Academic journal article International Journal of Doctoral Studies

Situating Educational Computing Doctoral Students in a Community of Practice: A Rubric-Driven, Online Portfolio System

Academic journal article International Journal of Doctoral Studies

Situating Educational Computing Doctoral Students in a Community of Practice: A Rubric-Driven, Online Portfolio System

Article excerpt

Introduction

Research has shown that students better conceptualize knowledge that is acquired in a learning context that closely matches or is "situated in" its real-world context (Brown, Collins, & Duguid, 1989; Cognition and Technology Group, 1990; Harmon & Jones, 2001). As early as the 1800s, pragmatists such as Dewey (1925, 1938) argued that instruction that was anchored in an authentic context provided better learning. More recently, Lave and Wenger (1991) specifically spelled out principles of situated cognition, citing the role of interaction with other actors in a knowledge domain or community of practice as a significant component of situated learning. These principles were applied in the development of a portfolio used in the assessment for candidacy in a doctoral program in educational computing at a Sun Belt, mid-sized university in the southwestern United States, but apply equally well to portfolio assessments at any level of education (Barrett, 2007; Juniewicz, 2003; Pullman, 2002). Students participate in an educational computing community of practice throughout their coursework by preparing this portfolio.

In order for a portfolio assessment to be effective, the means by which it is implemented must provide scaffolding and feedback to learners throughout the portfolio creation process (Segers, Gijbels, & Thurlings, 2008; Van Tartwijk, Driessen, Van Der Vleuten, & Stokking, 2007). The paper-based means of assembling and distributing student portfolios to faculty members did not allow ongoing feedback throughout the creation process, nor was this approach consistent with practices in a technology-based program. To complicate matters further, faculty members' turnover and other events within the program created a degree of confusion over standards and expectations for evaluating this assessment. These issues provided the impetus for designing and developing an online, rubric-driven, portfolio system that was more consistent with practices situated in the educational technology community and provided clearly articulated standards and expectations for students in the program. This article presents the theoretical rationale for this online portfolio system, the objectives of its design, and the means by which the design addresses the problems outlined above.

Theoretical Basis

Situated cognition is a constructivist approach with its foundation in the socialization theories of Vygotsky (1978), who proposed that cognitive development occurs primarily on a social level. While he did not propose that this development was solely social (indeed, he asserts that later stages of development occur within the individual), he found that this development "applies equally to voluntary attention, to logical memory, and to the formation of concepts. All the higher functions originate as actual relationships between individuals" (p. 57). Constructivists follow this view, not as an autonomous set of facts to be memorized and internalized, but rather as a social process through which learners construct meanings through interactions with others, the material world, and the culture at large. Although cognitive constructivists and sociocultural constructivists debate over the prevalence of internal or external influences on the construction of knowledge, both agree that knowledge construction is situated in a larger sociocultural context and involves engagement with it (Duffy & Cunningham, 1996). Situated cognition is a sociocultural constructivist approach that sees knowledge as residing in the "individual in social interaction" (Duffy & Cunningham, 1996, p. 175), as opposed to the single mind of the individual, a cognitive constructivist view.

In addition to this emphasis on the social nature of knowledge construction, situated cognition also gives considerable significance to the "real-world" context in which knowledge is situated and constructed (Harmon & Jones, 2001). …

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