals in terms of addressing faculty understanding and attitude?  How will you know if you’ve achieved your goals?

Initial survey by those faculty trained this summer indicated a positive understanding and attitude towards this initiative.  Other faculty have mixed attitudes.

On October 29th, all faculty will be required to attend a joining LaGuardia/Tunxis presentation on ePortfolio along with student ePortfolio presentations.

Periodic surveys will be conducted to track faculty understanding and attitudes

How many faculty at your campus will teach courses using ePortfolio through your project?  What is your target number for each semester (Fall 2009, Spring 2010)?

In addition to those faculty who have previously used ePortfolio, we have the following goals:

    • Fall 2009 – 10 new full-time faculty using ePortfolio
    • Spring 2010 – 10 new full-time faculty using ePortfolio

What types of courses (and how many courses and sections) do you hope to involve in implementing ePortfolio each semester?

Fall 2009 – 10 Liberal Arts and Sciences faculty will use ePortfolio in at least one section that they teach.  The following courses will be included:

    • Integrated Reading /Writing I
    • Integrated Reading /Writing II
    • First Year Experience
    • Composition
    • General Psychology I
    • US History II
    • Drawing I
    • Intermediate Algebra

In those courses, how extensive and thorough will the implementation process be?  (Will the ePortfolio be a central or major element of those courses, or a minor element? Will the ePortfolio be built into the course syllabus?  Will it be part of the grading structure?  Will ePortfolios affect assessment of student progress?) What do you expect in this regard?

  • ePortfolio will be a major element in First Year Experience, Composition, and Drawing I
  • ePortfolio will be a minor element in Integrated Reading/Writing I and II, General Psychology I, Intermediate Algebra, and US History II
  • In all courses, ePortfolio is built into the course syllabus and part of the grading structure

How many students at your campus do you expect to familiarize with ePortfolio through your project?

Two year goal is to have all students create an ePortfolio at Tunxis

How many students do you expect to begin building ePortfolios?

Through these 10 faculty approximately 300 students will build ePortfolio

How many student do you expect to create full or  “complete” ePortfolios?

By Spring 2011, the majority of these students will have complete ePortfolios.

What could you tell us about student’s initial understandings of and attitudes towards ePortfolio? How would you know? What are your goals in terms of addressing student understanding and attitude? How will you know if you’ve achieved your goals?

Anecdotal evidence indicates that students understanding and attitudes is very positive.

A student survey will be given at the end of the Fall 2009 semester for quantitative results

Conclusion

Our experience suggests that the longer you can train faculty the better, but that the most effective means of engaging faculty with the pedagogical aims of ePortfolio use is peer mentoring. In addition, the greater variety of means you can develop to reach faculty, the greater number you will in fact reach.

Finally, outcomes assessment will probably drive many campus projects, as it did ours, and certainly provides a platform to introduce faculty to ePortfolio. Nevertheless, while outcomes-assessment goals may coincide with the pedagogical practices of  Inquiry, Reflection, and Integration, the demand to engage in such assessment is rarely enough to alter a faculty member’s pedagogy.

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