Reflecting on Asking Students to Reflect What i've learned over two years of collecting student eportfolios

Here is a picture of Dr. Rocco since Gus had one too.

Why I started asking students to create portfolios. About two years ago, my department launched a program called the Global Learning Medallion, which encourages students to participate in courses, internships, events & activities, clubs, and research related to international and intercultural understanding. Of course, in addition to having these experiences, it is important in the educational setting for the students to be able to think about what they have learned and what skills they have gained along the way. I knew I wanted to implement one comprehensive reflection at the end of the experience instead of smaller reflections after each experience. Even though some literature would support that reflections along the way would provide a better learning experience, our program already asks students to do A LOT, and because it is completely voluntary, it is important for us to make it enjoyable rather than overwhelming. Also, I am one full time employee doing many things, and I realistically knew that I would not be able to read reflections coming in nearly every week from several hundred students. I was originally going to ask for a reflection essay, but a colleague from another college suggested the idea of an ePortfolio, and I was immediately sold!

How I created initial instructions for portfolios. The initial selling point for using an online ePortfolio was threefold: students can practice the technological skill of designing a basic Web page, have something that can be available to potential employers and graduate schools, while processing what they learned through reflection. The instructions I drafted asked students to provide specific types of artifacts (essays from class, photos from study abroad, etc) and to address certain questions about skills they have gained and how they plan to use their global perspective after graduation. The list of things that I would want to see on the eportoflio were provided as a simple bullet point list.

My initial inspiration for asking our students to do ePortfolios came from the Santa Fe College international certificate program. This is their ePortfolio instruction page from which inspiration for mine was drawn.

How I assess portfolios and the problems I've encountered. In the initial semesters, students were asked to email me the link to their eportfolio prior to the end of the semester. I created a two-column table in Word that had each instruction I provided to them on the left side and a blank column in the right side for me to indicate whether that particular element was satisfactorily fulfilled or if I thought something was missing. It was immediately obvious that students were great at providing artifacts but intentionally or not were completely avoiding any reflection. Also, I made the what should have been obvious mistake of not giving the students a deadline for turning in the link. Thus, I did not have adequate time to review the initial batch prior to graduation, and the work I received was rushed from students starting and finishing them all during finals week. There were also some ePortfolios that were appropriate for employers and some that were not, so I had to figure out what to do about that.

How I revised the instructions and process for portfolios. Based on the ePortfolios I received after the first two semesters of running this program, I decided to separate the instructions related to the "portfolio" (collection of documents) half of what I was looking for, and the "reflection" half. The initial list of bullet point requirements was replaced with a step by step guide for creating the ePortfolio, where the objectives and instructions for documenting their experience and reflecting on it were separated. The title of the page was also changed from "ePortfolio" to "ePortfolio & Reflection." I also now ask for all ePortfolios three weeks in advance, and ask students to decide if they will be shown to employers (though this is not mandatory)

This is what the ePortfolio page I manage currently looks like. Students are walked through exactly what I expect in steps, and the page explains the purpose of each element and provides a framework for the choices the students have to make for how their ePortfolio should look and what it should contain so they are ultimately in control of their own final product even though they are following my own framework.
The instructions I provide to students who are asked to create an ePortfolio for my work program now emphasize that the reflection component is equally as important as the collection of artifacts.

What's going well? I am very happy with the overall experience of asking my students to complete ePortfolios before graduation. While I am disappointed by some even though they technically meet the minimum requirements, I find that many students put a great deal of thought and creative effort into their pages

Created By
Eric Feldman
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Created with images by Sheila in Moonducks - "reflections"

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