Lehman College, CUNY

What We’ve Learned

By Leslie Lieman, Alexandria Ross and Wesley Pitts

We all agree that engaging coursework with ePortfolios has validated, deepened, and enhanced the quality of work and made students’ thinking more sophisticated. Visit The Beginning of Our Journey for a brief overview of where we began.

Screen Shot 2014-01-08 at 10.07.48 AMAnecdotally we have been seeing that using the reflective pedagogies, integrative learning pedagogies and social pedagogies, has helped our students find their voice as they prepare to become teachers and educational leaders. This supported our primary goals that ePortfolios would help students cultivate their own skills, knowledge and dispositions through reflection and integrative learning; as well as support and develop a professional identity.

Also, ePortfolios focused on teacher professional identity and skills have transformed several Lehman College graduate education capstone courses. Dr. Pitts found that although his courses were always student centered, he has realized how much more student-centered the class has become.  He states, “Our learning is driving the course.”

Dr. Ross discovered that when students are asked at the end of the Graduate childhood program to reflect in their ePortfolio on a personal education philosophy written at the beginning of the Masters program, the post isn’t just about the philosophy, but how the learning of the past two years has changed students’ thinking about teaching.

“Candidates are not just thinking what’s the curriculum and how do I teach it. They are thinking more holistically about their teaching. They are thinking about all the areas of teaching, from what are the choices that I make in setting up a learning environment, what are the choices I make in terms of the variety of instructional strategies that I use, what are the choices that I make in terms of assessment, how do I collaborate with parents and the community? Our candidates have really moved from what do I teach and how do I teach it, to what does it really mean to be a teacher holistically and how do I impact students in the classroom.”

Screen Shot 2014-01-02 at 5.14.08 PMAnd related to assessment we all recognize that as technology enables data collection to expand exponentially, more demands are being placed on ePortfolios as containers of assessments that meet state and national professional standards. As you have learned in many of our posts, the demands for teacher and leader candidates are many. However, three years of student survey data, demonstrates the importance of retaining social, reflective and other pedagogies in ePortfolios. So we aim to meet all assessment and reporting requirements, but we do not want to be driven by them. Using ePortfolio pedagogy in a variety of ways has enriched teaching and learning in our programs.

Finally, we learned that faculty committed to ePortfolio pedagogy, used the resources and support available when the School of Education switched platform vendors. Although this change did diminish momentum from some faculty involvement, we still continued our pilot projects which now are solidly embedded in several programs. Also, students were phased out of one platform, so no student needed to switch tools mid-program. Students have used both platforms with equal ease.

3-years of Lehman College: School of Education ePortfolio student self-reporting survey survey data
[“About the Survey” implementation and design is offered below.]

Based on 3-years of Lehman College: School of Education ePortfolio student self-reporting survey survey data, we have learned the following:

In the early years, students were more worried about the technology involved, but this less and less an issue.

Social Pedagogy:
When there is more in-class time spent working on ePortfolios, students indicate that they had a better experience learning with ePortfolio overall. For example, with more time in class, there is a “strong agreement” about connection between ideas and thinking deeply about content. There are implications for learning with ePortfolio and for social pedagogy because it seems the more opportunity to work on ePortfolio with an instructor(s) present and peer interaction and review (contact time), the more positive the agreement there is with the statements.

This points to the need to develop ways to scaffold effective semi-structured peer-to-peer interactions and student-instructor(s) interaction with ePortfolio (e.g., peer debriefing/editorial sessions) that can be built into course-contact time. The survey results suggest that providing additional class time for more of these interactive opportunities can help improve learning with ePortfolio. It is also important to help students to find ways to create spaces (e.g., ePortfolio circles) to engage others (e.g., peers, colleagues, instructors) in infective interactions associated with the development of their ePortfolio. It is also important to create social probes to investigate exactly the way time, duration, configuration of social pedagogy with ePortfolio is most impactful.

Dr. Pitts notes that using ePortfolios as an adaptive teaching tool “means you are constantly reading the students ePortfolio. You are doing a lot of reading and responding. You are not just saying, ‘Mid-term, I’ll read it and Finals, I’ll read it.’ You are reading it week by week and sometimes day by day. And you are telling students, ‘Okay, I see that you wrote about this. Can you share that in the next class? Can you bring in some of the artifacts and introduce it to the class?’ So you are really using the ePortfolio to move the course forward.”

Finally, in addition to what we are doing in our programs (e.g. collaborative entry, peer ePortfolio interaction), we plan to encourage more student participation in the Campus-wide ePortfolio Showcase. We will be encouraging students to enter an ePortfolio Lehman Campus “competition” early on in the academic year and we will also continue the School of Education LUTE Award ceremony showcase.

Student Perceptions of ePortfolio:

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  • Over 80% of students Agreed and Strongly agreed that they were more aware of their growth, that they were making connections between ideas, that they were examining their process of learning and they were thinking deeply about content. A little over 70% said that they were being more creative.
  • Over 80% of students Agreed and Strongly agreed they improved the process of writing and developed a professional identity.
  • Over 70% said that working with their ePortfolio in their courses led to them becoming a better teacher and school leader,
  • Students strongly agreed they wanted other professors to use it.
  • 80% of our students recommended using ePortfolios to other students.

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So what we were reporting anecdotally, has shown up in the data as students look back on their work — and it is really a lot of work!

Dr. Ross notes, “the students in my Graduate Childhood Education program were doing their ePortfolio in one semester during their capstone course and a lot of them were also doing their student teaching, so it is very intense, hard work. Therefore to learn that our candidates are getting so much out of ePortfolio work, in terms of becoming a teacher or school leader, reinforces the value-added ePortfolio pedagogy we continue to strive for.”

We also looked at several correlations and what emerged was that students understood that their ePortfolio could be very useful in very different ways in their education.

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We saw was that many of the items mildly correlated (and no negative correlations). But what we looked at were very strong correlations, which is a .8 or over. The items associated with perceptions about constructing ePortfolio correlated very strongly as well as the items associated with sharing the ePortfolios beyond the classroom.

Emerging Categories:

1) Usefulness of ePortfolio in the Learning Process

  • The use of ePortfolio in the course helped me to better examine my process of learning
  • The use of ePortfolio in the course helped me to make connections between ideas
  • The use of ePortfolio in the course helped me to think more deeply about the course content

2) Usefulness in the Recognition and Development of a Professional Identity

  • Through the use of ePortfolio, I feel that I have been able to develop a professional identity
  • Constructing my ePortfolio led to me becoming a better teacher/school leader/counselor

3) Value the use of ePortfolio

  • I would recommend to other students to use ePortfolio
  • I hope my other professors decide to use ePortfolio

Next Step and Questions to Drive Us Forward:

What other learning experiences did the students identify as beneficial in the process of creating an ePortfolio? We hope to examine the free responses to the survey questions using a qualitative data analysis software (i.e. NVivo). This will help other categories and relationships emerge and we can see how students are writing about operationalizing their thinking and what they are doing with ePortfolio.

What kinds of conditions might differentiate among the ways that ePortfolios are implemented? ePortfolio might be at the crossroad of professional engagement — a third space. For example, what are the connections between ePortfolios and blended learning? We are considering ePortfolios emerging as some kind of a third space to think of for teaching and learning.

And of course we will continue to consider:

What makes a good teacher and school building leader? What is the connection between teacher effectiveness and student achievement?

What type of pedagogy should we be integrating into teaching and learning?

About the survey:
We administered the survey with the purpose of exploring the structure and meaning of the students’ perceptions of their work with ePortfolio. There were 16 items and the items were constructed along various points. Some of the survey design and questions came from Connect to Learning, and some came from Leslie Lieman’s work culling online sources and materials. We came up with 16 items and organized it with a Likert scale from Strongly Agree to Strongly Disagree and we also had a Not Applicable scale. The 16 items were generally exploratory, but there were 3 descriptive items: The first one was about perceptions about constructing an ePortfolio, which boiled down to making connections through learning experiences; the second was perceptions about experiencing instruction that incorporate ePortfolio, so engaging within and with ePortfolio pedagogy; and the third was descriptions about sharing ePortfolio beyond the classroom intentions, to share outcomes of learning and development and what their perceptions were about those issues.

The context:
The survey was administered to three different programs, Childhood Education, Science Education and Educational Leadership. Childhood Ed and Science Ed implemented ePortfolios in the last two semesters of their program, so capstone courses vs. Ed Leadership who began their ePortfolios as soon as students entered the program (a program portfolio). So overall experiences were slightly different. We had 132 students across all three programs that responded.

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