Electronic Portfolios: Longitudinal Student Learning and Program Assessment

Argument for E-Portfolios in STEM
Course Examples, Assignments and Rubrics
STREAMS SPIDER Network Program and Mentoring
Assessment and Deep Learning
Hints for Implementation and References
Different Models for Different Purposes

If a department chose to make e-portfolios a central component of student learning in a number of courses distributed across several years of study, students could leverage their e-portfolio as a longitudinal learning tool. Learning portfolios are designed to encourage students to reflect on how their learning in a given term relates to previous learning and career goals. Explicit design by a department to utilize e-portfolios in related courses over several years of study would be a very powerful teaching tool.

A purposeful decision to use e-portfolios in a “typical” sequence of courses (one course in the first year, one in the second, etc.) would allow the creation of assignments where students could explicitly revisit their e-portfolios. Revisiting the e-portfolio in multiple years has tangible benefits to the student:

At Bridgewater, all students take a senior capstone course and a senior level writing course in the major. An e-portfolio approach to either of these courses would be a natural use of Writing-to-Learn and Writing-Across-the-Curriculum best practices.

A departmental decision to use e-portfolios in as few as four classes, strategically placed in along the typical student pathway would enable the department to encourage deep learning that connects key concepts of ideas in the major. Science courses where lab techniques are introduced and then later re-enforced would be good candidates. In lab courses, the e-portfolio could serve as a multiple-year lab journal where students write explanations of lab techniques and methods that could be drawn upon in later courses. In mathematics, computer science, or theoretical courses in physics, students could keep notes, examples of solutions to certain key problems, examples of computer codes or algorithms, etc., to be remembered or studied at a later date.

In addition to the benefits to students, a well-designed longitudinal use of e-portfolios in a series of courses would provide departments with access to meaningful assessment data for program review. The e-portfolio itself could be assessed – is there good evidence that a large number of students mastered a particular departmental learning objective? Is there evidence of student growth in understanding over time? Do student reflections display satisfaction with their learning and the department? Formal rubrics could be applied to the e-portfolios to ferret out useful information that could inform changes in departmental approaches to teaching strategies and content. Further, students could be surveyed about their learning after re-reading or reflecting on their e-portfolios.

Please note that an appropriate IRB proposal should be filed with the local board, and students should be informed that their e-portfolios may be reviewed for departmental review process. This type of assessment is typically viewed as “exempt” institutional research, but a quick discussion with the BSU Office of Assessment would lead to a good IRB protocol.

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