ePortfolio as High-Impact Practice
by Jessie L. Moore
At the recent Conference On Excellent Practice in Mentoring Undergraduate Research, George Kuh announced a new addition to the Association of American Colleges and Universities list of High-Impact Educational Practices (HIPs). The addition of ePortfolio extends the association’s list to eleven HIPs – though Kuh acknowledges that other educational practices likely share the defining characteristics of HIPs.
As a teacher, I have used portfolios in writing courses, and the degree program in which I teach – the Professional Writing & Rhetoric concentration in the English Major at Elon University – includes an ePortfolio graduation requirement. Students begin building their portfolios in a second-year course, learning both the ePortfolio technology and the strategies of collecting materials from courses, internships, and other university experiences; selecting those that best represent their development as learners and their professionalization into the field; organizing their sample projects; and reflecting on how the selected projects demonstrate both their success meeting the program’s learning outcomes and the set of strategies and skills they will carry into their post-graduation activities. Course syllabi throughout the program remind students to save course projects, and many subsequent courses include space to draft reflective contextual narratives about their writing samples and to gather and respond to feedback from peers and faculty.
Even after seniors’ portfolios are sent to an external reviewer, students examine – as part of a senior capstone course – how they might adapt their portfolios for job searches and develop sustainable practices for updating their portfolios after graduation. In other words, students spend significant time and energy developing their portfolios across the length of their degree program; they receive frequent faculty and peer feedback; they reflect often on how new projects demonstrate their growing knowledge of skills and strategies; and they share their portfolios publicly with peers, faculty, professional colleagues, potential employers, and other audiences. I have no doubt that the reflective and integrative practices showcased by the ePortfolio-as-tool are high-impact educational practices, as George Kuh discusses in the video below.
Though I am a proponent of ePortfolios in my program, I remain cautious about the wide-spread implementation of this practice. For portfolios to be a high-quality, high-impact educational practice, faculty/academic staff mentors must devote considerable time to scaffolding the reflection and integration processes, to offering feedback, and to helping students understand the (hopefully) authentic audience(s) and purpose(s) for their ePortfolios. At some campuses, other mentored educational practices may better achieve the same or similar reflection and integration goals.
As with all HIPs, educators will need to remain attentive to preserving high-quality while scaling up the number of participating students. In addition to recent and forthcoming publications specific to ePortfolios, institutions can draw on existing scholarship on portfolios from writing studies and education to plan if, how, and to what extent they want to implement ePortfolios on their campuses.
- Cambridge, D. (2010). Portfolios for lifelong learning and assessment. (Chichester, United Kingdom: Wiley.
- Eynon, B. & Gambino, L. (in press). High impact ePortfolio practice: A catalyst for student, faculty and institutional learning. Sterling, VA: Stylus.
- Eynon, B., Gambino, L.M., & Török, J. (2014). What difference can ePortfolio make? A field report from the Connect to Learning Project. International Journal of ePortfolio, 4(1), 95–114.
- Yancey, K. B. (2011). Portfolios, Learning, and Agency: Promises, Perceptions, Possibilities. JAC: Journal of Advanced Composition, 147-153.
- Yancey, K. B., Cambridge, D., & Cambridge, B. (Eds.). (2009). Electronic Portfolios 2.0: Emergent Research on Implementation and Impact. Washington, DC: Stylus.
- Yancey, K. B., & Weiser, I. (Eds.) (1997). Situating Portfolios: Four Perspectives. Utah State UP.
Jessie L. Moore (@jessielmoore) is the Associate Director of the Center for Engaged Learning at Elon University and associate professor of Professional Writing & Rhetoric in the Department of English.