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ePortfolios and Reflection

Reflection in the Teaching and Learning Cycle

John Dewey (1933) discusses both retrospective (for analysis of data) and prospective modes of reflection (for planning). Beck and Bear (2009) studied reflection in the teaching cycle, comparing how pre-service teachers rated the development of their reflection skills in both formative and summative e-folios.The results of this research showed that:

...formative e-folios were rated as superior to summative, in terms of general reflective skill supporting teacher development, improved assessment role competencies, greater understanding of connections betwen assessment and planning, and relatively high value placed on teacher peer collaboration. (p.2)

Reflection is the "heart and soul" of a portfolio, and is essential to brain-based learning (Kolb, 1984; Zull, 2002). We need to develop strategies that better support reflection in the learning process, supporting different types of reflection to improve learning. Dr. Barrett has created another Google Site on Reflection for Learning, specifically in ePortfolios.

Reflection takes place at several points in time: when the piece of work (an artifact) is saved in the digital archive (a contemporaneous reflection while the work is fresh on our minds... or reflection in the present tense)... thus the role of a blogging tool; and when (and if) this piece is included in the more formal presentation/showcase or summative assessment portfolio. The reflection written at this later point of time is more summative or cumulative, providing a much broader perspective on a body of work that represents the author's goals for the showcase portfolio.. reflection in the past tense. Technologically, selection would involve creating a hyperlink to specific blog entries (reflection) which may have documents (artifacts) as attachments. Finally, once we have looked back over our body of work, then we have an opportunity to look forward, setting a direction for future learning through goals... reflection in the future tense.

These types of reflection involve two levels of support for reflection: the reflections completed in a blog format would focus on a specific piece of work or learning experience (such as in service learning), and what has been learned while the experience is very fresh or immediate. The reflection in a presentation portfolio is more of a retrospective as well as an argument, providing a rationale that a collection of work meets specific outcomes or goals (related to the goal of the portfolio). Goals for future learning, which are more prospective, provide a direction to pursue, and should also be part of a presentation portfolio.

Most ePortfolio systems tend to emphasize the showcase (portfolio as product) rather than the workspace (portfolio as process). There are also two different types of organization: Blogs are organized in reverse chronological order; most showcase portfolios are organized thematically, around a set of learning goals, outcomes or standards. Both levels of reflection and organization are important, and require different strategies for supporting different levels of reflection.