Evidence of Efficacy
The following is a review of some of the peer-reviewed literature that provides evidence of the efficacy of the ePortfolio as a pedagogical tool.
Cousins discusses the implementation of ePortfolios for undergraduates in the Department of History at Western Michigan University, from the perspective of faculty members. Cousins notes that implementing ePortfolios at the program level has enabled faculty members to measure student achievement as they progress from year to year. Using holistic, qualitative rubrics that assess “the body of student work,” faculty members “chart longitudinal development as a measure of the overall efficacy of our undergraduate program.” ePortfolios, Cousins concludes, have enabled the department to be “more united in our objectives, more responsive to results, and better able to contextualize our efforts, placing individual courses within the broader scope of the curriculum.”
Desmet et al. conducted a review of 450 pairs first-year University of Georgia student essays—one “before” essay submitted during the semester for a grade, and a second “after” essay included as a part of an ePortfolio. After blinding a panel of reviewers to the category of the 900 essays, Desmet et al. had the essays graded. Reviewing the results of this grading, they concluded that the revision and editing associated with ePortfolio learning enabled student writing to improve, on average, by “between 0.25 and 0.5 points on a six-point scale.” These results, Desmet et al. suggest, cannot be found through other forms of assessment: “We know of no other assignment that has been shown to improve the quality of student writing to the same degree.”
Filella et al. compared a group of final-year University of Lleida (Spain) engineering students who used an ePortfolio to a control group of 40 students who did not use an ePortfolio. Students who used an ePortfolio were more satisfied with their work, and were more likely to complete their projects on time. Moreover, students who used an ePortfolio were more uniform in their perceptions of their work; that is, students in the control group had more divergent experiences during their final-year projects. Filella et al. also demonstrate that teachers and tutors who worked with the students who use the ePortfolio had a more positive experience than those who worked with students in the control group. This article concludes that “the portfolio methodology improved the academic performance rate by 60% compared to the traditional method.”
Oehlman et al. draw on examples from their experiences at California State University to show how ePortfolios can be best used to help students to develop a professional identity and demonstrate learning through reflective writing. At CSU, students refine their professional online portfolios over a number of years. The CSU students who used an ePortfolio edited their work more thoroughly because they were aware of their potential to reach a broad audience, including the group of peers with whom they shared their work. Oehlman et al. argue that communicating their research changes—for the better—how students think about their accomplishments.
Drawing on Foucault and Derrida, this paper emphasizes the power imbalance between student and professor, and cautions against requiring students to perform authenticity in searchable, publicly-accessible online spaces. Ross criticizes approaches to teaching that assume there is a singular “knowable, malleable yet cohesive self” at the core of individual identity, as if the goal of reflection in postsecondary education is to better know a singular, authentic self. Although this paper does not consider that the ePortfolio can be a performative space—a space for constructing a professional or scholarly version of the self that is as context-dependent as any other form of self-representation—Ross’s article is nonetheless a useful reminder of the “new intensity of gaze” associated with digital media and publication. This paper thus usefully encourages a “critical stance which would support students and teachers to engage creatively and carefully with digital practices and cultures.”
Shroff, Ronnie H., Christopher C. Deneen, and Eugenia MW Ng. “Analysis of the Technology Acceptance Model in Examining Students’ Behavioural Intention to Use an e-Portfolio System.” Australasian Journal of Educational Technology 27.4 (2011).
Shroff, Deneen and Ng conducted a survey among B.Ed. students at the Hong Kong Institute of Education who used a Blackboard-based ePortfolio tool in a 12-week course. Their result results showed that the perceived ease of use of ePortfolio technology influenced students’ attitude toward usage and their perceived usefulness of the tool. That is, the easier they found the text to be, the more likely the students were to have a positive experience with learning through ePortfolio development. This article shows that, in order to generate student buy-in and instill intrinsic motivation, courses in which ePortfolios are used must provide sufficient technological support to ensure that students perceive the technology to be easy-to-use.
Tosh, David, et al. “Engagement with Electronic Portfolios: Challenges from the Student Perspective.” Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology/La revue canadienne de l’apprentissage et de la technologie 31.3 (2005).
Tosh et al. surveyed and conducted focus groups with Canadian undergraduates with experience using the ePortfolio. This article categorizes the responses they received in order to generate a list of best practices for the use of ePortfolios. This article argues that students must have ownership over their ePortfolios in order for the tool to have a strong impact on learning. Reviewing their qualitative data, they argue that “buy-in, motivation, assessment and the e-portfolio technology” must all be addressed in order for the ePortfolio to enhance learning. Tosh et al. detail steps and strategies that instructors can use in order for the ePortfolio to be a meaningful part of student learning, rather than a piece of tech used “just for technology’s sake.”