As Ferris Bueller famously said, ‘Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.’ The same can be said for students, who are often too busy with various other school and social-related activities to spend time reflecting on what they’ve learned, or even their own learning process. A fantastic way to help with both areas is by having them build an ePortfolio. When combined with strategic self-reflection, an ePortfolio becomes a powerful instructional tool that extends far beyond a visual resume.
3 Fundamentals to Embrace
1 – Evidence. When a school is scouting an athlete, they don’t want the gamebook that shows how many points and assists the player made. No, they want to see the highlight reel that shows the athlete’s best work in action. That’s what an ePortfolio does for students. They collect artifacts such as research papers, videos, and presentations that pertain to classes, extracurricular activities, and even volunteer and work experiences and then write reflections on those items. Doing so helps them to focus their thinking about their learning and learning accomplishments. Combining artifacts and reflection gives students evidence to share with an audience (i.e., teachers, employers, admissions counselors) that shows their knowledge and expertise.
2 – Presentation. What artifacts and reflections are included in a student’s ePortfolio should be carefully considered using deep self-reflection, engagement, and consideration of visual communication skills. Each student needs to judiciously decide what argument he or she is trying to make, the expectations of the audience viewing the ePortfolio, and the collective and individual meaning of her artifacts and reflections. Design, appearance, and the order of the artifacts will play an important part in shaping their meaning. Another perspective to consider: whether to show only the best work or to represent the arc of learning over time.
3 – Variation. Circling back to our athlete analogy, each school is looking for something different, so the highlight reel should reflect that. For example, if a school is known for their defense, the athlete needs to make sure the reel shows dominance in that area. Whereas, if the school prides itself more on its offensive strategy, the highlight reel should show that aspect. The same holds true for students and their ePortfolios. What a grad school admission committee wants to see could vary greatly from what a potential employer wants. So, students need to learn how to design multiple versions of their ePortfolio for various audiences and purposes. You can get the ball rolling by setting up workshops where students can practice creating different ePortfolios, which will help them get comfortable reflecting on what they’ve learned and give them the confidence to show and share.
Success Takes Time
None of this happens overnight. There must be a buy-in on all levels (school board, teachers, and students) to make ePortfolios an effective educational tool. Expect learning curves. Make sure the platform you have picked offers you the best functionality and supports for your needs. Portfolium offers unlimited storage and access, plus its all-in-one toolset aids institutional and educator requirements to demonstrate learning, highlight and reflect on skills, and provides actionable insights to support program development and curricular improvement.
Share in the comments how your school is using ePortfolios for students’ self-reflection.
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