Lehman College, CUNY

Core Strategies for Building a Culture of Learning

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IMG_1308_1The introduction and implementation of ePortfolio within the School of Education at Lehman College has grown out of organic experiences with moderate structural and technical support strategies. ePortfolio implementation was not introduced or mandated by high level administrative initiatives.  The path was primarily paved by faculty (with students) interested in working with ePortfolio with strategic help and support from the Educational Technology Coordinator working out of the School of Education Dean’s office.

The initiative started with faculty interest from three programs. These faculty members have become key in pioneering the implementation of ePortfolio in the School of Education. The benefit of starting organically was to allow faculty with a strong interest to develop and tailor their own approaches to implementing ePortfolio in their program. This allowed faculty to approach implementation with unique sensitivity to their program structure and politics. Some faculty in the pioneering group decided to design and introduce a program-wide initiative (Janet DeSimone, Educational Leadership) – forward design, while other faculty started with the capstone experience course (Aliex Ross, Childhood Education) and (Dr. Wesley Pitts, Science Education) – backward designs. Additionally, Dr. DeSimone and Dr. Ross decided to tie their ePortfolio structure and prompts directly to their programs’ respective NCATE accreditation bodies.  While Dr. Pitts chose not use accreditation prompts directly, but used prompts adopted from the University of Pennsylvania Graduate Chemistry Education Program that used ePortfolio as a high- stakes exit project. Pitts had been introduced and worked closely with eP while a faculty member teaching in the UPenn Program. What also was important to the pioneering faculty members at Lehman was the ability incorporate ePortfolio in to their respective research agendas. Often when faculty engages in initiatives that are voluntary there is more likelihood of ownership that can lead to creative possibilities engaging possibilities for research and professional development.

Core Strategy: Connecting to Program
There does comes a point where the desire to engage in a departmental- or school-wide implementation of ePortfolio will require critical work at multiple levels.  The C2L team has been engaging other faculty and departmental chairs in the work necessary to move the capstone ePortfolio experience to one that is integrated across the program.  These conversations have also begun to include a wider community of faculty. This core strategy was reviewed thoroughly in the specific Early Childhood and Childhood Education, Science Education and ePortfolios as connectors and catalysts for change post.

Core Strategy: Developing an Effective Campus ePortfolio Team
Our three C2L members decided to meet monthly to a) review our work with C2L, b) organize/design several professional development workshops, c) share experiences and resources and d) respond to both logistical demands and pedagogical interests.  Our monthly meetings provided rare opportunities of support and reflection.  We always generated “to do” lists and divided responsibilities for pursuing/achieving next step goals.  We posted our meeting notes in our working ePortfolio to review as needed.  The strength of our leadership team is based on enormous respect and trust in each other’s work ethic and dedication.  We developed a rhythm and focus that has sustained us through many difficult periods.  Our relationships with each other were certainly strengthened by having a common goal, and developed overtime simply based on setting a regular time to meet.  So although we are a small and very focused team, supporting each other has been crucial to our overall success.  We have established a foundation for scaling up programmatically and have the confidence to be leaders and role models for our School of Education faculty (especially as they approach the new teacher performance assessment and certification portfolio requirements).

The one faculty member who has been doing ePortfolios for several years has gained much from our discourse.  A fourth faculty member has recently started a capstone ePortfolio and has been enthusiastic about the opportunities it provides for teaching and learning.

Core Strategy: Build Strategic Connections to Outcomes Assessment
With the hire of an Assessment Coordinator, a focus to evaluate many aspects of the School of Education programs, and increase data-driven decisions are underway.  This includes the plan to understand and monitor the connections of student learning at the programmatic level through the collection of student evidence.  As more faculty participate in digitizing the collection of evidence for NCATE accreditation and SPA requirements, more stakeholders at multiple levels will be able to converse about if/how students are achieving Program, School and Institutional goals.

Simultaneously, the new New York State certification requirements, which include an ePortfolio submission, may drive rapid growth in ePortfolio work. The new requirements are complex and the Dean’s office and departments have made programmatic adjustments necessary to best meet the needs of our students and prepare them for the new certification requirements. This has been an opportunity for the C2L team to support and guide the conversations about integrative learning and reflective practices in ways that reinforce and align with the requirements.  We know that it may be a challenge to maintain a focus on the potential of ePortfolio in the midst of assessment needs, on the other hand, we believe that there will be a lot of room for ePortfolio growth once more faculty are onboard.

Sometimes it has been just enough for the C2L ePortfolio Leadership team to focus on making an impact right in our own backyard. But we will certainly track the changes that evolve.  We recognize that writing about or presenting how the School of Education prepares our students for the new portfolio certification requirements has the potential to influence (or be a catalyst) outside our institution and possibly in the field.

Also visit: ePortfolios as Connectors and Catalysts for Change

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