In this blog post I report on two different uses of e-portfolios (PebblePad) here at Aston University. Both have similar stories to tell, in respect of the methods the academic staff have used to scaffold and support student’s reflective evidence, and their methods of teaching critical reflective writing. Finally we ask the question of how they assess reflective portfolio evidence. I should also direct your attention to five new enlightening JISC produced video case studies on e-Portfolio use across UK HE and FE: http://www.jisc.ac.uk/eportimplement .
Now it’s time for a serious look at the new and improved PebblePad 3– following the recent unveiling by the PebblePad team.
Dr Roy Smith: Combined Honours
At our recent Aston e-Portfolio interest group (ae-pig) meeting we had the pleasure of talking to Dr Roy Smith (former Director of Combined Honours). Dr Smith was invited to talk about his use of e-portfolios for the combined honours cohorts in recent years. Dr Smith has been using PebblePad to allow students to build up evidence of skills and competences beginning in year 02. Students are encouraged and guided (using a template webfolio) to continually reflect upon their experiences. They continually create a body of evidence that displays their development during their undergraduate studies and work placements.
In the initial stages of using PebblePad Dr Smith provided little scaffolding (with Pebblepad), but soon found this to be counter-productive to effective learning and their grasp on the importance of a reflective journal. The lessons he learned echo others adoption of e-portfolios, namely;
- Provide initial support for the students. This ensured they understood the longer term employability benefits of using an e-Portfolio as a “living” document.
- Use simple scaffolding mechanisms to provide a framework for collated evidence, i.e. webfolio. Dr Smith utilised the skills and competences frameworks provide by our careers department for this purpose.
- Promote and provide effective reflective (academic) writing skills. In his case Dr Smith used the work of Dr Jenny Moon , by running writing workshops.
- Use secure gateways to manage large cohort reflective assessments.
- Add weighted assessment grades to both the live journal and the final CV parts.
- Final assessment of the journal ensured that students displayed evidence of higher order thinking skills, by collating and synthesising critical incidents. The critical reflections on their developing skills and competencies would therefore help guide them in their chosen careers.
Dr Smith concluded his talk by commenting upon another portfolio he implemented for an area of lecturing he covers. This is a paper based portfolio, and is extremely successful with the students recording lab experiments and field tests. Fitness for purpose is the key here for “technology” or lack of in this instance. Don’t let the technology dictate the learning and teaching.
Whilst discussing the evasive subject of both teaching and assessing reflective writing, Dr Errol Thompson proffered an alternative method of defining assessment criteria; using the depth, width , and journey framework . This utilises the SOLO taxonomy by Biggs and Collis (1982)
- See also the International Journal of e-Portfolio (volume 2 number 1) which contains papers covering assessment.
Dr Ann Hartley: The Aston Certificate
At our previous ae-pig meeting in November 2011 we invited along Dr Ann Hartley to discuss how she uses and assesses the reflective aspects of student portfolios for the Aston Certificate: An Introduction to Learning and Teaching in Higher Education.
Recently, this programme has adopted the use of PebblePad to enable students to reflect upon their teaching practice, for both continual and final assessment – using a web based platform. Dr Hartley has been involved with the Aston Certificate for quite a while now, and has embraced the potential of continual (developmental) and critical reflection afforded by a web based tool such as PebblePad.