Reflecting on the past few years, one of the most important aspects of our work has been to help students develop a professional identity. No matter what path a course or program or faculty member has taken, our ePortfolio efforts are successfully leading to this outcome. However, several key decisions were made along the journey.
Pivotal Stages and Decision Points in our ePortfolio History
1. With very limited resources and support in the beginning, the ePortfolio Leadership Team and Dr. Harriet Fayne, School of Education Dean, decided to stay focused on a few pilot projects with faculty who expressed deep pedagogical interest in ePortfolios. These faculty members provided support in professional development, presented at a School of Education faculty meetings and have shared expertise as demands to use ePortfolios in assessment increase.
2. Leslie Lieman, Educational Technology Coordinator recruited Dr. Ross and Dr. Pitts to join the Connect to Learning Leadership team. In Fall 2010, the School of Education was awarded a mini-grant and coveted spot in Connect to Learning: ePortfolio and Student Success, a three-year, FIPSE-funded collaboration designed to strengthen reflective ePortfolio practice on multiple campuses and generate a national developmental model of best practice in the field. Participation in the Connect to Learning community has provided support, guidance and reflections of our own practices that has substantially improved the learning outcomes of our ePortfolio projects. There is no doubt that participation in C2L has strengthened our ePortfolio practice and leadership in the School of Education.
3. We made a decision to let each program faculty member or course faculty member define the focus of the ePortfolio. We did not start with an institutionalized or school-wide approach. This enabled programs and courses to meet specific needs and learning outcomes. We are now benefiting from this bottom-up approach as other faculty in programs want to help guide students towards better preparation for their capstone experience.
4. We supported the decision that the ePortfolio tool should also meet the School of Education and institutional assessment needs. The switch from Digication to TaskStream provides opportunities for data collection, report queries and ultimately more data-driven decision-making. Dr. Harriet Fayne, School of Education Dean, used TaskStream for many years at her previous institution (and this familiarity was beneficial to our work). This switch also positioned the School to be well prepared for the new EdTPA requirements. Taskstream is a recognized partner of Pearson (New York State’s edTPA scoring platform), so candidates will be able to securely transfer their commentary, video and other forms of evidence to Pearson for official scoring.
5. However, the decision to switch tools was during the same period that the School of Education welcomed a new dean and was timed almost simultaneously with early NCATE accreditation preparation. Therefore, we lost the momentum of interested faculty after a strong ePortfolio professional development series. Although the key early ePortfolio adopter faculty and a few others have weathered the storm, new faculty were less willing to participate. With the support of the Dean and the new edTPA requirements, there seems to again be a strong foundation to bring new faculty onboard. As a colleague so supportively pointed out,
“It is understandable that there would be some faculty fall off of interest in utilizing ePortfolio if they felt they’d invested time and energy in one tool, only to have to switch gears to another. The fact that you continue to move forward underscores, in my mind, the fact that you have been approaching ePortfolio as a pedagogy rather than as a technology.”