ePortfolios 101

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Do you ever keep samples of student work to show future students. Do your students ever want to keep samples of their work to showcase for graduate school or job placements? Do you ever have students who need accommodation requiring an alternative assignment? Do you ever have students who grapple with or rebuff the purpose of the curriculum and its alignment to the real world? Do you struggle with ways to engage students in career goals or reflective learning? Have you ever considered eportfolios?

Text of ePortfolios 101

  • Do you ever keep samples of student work to show future students? Do your students ever want to keep samples of their work to showcase for graduate school or job placements? Do you ever have students who need accommodation requiring an alternative assignment? Do you ever have students who grapple with or rebuff the purpose of the curriculum and its alignment to the real world? Do you struggle with ways to engage students in career goals or reflective learning? Have you ever considered eportfolios?




  • A portfolio is an organized collection of academic artefacts and reflections that capture a students journey towards achievement of personal goals and curricular standards. On this journey, students carefully select pieces of their best work that show the quality and variety of their academic activity developed over time. Additionally, students may include a piece in progress and reflect on their goals towards meeting the desired learning outcomes. The portfolio can take on many creative forms in print or digital formats to share with faculty and the workplace. In our digital age, a student can document their learning journey through an electronic portfolio - an eportfolio.

    VariationsLearning Portfolio. In an academic setting, students use their portfolio to demonstrate that that they have met the program learning outcomes. They submit a piece of their best work - an artefact - a tangible sample and write a reflection of how they have met the learning outcomes. If a student has not met a learning outcome, s/he can include an artefact and a reflection of how s/he is approaching the learning outcome; a student might include his or her action plan to achieve the learning outcome. A student may take out old or add in new artefacts as they progress through their program. View a wiki sample or a Brightspace by D2L sample of a mock eportfolio for environmental engineering aligned to the Canadian Engineering Accreditation Board (CEAB) graduate attributes.

    Working Portfolio. Similar to a learning portfolio, a working portfolio is a work in progress. It may be for academic or career purposes using accreditation standards, program learning outcomes, or personal career goals. A student or employee, keeps records of their best work and updates their portfolio from time to time. It is in flux - constantly adding, updating, organizing, and polishing new artefacts and reflections with each new accomplishment. In particular for goals not yet met, it may have notes or comments from professors, mentors, and peers.

    Showcase Portfolio. No longer a work in progress, the showcase portfolio only includes specific polished artefacts and reflections ready to exhibit. In an academic setting, this portfolio is ready for review, assessment, and evaluation. A student or employee might take this portfolio on interviews for graduate programs or job placements. This portfolio may be a requirement for exit from a course or graduation from a program - an exit portfolio or graduate portfolio.

    Professional Portfolio. Even after graduation, one might keep a reflective working portfolio throughout his or her career. This portfolio may be a place to document accomplishments, professional development, and changing career aspirations. It is something ready to quickly transform from a working portfolio to a showcase portfolio as opportunities arise for projects, promotions, and career paths. For students and


  • professionals in the arts, this career portfolio might only hold the polished artefacts without written reflections - understanding that in an interview the candidate would speak to their reflection on the artefact. This portfolio might even be bound, published, or portable in a attach case, book, brochure, DVD, website, or wiki.

    ExamplesUse your imagination. What could your students create for an eportfolio artefact? What would be an appropriate activity for your discipline? Only you know what would be authentic to your field of study, your curriculum, and your students. To get started, consider these ideas:

    Visual ArtsPaintingVideo PodcastScript

    Health & Community StudiesPamphlet or posterPodcastWikiSocial media

    Science & TechnologyLab report3-D modelComputer programSimulation game

    Business AdministrationReportProjectPresentationProposal

    Humanities & Social SciencesPostcardBlogPodcastBook review


  • MeritsPortfolios have long been used in art, design, and architecture for students and professionals to showcase their polished work. More recently there has been a growth in portfolio use in fields like teacher education and nursing for students to reflect on their professional practice. In an effort to make K-12 schools accountable, state and provincial bodies have called for regional testing to ensure that students are learning the curriculum; there is no evidence that high stakes testing increases achievement (Nichols, Glass, & Berlinger, 2006). These regional wide tests discriminated against students with diverse learning needs. As an alternative, these students told their learning story through a portfolio.

    Achievement. Not surprisingly, what was good for those students who needed special accommodations was also good for every student. Several studies, comparing control and experimental groups, have shown that portfolio learning does increase achievement (Guzeller, 2012; Knight, Hakel, & Gromko, 2006; Koraneekij, 2008; Tezci & Dikici, 2006) and even retention (Guzeller, 2012). With portfolios, students understand the significance of the learning outcomes and develop learner competency through reflection, self-evaluation, and internalization (Hori, 2011). Formative assessment is essential to learning, raises achievement (Barrett, 2007), and provides a safe space to invite risk, learning from ones mistakes, goal setting, and thoughtful learning (Barrett, 2007). The Dearing Report (1997), recommended that institutions of higher education develop portfolios that incorporate a co-curricular record and a reflective practice of documenting the learning journey.

    Employability. In addition to programs adopting portfolios, employers today are looking for more than just high test scores; they want integrative, applied learning ... with internships and community learning experiences (Hart, 2008, p.1). Multiple choice testing is low on their assessment recommendations compared to portfolios with essays and projects that enhance real-world skills and readiness for the world of work (Hart, 2008). In todays information rich environment with a growing importance on out of class experiences, there is still a lack of curricular coherence and an over reliance on accepted assessment methods. ePortfolios provide multiple examples and a more accurate picture of student learning in a content rich, self-selected assessment that demonstrates development over time (MERLOTPlace, 2009). Todays learners - the millennials - are digitally literate, constantly connected, interactive, socially conscious, experiential, creative, visual, kinaesthetic, and engaged learners (Oblinger & Oblinger, 2005).

    Accountability. Traditionally, fields like art, architecture, and teaching used portfolios to capture student polished work. The benefits of choosing ones best work and reflecting on that work adds value to any field. Particularly, in K-12, where there is sometimes a gulf


  • between regional testing, the curriculum, and the classroom (Wiggins & McTighe, 2005), portfolios give students an authentic opportunity to demonstrate their learning (Guzeller, 2012; Tezci & Dikci, 2006; Turns, Cuddihy, & Guan, 2010); this is likewise for learners with disabilities. Some employers have found that even a well-assessed A+ student can lack the ability to apply theory and skills to the job. A portfolio piece can corroborate that a student can do the job regardless of his or her grade point average.

    Assessment. A portfolio allows students to self-assess their own learning towards their own self-actualization. Whether we formally evaluate or informally assess the portfolio, the aim is always student success. The purpose is to reflect on the learning. As faculty, we can use portfolios as a diagnostic assessment for entry into a program, as a formative or summative assessment, and as a formative or summative evaluation. While we need to follow standards for accreditation and program outcomes, the personalization of the portfolio lies in the creativity of the Faculty and the student.

    ChallengesWhen portfolios lack a connection to the curriculum, reflective thinking, and self-directed learning, they become simple dumping grounds for student artefacts - scrapbooks. To make sure that portfolios aid students in self-actualization, it is important to let the curriculum drive the portfolio. It may be a paradigm shift to think in terms of tangible artefacts. While there are many technology options available to showcase eportfolios, it is vital to choose a platform that is authentic to the discipline, fits with the curriculum, and is easy for students to learn. Ultimately, student success as well as creativity tied to the learning outcomes is the desirable outcome.

    Implementation. Choosing, reflecting on, and organizing portfolio artefacts can be time-consuming for students. There is shift in thinking about broader curricular standards away from course-based tendencies. Training for faculty on how to teach portfolio learning may be necessary. Additionally, Faculties may need support with choosing and using a technology platform. Nevertheless, the shift towards standards driven portfolio thinking will make the curriculum richer. As faculty make connections between values and opportunities, there will be a dynamic spiralling and webbing effect (Plaisir, 2011).