The authors of this piece outline the process of moving from print-based portfolios to eportfolios on their campus at the University of Washington. The premise of their article is that accounts like these are commonplace in the field. But what is missing from these accounts are “the conditions that contributed to success” in developing best practices. The conditions that they discuss include:
- access to technology in specific classrooms
- ideological congruence between the new and the old –> in this case, a process oriented department (as opposed to a post-process department, a cultural studies department, a nonfiction writing department, etc.)
- staff and resource support for implementing the new incentive program
Through the chapter, the authors offer a chronology of their process of discovering and attending to these conditions during a pilot period in 2005/2006, and an implementation period in 2006/2007. Generally, their pilot and main studies suggest that students and instructors favorably adopted the ePortfolio system, and they discovered some of the benefits authors like Yancey (2004) discuss in reference to eportfolios, an opportunity to remediate the printed word to create different kinds of reading experiences. Likewise, they also found that eportfolios invited more reflection for both students and teachers. Students reflections totaled at 1600 more words across the portfolios sampled. And per Brad Peters and Julie Robertson’s (2007) study of WAC portfolio partnerships, the University of Washington faculty found that eportfolios fostered a culture of assessment “where reflection becomes the dominant mode of uniting faculty practice and theory” (p. 208). While these findings are compelling and give valid reason for adopting portfolios, the crux of their study was that best practices for teaching portfolios did not accompany the new technology incentive. Many of their practices were responses to lessons learned about what they need to do and what they need to do better.
- They need a way to account for the visual aspects of portfolios in the rubric –> many instructors reported telling students that the visual aspects of the portfolio are not significant b/c the portfolio’s visual rhetoric is not accounted for on the rubric
- They began to instruct students on the portfolio throughout the semester instead of in the last 1-2 weeks of class, because students confronted technical errors where there was little support for addressing those errors
- They end their chapter with a note about a change in ownership in the company that they bought their enterprise solution from, so they planned to address that concern in 2009/2010
This article reiterates an idea we have often expressed when looking at the implementation of new assessment technologies. A new technology does not carry a set of best practices with it. There must be trial, error, reflection, and response. And administration must be ready to hear issues and respond to them.