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Workshop Will Focus on Electronic Portfolios as Tools for Learning and Assessment

Workshop Will Focus on Electronic Portfolios as Tools for Learning and Assessment October 6, 2010

Electronic portfolios, or ePortfolios, have typically been used in teacher education departments at ACM colleges as a way to demonstrate students’ achievement and competency. The use of ePortfolios in other departments has generally been sparse.

The range of courses and disciplines on ACM campuses that use such digital tools might expand, however, following the “ePortfolios: Electronic Pasta” workshop at Coe College on November 5-6, 2010. Faculty who are interested in attending should visit the ePortfolios workshop website for information.

The event is funded by a grant from the ACM-Mellon Faculty Career Enhancement (FaCE) project, which supports collaborations among faculty that enhance teaching and learning at ACM colleges.

Christy Wolfe (Teacher Education, Coe College), Lisa Wiebenga Stroschine (Academic Technologist, Coe College), and Kerry Bostwick (Teacher Education, Cornell College), who applied for the grant, have designed the workshop to focus on ePortfolios as a tool for learning and assessment and to foster their use in departments across the ACM campuses.

The three workshop organizers hope to draw teams of two people from every ACM college to examine, within the context of liberal arts education, two basic questions:

  • What are ePortfolios and how are they best used?
  • Depending on how an instructor is using ePortfolios in a class, what is the best way to assess the students’ work?

“Like many of the colleges in the ACM, Coe College is exploring ways to make assessment of students more deliberate and transparent,” Wolfe and Stroschine noted in the workshop proposal. “Considering how to assess ePortfolios as part of a larger assessment process of students’ skills and abilities is timely for all colleges in this data-driven era.”

People tend to look at portfolios as either a showcase and accountability tool or as a learning and reflective tool, Stroschine said. Portfolios for teacher education and nursing fall in the first category, since they have a role in licensure. Increasingly, though, portfolios are being used in a variety of other disciplines as a way for students to reflect on their learning and to think about how their thought processes are growing and changing.

“I think for a lot of people it’s hard to marry those two uses [of portfolios], and it’s hard to determine which of those two best serves the purpose for your program, your institution, or your department,” said Stroschine. “On Friday night [of the workshop], we really want to explore those two faces of portfolios and look at how they intersect or interact.”

That discussion, to establish solid pedagogical philosophies and methods behind the use of portfolios, will be led by keynote speaker Dr. Helen Barrett, who has taught, researched, and written about ePortfolios for nearly 20 years.

The workshop’s Saturday morning sessions will be aimed at supporting the campus teams as they work in two broad areas: 1) establishing the goals and objectives of a portfolio program for their department or college, and 2) developing an assessment plan for portfolios.

The workshop also will include a session on ePortfolio tools. “There are tons of out-of-the-box software and open source software, people are creating templates in [web design software] Dreamweaver, and some people are using their course management system,” Stroschine said. “So we’ll have a session where we’ll highlight as many tools as we know and people will have a chance to share the tools that they’ve used.”

The workshop will conclude with a session on using ePortfolios as professional tools for faculty in areas such as promotion and tenure review, tracking publications, and reflecting on personal and professional growth.

Following the workshop, Wolfe, Stroschine, and Bostwick expect to create and disseminate a “best practices” resource of ePortfolio models and assessment tools that could be adapted and used across disciplines and institutions.

“Ideally, we’ll have started a base, like a user’s group, that we could use to push forward and continue conversations about implementation or changes or how portfolios are working on our campuses, and keep that dialogue and that sharing going,” Stroschine concluded.



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