ePortfolios and Reflection

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A short paper that discusses how reflection should be approached within an ePortfolio. Good reflection techniques enhance the quality of the ePortfolio but, at the same time, the ePortfolio is also an excellent aid to reflective practice.

Text of ePortfolios and Reflection

  • eePPoorrttffoolliiooss,, aanndd RReefflleeccttiioonn

    What do we understand by Reflection?

    Should we be looking at our own opinions of ourselves? Can we see a clear image? Do others see us differently? And if so, what should we do in response to our conclusions?

    R J Tolley

    Updated October 2010

  • Page 2 ePortfolios and Reflection R J Tolley Oct. 2010

    FF ar too often we hear of ePortfolios as being good for reflection but, in reading on, I usually get the feeling that authors see reflection as purely introspection. Not that introspection is a bad thing, but reflection can be so much more, particularly when supported by a good ePortfolio. The illustration on the title page has a lot to tell us. Are we looking through a glass darkly, or will we ever see ourselves, face to face? Should we be just looking at our own opinion of ourselves? Firstly, lets look at evaluation. I always encouraged my students to divide their considerations under five headings:

    1. TThhee PPrroodduucctt:: Whether an artefact in the traditional

    sense of an item made out of resistant materials; a piece of music, whether written or performed; a dance

    routine or an essay, all are products. Each one of these can be reflected upon by their creator as to whether, in their opinion, the product does the job for which it was

    intended. 2. TThhee PPrroocceessss:: One can describe and reflect upon the

    methods used, whether new skills had to be learnt and

    what other knowledge or skills were acquired along the way and how they acquired them.

    3. TThhee PPeerrssoonn:: Often ignored in evaluation but the

    benefits to the person, the trials or experiences that enabled the person grow and feel satisfaction or the motivation to go on further need to be documented.

    4. TThhee PPrroobblleemmss:: If a learner is to progress, then they should be aware of the problems experienced, how they were overcome and what possible problems have still to

    be addressed. 5. TThhee PPootteennttiiaall:: Nothing should be done just on the

    blind expectation of another, whether it be a teacher or an examination board. When we create something in

  • R J Tolley Oct. 2010 ePortfolios and Reflection Page 3

    which we obviously take pride, there is invariably a sense of What next? Where can I sell this product? Is there a potential for bulk manufacture? Can I reach a wider audience? Can it be modified or developed further?

    SSoo,, wwhhaatt ccaann aann eePPoorrttffoolliioo aadddd ttoo tthhee aabboovvee??

    VViissuuaall eevviiddeennccee,, artefacts stored just in case I might need them add so much to recall and reflection that memory fails to bring to mind. So often when I look at a picture it evokes smells and even kinaesthetic experiences long forgotten - and if a picture is worth a thousand words how much more a SlideShare or a video? Not only does the visual evidence evoke past memories, it can also suggest comparisons with the present piece of work and therefore extend reflection.

    HHiissttoorriicciittyy adds a perspective that can only be understood by comparing ones efforts of several years ago with a present piece of work. Dr Helen Barrett writes of the ePortfolio as being a record of ones life-story. This again can only be true if the ePortfolio is allowed to be that shoebox repository of personal treasures. But the understanding of progress or change is more than plain fact. There is an emotional element of possibly surprise or satisfaction which reinforces reflection. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. (1Corinthians 13:11) The reflections of a student, even over a few years of study, when using their collection of rich media can have a powerful sense usually of progression. Of course, when submitting such evidences, the students must be careful to properly explain their context and the purpose of using such evidences in their reflections.

  • Page 4 ePortfolios and Reflection R J Tolley Oct. 2010

    OOtthheerrss OOppiinniioonnss The above examples can all be thought of as introspection. However, the ePortfolio has the powerful facility of supporting collaboration and e-secure conversations that can be recorded and used in evidence. For instance, the formative assessments or suggestions of a tutor can be built upon and, in reflection, one can say how they responded to suggestions or criticisms, and whether they chose to build upon the ideas given or chose to reject them, preferably with good reasoning explained. Similarly, the group collaborative conversations can be reflected upon, quotes extracted and discussed within ones own reflections. I have encouraged this approach in many situations, primarily explaining it as the synergy of 2 + 2 = 5, ie that in building upon each others ideas we can develop a much better understanding than what we could generate by our ourselves. However, the ePortfolio tool should also be capable of inviting feedback on any page. Similarly, polls, star-ratings, comments or even questionnaires can easily be presented to provoke feedback from peers, mentors or other readers.

    Simon Grant in his book 'Electronic Portfolios' provides a good definition in his Glossary:

    "Reflection could be simply defined as the bringing to mind of some past experience or event, with the intention or the result of learning something from it. This contrasts with mere reminiscence, which people can do again and again without learning anything new. Reflection is connected deeply with portfolios, as a portfolio can act as the record of the experience or event, and can act both as a prompt for reflection and as a factor towards the accuracy of later recollection."

  • R J Tolley Oct. 2010 ePortfolios and Reflection Page 5

    Earlier in his book (p50) he writes:

    "Expressions, assertions and claims do not necessarily describe anything, and are not in their essence descriptions... Their function in relation to the rest of the world is by pointing to the connections in the world, rather than mere existence...`

    He quotes Socrates, 'the unexamined life is not worth living'. (p210)

    Unsubstantiated reflection is thus a possibly useless activity. However, by using an ePortfolio to both present a project or artefact and also substantiate reflective argument with evidences is, in my opinion and experience, the only true and effective method in this web2.0 world.

    How we reflect upon our own activities or experiences, how we relate to others, how we display our reasoning will tell our mentors, assessors and appointments panels so much about ourselves more than any conventional CV.

    How I envy todays young students!

  • Page 6 ePortfolios and Reflection R J Tolley Oct. 2010

    AAbboouutt tthhee AAuutthhoorr::

    Ray Tolley has been a teacher of Design & Technology and problem solving since 1963 and of ICT since

    1981. Since retiring his company (Maximise ICT Ltd) has continued to supply staff support and more

    recently has developed eFolio particularly for the UK market. For further information about eFolio

    check out the links below.

    Ray Tolley FEIDCT, NAACE Fellow, ACIQ, MBILD

    ICT Education Consultant

    Maximise ICT Ltd

    P: http://raytolley.v2efolioworld.mnscu.edu/

    B: http://www.efoliointheuk.blogspot.com/

    W: http://www.maximise-ict.co.uk/eFolio-01.htm

    E: support@maximise-ict.co.uk

    Winner of the IMS 'Leadership Regional Award 2009'

    Image from Dreamstime.com