Looking Back – Our Campus Project
The Guttman ePortfolio story, our C2L team, and our work as part of the Connect to Learning Project are, in many ways, unique. We joined Connect to Learning in September 2012 at the project’s mid-point, a year and a half after many of our C2L colleagues. Our joining C2L coincided with the opening of our college and the launching of our ePortfolio initiative. While we have used ePortfolio “at scale” since Day 1, our work and our learning over the past year and a half has deepened our understanding of each of the sectors of the Catalyst Framework and the ways they interconnect and impact each other. As a result of our efforts, there is a strong connection between pedagogy, assessment, and professional development on our campus.
We are proud of all that we have accomplished in building an ePortfolio culture at Guttman. Our work is ongoing as our college continues to grow and develop. Our focus has and continues to be the deepening of ePortfolio pedagogy. We will continue to find ways to engage faculty in ePortfolio pedagogy through professional development. And as we launch our GLO Assessment plan, we ePortfolios will make student learning visible throughout that process. In addition, we just began taking steps to Scale Up across our institution by working with staff and administrators to join the Guttman ePortfolio community.
What We Learned
Connect to Learning has given me a look “into” my pedagogy, scholarship, and individuality. At Guttman, student learning is the centerpiece of our revolutionary and innovative educational model. As a member of the inaugural faculty, I had the unique experience of beginning my introduction into teaching in this model with ePortfolio as one of the pillars of our institutional culture. As a member of the C2L team, I was quickly introduced to ePortfolio as an integrative social and reflective pedagogy. Teaching within the context of our first year experience, I was able to merge the Catalyst Design Principles of Inquiry, Reflection, and Integration into my courses and assignments. One major milestone for my own pedagogy was thinking about how to use ePortfolio as the basis for constructing my Composition 103 course in the Spring 2013 semester. Most notably, my students developed project portfolios that integrated complex research strategies, reflection, and multimedia in lieu of a traditional term paper. This gave them an opportunity to both publicize and actively comment on each other’s work in a recursive manner that enhanced and redesigned the traditional peer review process.
As Guttman has continued to grow, our commitment to student success has fostered unique opportunities for both faculty and students to share in collaborative projects. This semester, I have been working with a student on an undergraduate research project in the multi-user virtual environment, Second Life. My student created a research-centered ePortfolio that he has used to showcase his ethnography in the virtual space. The idea of using ePortfolio as the centerpiece of this project stems from our shared commitment to reflective pedagogy. Guiding my student through reflective prompts, based in Carol Rogers explication of the reflective cycle, has not only deepened his experience as a researcher, this practice has merged ePortfolio pedagogy with undergraduate research in a creative co-curricular experience.
Lastly, my relationship to the C2L network has been a vital element of my growth as an instructor and researcher. Highlighting the importance of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, the network has provided me with valuable feedback on practices and illuminated innovative pathways for success that are transferable on our campus and in my classroom.
Participating in the C2L project has given me a frame through which to reflect on my pedagogy as a teaching of reading, writing and literature. I was new to ePortfolio when Guttman joined the project in fall 2012, so I have approached our campus-wide project from 2 perspectives: How does using ePortfolio advance the learning objectives in my courses? What experiences and support can the ePortfolio team provide to colleagues so they will feel comfortable investigating the value for advancing their learning objectives?
In my first experiences using ePortfolio I thought of it as a means for showcasing (or self-publishing) work. It also seemed to lend itself to peer review activities—students reading each other’s work and commenting—and identity building—students creating “about me” sections to display their interests and goals. Learning about the different ways ePortfolio is used at other campuses in the C2L network has helped me see that there are many other uses: as means to demonstrate mastery of skills required to obtain a professional certification; as place to gathering resources at the beginning of a research project and shaping those materials into a polished piece of writing; and as a platform for collaborating across classes, units or the entire campus.
Since spring 2013, I have used ePortfolio in this last way, as a platform for collaboration, as a leader of working groups planning curriculum for our Summer Bridge program and First Year Experience. We’ve kept notes of discussions in real-time using dedicated ePortfolios and built on those notes to prepare formal reports and curricular revisions and to share our thinking with other stakeholders on campus. Using ePortfolio in this way has both raised the stakes and made our work easier. Since we’re documenting our process through the ePortfolio and not just creating final products, we have been more engaged at each step along the way than we might have been. Having an archive of our thinking at specific moments has made it easier to build on what we’ve already done rather than returning to the same questions over and over again.
Our Work Together
The development of a close-knit, highly motivated, and extraordinarily creative community of practice has been the hallmark of the C2L experience. Guttman’s particular path has been most interesting as part of our collective work. Since we joined the team in the fall of 2012, our campus was not only warmly welcomed to contribute as we rapidly scaled-up, we also developed many of our foundational ePortfolio practices from the successes of our colleagues across the network. Our learning was enhanced by the collaborative feedback, thoughtful commenting, and close revision given to our newly designed practices from faculty, staff, and administrators within our network who had extensive experience working with the multifaceted approaches to ePortfolio pedagogy both within the classroom and at the institutional level.
The Connect to Learning Summer Institute was a place for us to share the successes and challenges of beginning a college with ePortfolio at scale. In our cross-campus small group exchanges, the Guttman team received invaluable feedback regarding the implementation of ePortfolio in the transfer process, methods of integrating portfolio-based learning to the co-curriculum, and effective strategies for outcomes assessment. As a result of this feedback, the team worked with Guttman’s President, Scott Evenbeck, to institute the President’s ePortfolio Taskforce. Comprised of members of the faculty, staff, and administration, the ePortfolio Taskforce is charged with the defining the ePortfolio philosophy for the institution and identifying next steps for helping staff to build their personal and professional portfolios and in what ways the college community sees ePortfolio at the centerpiece of our shared learning. While the C2L network provided us with a community of practice in developing our primary work for the grant initiative, our colleagues nationwide have been instrumental in guiding us through our first and second years as a college by sharing their own practices and providing us with the vital feedback we required to operate with ePortfolio at scale.
Many of the practices we have in place at Guttman were influenced by our C2L colleagues; it has been a privilege to work and learn from them. The connections we have made as part of this network will carry forward beyond the life of this particular grant project.
Looking ahead, the Catalyst site will be instrumental in our work with faculty. The wealth of pedagogical practices will be a source of inspiration and innovation. We will use the site in our professional development work and during our Assessment days. The Outcomes Assessment and Professional Development sectors will help advance our thinking in each of these areas. Catalyst for Learning is a site that will help faculty, staff, and administrators across the college advance their thinking and understanding of the role ePortfolio can play in advancing student success and creating a culture of learning at Guttman. We look forward to sharing the site with our college community.