ePortfolios Across the Disciplines

Published December 31, 2023

Guest editors: Christopher Basgier, Auburn University; Helen L. Chen, Stanford University; and Amy Cicchino, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University

This special issue’s unique contribution to both WAC and ePortfolio scholarship illustrates specific implementations of ePortfolios within unique disciplinary and professional configurations. Our contributors’ research extends our understanding of the potential for ePortfolio curriculum and pedagogy to support disciplinary learning, enrich students’ professional identities and personal wellbeing, and practice meaningful assessment. In all cases, the articles in this issue provide theoretical justification and empirical verification of the unique affordances and limitations of discipline-specific ePortfolio implementations. They also give us insight into ePortfolio practices happening across disciplinary and local contexts and identify the joys and challenges of sustaining an ePortfolio program long-term.


ePortfolios Across the Disciplines: Introduction
Christopher Basgier, Helen L. Chen, & Amy Cicchino
DOI: 10.37514/ATD-J.2023.20.3-4.01

Using ePortfolios to Help Students Reframe, Reflect, and Integrate Their Learning
Annemarie Galeucia, Boz Bowles, Jennifer Baumgartner, & Rebecca Burdette
DOI: 10.37514/ATD-J.2023.20.3-4.02

One of the many initiatives within Louisiana State University’s (LSU) holistic Communication across the Curriculum program is the LSU Distinguished Communicator (DC) Medal program. Implemented in 2005, the program encompasses communication experiences including mentoring, in-depth training in communication in their coursework, and practice of communication in leadership positions. Finally, students who earn the medal complete the DC ePortfolio as a summative, multimodal demonstration of their ability to effectively communicate who they are, what they are capable of, and how their experiences inside and outside the classroom are relevant to their post-graduation goals. To help students reflect, frame, and integrate their disciplinary learning with intention, DC candidates complete a series of exercises fostering metacognition, audience analysis, and inquiry about effective modes and technologies given their goals and related context. In this study, we explore development of the DC ePortfolio process over an eighteen-year period, focusing on three reflective questions inspired by our programmatic goals: How might the changes in the program over time increase focus on higher-order concerns? How do the changes support a student-centered practice? How does the DC ePortfolio process, both then and now, facilitate integrative reflection that will instigate transferable skills? As we continued to dive into this work, another question arose that speaks to the role of ePortfolios at a broader institutional level: how has our history of administering an ePortfolio program reflected our increasing understanding of the challenges and opportunities that emerge when balancing small-scale program-level learning goals with institution-wide large-scale metrics for learning? We submit that the DC ePortfolio process in its current iteration is a highly effective, small-in-scale model that positions students to combine reflective practices, classic approaches to audience analysis, and opportunities for extreme customization that multimodal technologies allow. This, in turn, supports students as they foster self-efficacy and develop a narrative that is not bound to templated or academic standards, but to customized goals and contexts that are constantly evolving in a dynamic world.

The Value of Purposeful Design: A Case Study of an ePortfolio Reflective Prompt
Kathleen Blake Yancey
DOI: 10.37514/ATD-J.2023.20.3-4.03

What kinds of questions guide ePortfolio-based reflections that are meaningful, and what kinds of meaning do students make in response to such questions? These questions directed our work in designing a new reflective prompt for an internship ePortfolio completed by students in the Editing, Writing, and Media major at Florida State University. As detailed below, we decided on five progressively oriented questions keyed to time and space. Most obviously, the five questions asked students to address three periods of time; rather than concentrate exclusively on what students were learning in the moment of the internship, the questions directed students’ attention to past, present, and future learning. In addition, the questions asked students to consider the learning taking place in three spaces: learning occurring in prior and current coursework; learning experienced in the internship itself; and learning taking place in the spaces between both. Taken together, these dually focused questions constitute a reflective frame, a heuristic intended to tap students’ prior and current knowledge, understanding, and practice as it guides them toward describing and making meaning from their internship experiences. This reflective frame, then, is keyed not to predetermined outcomes, but to the learning that students experience in the internship, to a consideration of that learning in the context of school-based learning, and to an articulation of what that learning means for their futures. Moreover, a content analysis of a set of ten ePortfolio reflective texts responding to this reflective frame demonstrates how it promotes meaningfulness, in three ways: by asking authentic questions that only students can answer; by presenting the questions in a progressive sequence moving from more focused considerations to larger, more open-ended ones; and by identifying the parameters governing the reflective texts. In sum, this reflective frame, intentionally located in the two dimensions of time and sites of learning, is defined by features necessary for reflective questions seeking to elicit meaningful student responses keyed to learning.

A Six-Year Retrospective of ePortfolio Implementation: Discovering Inclusion through Student Voice and Choice
Mark Urtel, Stephen M. Fallowfield, Lisa Angermeier, & Rachel Swinford
DOI: 10.37514/ATD-J.2023.20.3-4.04

Designing then implementing ePortfolios as a High Impact Practice (HIP) (Watson et al., 2016) across an academic program in kinesiology presents many opportunities and challenges. The authors document their six-year journey and ensuing lessons along the way, as they strive to uncover and enact best practices for department-wide implementation. After a first attempt implementing the ePortfolio when they realized their efforts fell short, this faculty team immersed themselves in comprehensive professional development and worked together with students to recast how each knew and understood an ePortfolio. To achieve the newly crafted outcomes of an ePortfolio project, the authors found that promoting student voice and choice is essential to fostering student engagement and inclusivity. Informed by findings of a mixed methods study, the faculty team hopes to provide a meaningful perspective that supports faculty exploration within ePortfolios and offer guidance to be sure students are partners in this journey.

Content Analysis of Nursing Students’ ePortfolio Reflections and Navigational Design Choices: A Qualitative Study
Jennifer Gennaco & Debra Kramlich
DOI: 10.37514/ATD-J.2023.20.3-4.05

Nursing students are required to demonstrate achievement of specific outcomes for program completion and approval for licensure. Mastery of clinical content is typically established through faculty-developed and standardized exams, which do not provide sufficient evidence of student acquisition of requisite knowledge and behaviors for professional practice (i.e., effective communication and clinical judgment). To encourage reflective practice and provide a sharable digital showcase, the School of Nursing and Population Health at the University of New England incorporated ePortfolios. Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) and Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) students receive ePortfolio parallel instruction in their programs. We anticipated that ePortfolio reflective practice would encourage students’ self-evaluation and stronger awareness of their emerging professional identity. Since ABSN students have completed prior undergraduate degrees and may have work experience, we imagined they would reach a deeper level of reflection on their learning than the traditional BSNs. Analysis of four graduated classes demonstrated this was not the case, finding more similarities than differences in their reflective practice and ePortfolio content curation. Students constructed their ePortfolios to include some skills across nursing courses, regularly adding content and improving their reflective practice to demonstrate their learning, but neither BSN nor ABSN students incorporated their prior experiences or non-Nursing course work to demonstrate a skills transfer. Student ePortfolios provided more than just a digital repository, but students were not independent ePortfolio makers yet. Our study does not indicate that our fledgling program is integrative but provides a foundation as we aspire to high-impact ePortfolio practice.

ePortfolio Composition: Fostering a Pedagogy of Well-Being
Bre Garrett, Kylie Pugh, & Amanda B. Wallace
DOI: 10.37514/ATD-J.2023.20.3-4.06

This article proposes a pedagogy of well-being derived from the design of a high-impact practice (HIP) ePortfolio assignment. Research findings from a two-year pilot study revealed a recurrent trend that raised attention to the socio-psychological dimension that ePortfolios have on student learning and development. Teaching and researching during the COVID-19 pandemic served as a catalyst in this study. Moving forward from our pilot study (2020-2022), we (re)designed ePortfolio pedagogies to better address student well-being. Our research crystallized a realization that ePortfolio spaces bridge the personal, the academic, and the outward-facing, and due to their reflective nature, can open opportunities for self-observation, or making sense of experience in practical ways, and can even offer healing opportunities, resulting in a sense of catharsis for some students. We argue that the making of ePortfolios fosters well-being by asking writers to risk a new, tangible form of investigation that encourages radical reinventions of self. We dismantle the artificial binary that stigmatizes well-being as too personal and private for classroom inclusion. Our programmatic research advances dialogue about how ePortfolios repurpose authentic assessment of student learning over time.

ePortfolios to Promote Equity, Engaged Learning, and Professional Identity Development in STEM
Theresa Conefrey & Davida S. Smyth
DOI: 10.37514/ATD-J.2023.20.3-4.07

ePortfolios are considered the eleventh high-impact practice (HIP) by the AAC&U (now the American Association of Colleges and Universities). They have been widely implemented in the humanities but remain underutilized in STEM fields. The benefits of engaged learning, metacognitive awareness, and professional identity development in those programs that use them suggest that students who are not exposed to them are missing out on a valuable pedagogical practice. Participating in multiple HIPs, and even combining them, has been shown to benefit students, particularly those who are first-generation, low-income, minority, and members of other traditionally underrepresented student populations likely to switch out of STEM into other disciplines and whose college attrition rates are higher. We demonstrate the affordances of ePortfolios for promoting equity, engaged learning and professional identity development in STEM. Drawing on published research, our own and others, we show how ePortfolios in the context of inclusive teaching practices can ameliorate some of the causes of attrition or lack of engagement of underrepresented minorities in STEM fields. We conclude with a research agenda to encourage further study into the potential affordances of ePortfolios for promoting engaged learning and professional identity development in STEM.

Science Communication across Disciplines: Reflecting on STEM Identity Building through Notation in Science Communication ePortfolios
Christine Alfano, Emily Polk, & Jennifer Stonaker
DOI: 10.37514/ATD-J.2023.20.3-4.08

The Notation in Science Communication (NSC) provides students an opportunity to develop their abilities to effectively communicate technical information to varied audiences using multiple genres and modes. A total of 115 students have earned the NSC as of May 2023. Currently there are just over 100 students in the program, with between 40–50 new students admitted each year. The NSC is similar to a minor that culminates with the development of an ePortfolio capstone. In this article, we focus on the process of creating an NSC ePortfolio and on the scaffolding practices that we have integrated into our pedagogy. We analyze 44 student ePortfolios, feedback from student alumni, and an NSC student conference presentation. Three themes emerge: a) student ePortfolios articulate an increased understanding of multiple identities, and students explore how these identities make them more effective science communicators; b) students demonstrate evidence of growth and learning about science communication; and finally, c) they share their capacity for using science communication to be engaged citizens in their local and global communities. We argue that students graduate from our program with both a deeper understanding of the importance of science communication in responding to the pressing issues facing our world today, and also with a fundamental recognition of their place in the world as effective science communicators.

High-Impact Practices and Third Spaces: Connecting across Disciplines
Morgan Gresham, Megan Mize, & Sarah Zurhellen
DOI: 10.37514/ATD-J.2023.20.3-4.09

In this article, we explore how members of the Association for Authentic, Experiential, and Evidence-Based Learning’s (AAEEBL) Digital Ethics Task Force used their third space discursive expertise to conceptualize Principles for Digital Ethics in ePortfolios and argue that the diversity of their roles is directly responsible for the successful development of the principles. We address how their liminality enabled them to think transdisciplinarily to develop principles aimed at broad application across learning institutions, where a focus on digital ethics in ePortfolio initiatives can often be discipline-specific. Furthermore, we consider how the Task Force’s work reflects the high-impact framework, providing a model of an academic discourse community whose success stems from an ethos of collaboration while suggesting that it is impossible to do high-impact work in a silo. Ultimately, we demonstrate the necessity of third space practitioners and communities for effective implementation of high-impact practices in local contexts.