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Claims to test and arguments to reflect on:

“An ePortfolio isn’t a place or a thing;
it’s a practice”

As a selected body of plural performances narrated by the writer in a reflective text and located at a particular point in time, portfolios seemed (and still seem) a representation preferable to incremental measures that seem, by contrast, to represent our successes as teachers at least as much as a student’s successes as a writer. — Kathleen Yancey, “Postmodernism, Palimpsest, and Portfolios: Theoretical Issues in the Representation of Student Work.” CCC 55:4 / June 2004.

The student writing portfolio.  A cornerstone of our pedagogy, the student writing portfolio provides the opportunity for students to demonstrate the degree to which they have achieved both the program’s learning outcomes and their own writing goals. Writing portfolios are required of every student in every FYW course and necessitate that students keep track of their work (collection), take responsibility for selecting pieces of their writing that represent their achievements (selection), and reflect on their own work in the course (reflection).  In this way, students are accountable for their choices;  they must consider what they have and haven’t learned; and they must take stock of their role in this learning. Handbook for First-Year Writing Faculty (3).

A series of generative questions posed by Darren Cambridge, concluding his chapter on “Composing the Ethics of Authenticity”:

  • To what extent does the cultural ideal of authenticity underlie your understanding of learning and education? Does it inform the understanding of identity held by the learners with whom you work? If authenticity is not central, then what alternative understandings of identity and personal development stand in its place, and what are their implications for how you use eportfolios?
  • How might your eportfolio model better support creative expression of learners’ identities? How do learners develop a sense of ownership over their eportfolios?
  • What role might multimedia evidence and visual design play?
  • How can you ensure that evaluation procedures are fair to everyone being evaluated without excluding consideration of individual values, experiences, and relationships that are integral to fully understanding learning and performance?
  • How might you help learners articulate their identity and development in their eportfolios in dialogue with shared interpretive standards? How well do the standards you use support interpretation in light of individual values, experiences, and relationships? Could they be adapted or framed so that they do so more effectively?

Cambridge, Darren. Eportfolios for Lifelong Learning and Assessment. Jossey-Bass,

“Students are responsible for telling their own stories of learning: for explaining what they did and did not learn, for assessing their own strengths and weaknesses as learners, for evaluating their products and performances, for showing how that learning connects with other kinds of learning (in the classroom and without), and for using the review of the past to think about paths for future learning (2001; 19).

Yancey, Kathleen Blake. “Digitized Student Portfolios.” In Barbara Cambridge (Ed.), Electronic Portfolios: Emerging Practices in Student, Faculty, and Institutional Learning. Washington, DC: American Association for Higher Education, 2001: 15-30.

“Portfolios encourage students to reconsider and narrativize their learning experience by engaging in what Yancey (1998) calls ‘reflection-in-action,’ a reiterative process of looking back to previous performance and looking forward to goals, and by writing reflective accounts of their learning (p. 13).”

Miles, Kimball. “Database E-portfolio Systems: A Critical Appraisal.” Computers &
22 (2006): 434-458.

“E-portfolios provide rich opportunities for metacognition through periodic (and often required) reflections which may help students develop an array of outcomes and skills. Reflection on work saved in e-portfolios can

  • build learners’ personal and academic identities as they complete complex projects and reflect on their capabilities and progress,
  • facilitate the integration of learning as students connect learning across courses and time,
  • be focused on developing self-assessment abilities in which students judge the quality of work using the same criteria experts use,
  • help students plan their own academic pathways as they come to understand what they know and are able to do and what they still need to learn”

Miller. Ross and Wende Morgaine. “The Benefits of E-portfolios for Students and Faculty in Their Own Words.” Peer Review. 1(2009).

Principle #5: Reflection and E-portfolio Pedagogy

Students create “reflective artifacts” in which they identify and evaluate the different kinds of learning that their e-portfolios represent. In particular, students may explain how various forms of instructive feedback (from faculty, Writing Centers, peers, and other readers) have influenced the composition and revision of their various e-portfolio artifacts, making teaching methods and learning contexts more transparent to their readers.

Supportive best practices:

Composition Faculty:

  • Teach students different formats and forms that facilitate reflection on their learning at various stages of drafting and web-design (e.g., reflective cover letters that introduce and link readers to various artifacts; concept maps)
  • Teach students that ongoing, rigorous reflection is a crucial part of the process of creating e-portfolios that are dynamic, not static websites
  • Provide opportunities for students to give each other feedback on e-portfolio artifacts, including reflective artifacts
  • Give students clear, constructive feedback that encourages revision and offers technological tips for improvement
  • Encourage students to consult with Writing Center tutors or other institutional support services
  • Collaborate regularly with other faculty, technology staff, and program directors to share the most effective ways to provide feedback and teach reflection

Writing Program Directors:

  • Acquaint faculty with exemplary e-portfolio formats and forms that show how students can effectively link reflective artifacts with their selected written work (e.g., cover letters, concept maps)
  • Collaborate with teachers to craft effective writing prompts that lead to intellectually rigorous reflective thinking
  • Give faculty feedback on their own e-portfolios and encourage them to incorporate it in their annual self-evaluations

Technology staff:

  • Keep program directors and faculty aware of new technologies that have potential for creating reflective artifacts
  • Coordinate closely with writing program directors and faculty to develop electronic formats that can help track or display the “feedback loop” between writers and responders/evaluators

University Administrators:

  • Understand reflection as a critical thinking skill that reinforces student learning outcomes and yields valuable insights about programmatic effectiveness
  • Oversee campus events that introduce or advance knowledge about reflection and e-portfolio pedagogy (e.g., invite national speakers, sponsor regional conferences)

CCCC: Principles and Practices in Electronic Portfolios

Jeff Yan, presentation slide, IMS Conference, Penn State, 2008

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