If you are just starting an ePortfolio journey, here is a professional development strategy that was beneficial to our first steps. The professional development series started with School of Education faculty who expressed interest in developing an ePortfolio pilot project within his/her course or program. We had one pilot project underway and it began to pique faculty interest. Some participants were encouraged to participate in the first round of professional development because they already had paper portfolios or were part of a program that would benefit greatly from an ePortfolio process. Representatives from three different departments participated, enabling conversation and support across disciplines. In order to start an ePortfolio pilot, faculty needed to commit to six 2-hour sessions, plus individual time to develop course objectives and an ePortfolio template. Nine faculty members (a large group from a faculty of 45) participated in the professional development series.
Professional development aimed to:
- Highlight the role of ePortfolios to enhance student learning
- Encourage faculty to participate in learning (as a student), creating his/her own ePortfolio
- Discuss and evaluate if/how/when to develop ePortfolio into new teaching practices
Although the Educational Technology Coordinator set an agenda for professional development, some topics were expanded or collapsed based on the needs, readiness and expectations of the group.
With an attempt to create a constructivist learning environment, our workshops encouraged participants to work together, share thoughts and ideas, and to participate in guided hand-on activities using the ePortfolio tools and online resources. In addition, we continued to grapple with how ePortfolios might improve the learning experience in classes and programs. [See Professional Development Practice: Conceptualizing ePortfolio for details.]
Hitting a Detour
Now, several years later, many changes have taken place. A new dean joined the School of Education, we became a “School” and no longer a “Division,” we switched ePortfolio providers; We began our second national accreditation process (NCATE) and also began to learn about new New York State teacher performance assessment certification requirements (that would include a specific portfolio submission and commentary about a unit plan and classroom teaching). The switch in ePortfolio vendors came several months after our strongest workshop series, and the interest in learning a new tool diminished participation greatly. Recruiting new faculty seemed easy initially. Faculty volunteered time to participate in the initial workshop series due to “word of mouth” about the pilot projects. But retaining faculty after this major change proved impossible.
As written above, of the goals of the initial professional development sessions were for faculty to learn about ePortfolios (Conceptualizing ePortfolios) and develop his/her own professional portfolio. Using a faculty ePortfolio template, faculty were encouraged to develop a digital presence sharing presentations, publications, research, honors, awards, academic interests and more. When the School of Education switched tools, the Educational Technology Coordinator took the full ePortfolio content for each faculty member that was created in one platform and switched it to the second platform, hoping to encourage the faculty members to keep working on his/her portfolio and continue to explore the pedagogical benefits for students. As mentioned above, except for 1 early adopter and 2 additional faculty, this was not a successful effort.
Therefore, instead of broadening the reach of ePortfolios throughout the School of Education and trying to recruit more faculty, the ePortfolio Leadership Team decided to focus professional development on making the current use of ePortfolios deeper, richer and more aligned with our learning goals in the four programs that were using ePortfolios. We focused on making our own practice stronger by improving rubrics, prompts and sharing best practices across disciplines. We altered some of the ePortfolio projects based on responses in student surveys. And we set a goal to move some of the ePortfolio capstone experiences into a program experience.
Today we would represent our ePortfolio goals in the four programs as follows:
- To use ePortfolios to help students cultivate their own skills, knowledge and dispositions through reflection.
- To use ePortfolios to support and develop a professional identity.
What has changed significantly in our professional development focus, is the specificity of the desired learning outcomes when using ePortfolios in a course or program. In the beginning, our goals and descriptions about the value of ePortfolios was more open-ended.
For example, we focused a series of professional development on improving rubrics and prompts.
Professional Development for Scaling Up
New rigorous State certification requirements for potential teachers as well as national re-accreditation has taken priority at the School of Education. Two programs currently using capstone ePortfolios will be moving to program ePortfolios.
Regular monthly ePortfolio Leadership Team meetings have provided the foundation for us to improve our own practice and consider ways that we can support and encourage other faculty to use ePortfolios. The one faculty member who has been using 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.
Our ePortfolio Leadership Team serves as a support system as well as a think tank for scaling up ePortfolios into our programs. We have been brainstorming how to bring program faculty into the ePortfolio experience. We have also begun a collaboration with the School of Professional Studies (CUNY) and the American Museum of Natural History-Seminars in Science Series to help create an ePortfolio module for secondary teachers to implement in classrooms or for their own professional development (i.e. to use towards National Board Certification or tenure in a school district). Additionally, a collaborative effort has been established with the Chemistry Department at Adelphi University to use ePs to demonstrate mastery learning in an advanced undergraduate biochemistry course