Faculty Inquiry Group: Touchstones, Keystones, and Capstones

Faculty Inquiry Group: Touchstones, Keystones, and Capstones

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Screen Shot 2013-12-06 at 2.26.54 PM Summary: The ePortfolio Development Network (ePDN) is a year-long faculty inquiry group that spends one week together in the summer and meets periodically throughout the school year.  The purpose for this year’s cohort was to include programs and departments that had existing portfolio integration and were interested in advancing the growth and use of ePortfolio within their programs.  Over the course of one week, there were opportunities to deeply consider effective approaches to ePortfolio for teaching and learning, including electronic portfolio as a catalyst for change.  By the end of the one-week summer workshop, faculty created plans for the continued use and development of ePortfolios for their programs and/or departments.

Author: Teggin Summers and Marc Zaldivar

Description

Part I: Overview and Setting

This past summer, we held what we consider to be the first in an annual, year-long professional development activity called the ePortfolio Development Network.  The group meets for a week during the summer and then comes back together for 2-3 follow-up meetings each semester.  Faculty are paid a small stipend for participating.  This year we had five different programs/departments from around campus participate with 1-3 people in each group.  The theme this year is Touchstones, Keystones, and Capstone.  This inquiry project includes faculty interested in utilizing ePortfolios beyond their initial implementations, in upper-level and keystone or capstone courses.

The proposed theme for the first faculty inquiry group is Touchstones, Keystones, and Capstones.  This theme is important for a variety of reasons.  The ePortfolio Initiatives have seen exponential growth in ePortfolio use across the university since its initial implementation between 2006-2008.  During this time, we have grown from a handful of pilot projects to 100+ projects, in every College across campus, including academic support units, with over 10,000+ students and faculty involved in ePortfolio activities.  This expansion is encouraging; however, we believe we can increase growth by thinking through ways in which ePortfolios can be used programmatically, across departments and Colleges.  This notion of programmatic growth is connected to this year’s theme.  This inquiry project would include faculty interested in utilizing ePortfolios beyond their initial implementations, in upper-level and keystone or capstone courses.  Faculty will create touchstones, places where students can see continued use of ePortfolios.  This will help to develop a framework wherein ePortfolios can be used throughout a program: not just within isolated instances.  We have worked with several groups who have a desire to use ePortfolios throughout their program or department but just are not sure where to begin or how to conceptualize such a large endeavor.  This year-long, reflective, experiential inquiry group would tackle these hard questions and provide support to the faculty engaged in this process.

Part II: Practice Step-by-Step

We have not yet completed the first cycle of this ePortfolio Development Network, but we did complete the one-week, semi-intensive summer workshop, and we have had one follow-up meeting with our participating faculty.  This section will outline the activities from our one-week workshop, as well as how we plan to continue long-term development.

It should be noted that our purpose and the idea for agenda with this group evolved over time.  Initially we wanted to meet with this group of faculty and ask them to create a rubric for various outcomes, such as engagement and integration, and then we wanted them to evaluate various ePortfolios based on their created rubric.  As we discussed our plans for the group, however, we changed our minds and the ePortfolio Development Network began to form.  We ultimately decided that we wanted to create many opportunities for faculty to engage in dialogue with each other and to collaborate and share ideas for their program development.  We wanted to encourage them to view ePortfolios as “catalysts for change” within their own departments and programs and to think through what that might look for each of them in terms of their own curricula.  We also moved from planning to have a one-week workshop to wanting to continue our discussions long-term and provide support for each other throughout the school year.  We knew that for our summer workshop, we wanted to meet with our faculty for 5 days, but we also knew that we wanted to give them space to think outside of the group meetings, so we planned an agenda that is similar to what is listed below:

Screen Shot 2013-12-06 at 3.23.11 PM

ePortfolio Development Network Calendar

We set up a WordPress blog (private) for the group and made them each editors of the blog.  We created pages in the blog with resources for the group, and we used the blog feature for them to reflect throughout the week.

Monday:

  • We had participants write on large post-it pieces of paper about their various purposes and goals for ePortfolio, as well as challenges they were facing
  • We also addressed questions and concerns regarding technology and talked about multimodal ways of participating in folio thinking
  • We ended the day with a reflection prompt for them to discuss in their own WordPress blogs.

Tuesday:

  • We started the day with a simple scavenger hunt, which we called Digitectives (inspired by one of the C2L campuses)
  • We did a presentation about the ways in which ePortfolios can act as catalysts for change, grounded in much of our C2L discussions.
  • We presented about ways in which to further advance their uses of ePs within their own curriculum
  • And we then included time for group discussion.

Wednesday:

  • We opened the day with everyone’s favorite subject: assessment 🙂 and that fed into larger discussions about each program/department’s specific assessment needs.
  • We also spent time discussing how we wanted them to spend time on Thursday creating an action plan for their use of ePortfolio within their curriculum.  For all but one of the groups, this was a continuation of how they are currently using ePortfolios.  Each of the groups, though, really did push themselves to advance their use of eP.

Thursday:

  • Work at home day

Friday (half-day):

  • We opened this day with a reflection on everything they had discussed throughout the week.
  • Groups did reports of their curriculum planning.

Part III: The Role of Inquiry, Reflection, and Integration:

  • Inquiry
    • Faculty engaged in inquiry as they examined their existing uses of ePortfolios, as well as how they would want further integrate them into their curriculum moving forward.  They examined their goals and what was currently working in their classrooms, as well as what they might need to change in order to better meet their goals.  There was a strong emphasis on student learning and student learning experiences.  One thing we could all agree on what that each person there deeply cared about the students and their learning experiences.  Faculty were also extremely helpful in helping each other raise questions and explore issues.  As our ePortfolio leadership team was planning this experience, we really wanted to leave plenty of space for faculty to talk to each other about their teaching practices and to share ideas and problem solve together, and I think that’s exactly what ended up happening.  A semester later, they are still collaborating and helping each other work through various issues.
  • Reflection
    • As good ePortfolio pedagogues, we wanted to incorporate reflection into our activities, and our faculty did an excellent job of putting some time and energy into answering the reflective prompts.  It was nice to see faculty including images, hyperlinks, and even embedding powerpoints into their reflections.  The ePortfolio leadership team also reflected in the blog throughout the experience, and I think it made the workshop much more effective to build in that time to think through the learning and come to some larger syntheses of the experiences.
  • Integration
    • This particular workshop really helped faculty integrate ePortfolio more fully into their curriculum, and I think, for some of them, they were also able to see how eP can help them create more integrative learning experiences for their students.  In addition to thinking through ways ePortfolio can facilitate integration, we also saw that some of our faculty were transferring skills from our workshop into other areas of their professional development and scholarship.  For example, one faculty member had to present a report about his program to a larger board of directors, and he chose to create his report as an ePortfolio.  It was dynamic and reflective and authentic.  He also shared this portfolio with the ePDN group.  The ePDN workshop and collaborative group clearly had a positive impact for him, and the fact that he shared this back with the group provides the potential to positively impact additional group members as well.

Evidence of Impact

We really have not collected a lot of specific evidence, since we are still in the early stages of the first cohort.  We will continue to think about how best to go about gathering evidence of impact, though.  We can say that we are seeing a lot of positive development coming out of our first cohort of five programs/departments.

Connections to Other Sectors of the Catalyst

Pedagogy

For this activity, we were using inquiry, reflection, and integration to support those very qualities in technology-enhanced teaching and learning.  We certainly drew on our work with the C2L community as we planned for our ePDN summer workshop.  We specifically thought about the intensive and purposeful role of reflection, and we modeled some of our discussion groups after things we have seen other C2L campuses do.  We absolutely borrowed the idea of the ePortfolio scavenger hunt, as well as the larger theme of ePortfolios as a catalyst for change.  I think we definitely were inspired by the work of the C2L and are thinking of ways we can model a lot of those activities on our own campus.

Scaling Up

This activity will be helpful in terms of scaling up, because I think it really is the next logical step in terms of our university’s adoption and use of ePortfolio.  We have a very large number of groups who have used ePortfolio for one purpose, but the next step for engagement, adoption, and growth is the ability to really implement ePortfolio into the larger curriculum, and that is one of the significant purposes of the ePDN.

Outcomes Assessment

This practice is only related to outcomes assessment insomuch as some of the programs/departments either currently use or are planning to use ePortfolio for outcomes assessment.  For the groups that are using eP for outcomes assessment, they are using it either for professional accreditation or for programmatic continuous improvement.  In some cases, results from eP assessment has spurred changes to the program and/or assignments.

Technology

The technology is not very prohibitive.  Rather, faculty are finding that they just need to experiment a bit with a variety of technologies and platforms to find the ones that best meet their goals and needs.  The biggest challenge comes when faculty need to do outcomes assessment and that need ends up partly dictating their technology choices.  Another challenge would be that it can be hard for faculty to find the technology that does everything they want it to do.  That is something that we work with on a fairly regular basis, though, and faculty usually end up finding platforms and systems that work for them.

Attachments and Supporting Documents

Part I: Discussion prompts, Professional Development Assignments, etc.

Below is a list of the reflection prompts we gave our participants each day of our summer workshop

Monday:

  1. What is the value of an ePortfolio?
  2. Of the topics we discussed in the morning, which of them am I the most interested in?  Which is the one I feel most uncomfortable with?  In what other areas do I face challenges?
  3.  What role does technology play in my teaching and/or my student’s learning?

Tuesday:

  1. How could some of those action steps affect my students’ learning?

Wednesday:

  1. What is the relationship of assessment to my ePortfolio efforts?
  2. What other topics am I thinking about?

Thursday:

  1. What is the value of ePortfolio?
  2. What is the best-case scenario?
  3. What is a best-case practice?

Part II: Faculty and Staff work and/or ePortfolio examples

The faculty blogged and contributed to the WordPress site, including submitting detailed plans for the integration of ePortfolio into their upcoming curriculum.  At least one other faculty member created his own ePortfolio that presented a progress report for his program.  However, all of these activities are currently private and cannot be shared.

Part III: Connections to other Polished Practices

This practice mostly just connected with our Professional Development Story.

Conclusion

Of all of the professional development activities we do, this one is certainly one of the most exciting opportunities we offer.  It is a chance to really develop a close community of educators with similar interests and goals, who can learn together and support each other through their teaching and learning processes.  With the one-week summer workshop, we have a chance to spend some focused time, delving into deep ePortfolio-related questions and facilitating a great deal of discussion and collaboration.  Faculty gain much-needed time to consider how they are currently implementing ePortfolios within their curriculum, as well as planning for future growth and development.  Our first year doing the ePDN was very successful, so I can only imagine that will improve as we continue to run the group.  One thing I think I’ve learned is that we do need a bit more revision on how we continue the development throughout the school year.  I think we need to have more purposeful meetings throughout the year and plan them more in advance.

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