Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Eportfolio-Based Learning Environments: Recommendations for Effective Scaffolding of Reflective Thinking in Higher Education

Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Eportfolio-Based Learning Environments: Recommendations for Effective Scaffolding of Reflective Thinking in Higher Education

Article excerpt


In recent years, the increased use of electronic portfolios (ePortfolios) has seen the enhancement of the affordances these programs provide. No longer confined to the role of "evidence repository," ePortfolios now provide features that enable the scaffolded development of advanced learning skills (Barrett, 2006). As part of this development, ePortfolios have moved beyond the traditional purpose of assessment to one that more deeply facilitates and enhances student learning. This maturation of ePortfolio environments, along with recognition of their educational strengths, led to the implementation of this research study that examined the use of the Pebblepad ePortfolio platform as a learning environment.

Portfolios have been used for many years in artistic fields as a means of showcasing skills and abilities through work samples and documentation of performances (Drier, 1997). In education, they have also been used as assessment tools to demonstrate achieved competencies, to allow students to document learning reflections and to understand how they have applied their knowledge (Hartneil-Young et al., 2007; Shepherd & Hannafin, 2011). Portfolios are also strongly aligned with integrated and authentic assessment (cf. Gikandi, Morrow, & Davis, 2011; Herrington, Reeves, & Oliver, 2010).

The development of technology and the increased availability of web-based platforms to document and present work in multi-media formats has led to widespread use of ePortfolios (Clark & Eynon, 2009; Duncan-Pitt & Sutherland, 2006; Khoo, Maor, & Schibeci, 2011). The ePortfolio has been described as, "one of the most adaptable tools currently available to educators around the world" (Littlejohn & Pegler, 2007). One of the key affordances of an ePortfolio, in comparison with its paper-based predecessor, is its ability to contain several layers of evidence that can be used for varying purposes (Lambert & Corrin, 2007) and to portray learning to alternate audiences (Chesney & Marcangelo, 2010). Three important differences between ePortfolios and their paper-based equivalent are:

* Digital formats are easy to rearrange and edit

* ePortfolios allow hyperlinks to connect documents and link to external sources/ references

* The electronic format is portable and mobile (Stefani, Mason & Pegler, 2007, p. 17).

Building on these developments, ePortfolio technology has now progressed to a point where it is being suggested as a platform for learning (Barrett, 2005). ePortfolio platforms provide access to tools and resources that can be designed and implemented to guide student learning and allow for collaboration with others in this process (Strampel & Oliver, 2010). A great deal of research highlights the potential of the ePortfolio as a learning tool (Housego & Parker, 2009), although the evidence of the effectiveness of these initiatives is still being collected (e.g., Oakley, Pegrum, & Johnston, 2014).

This paper aims to provide this missing evidence by investigating the implementation of an ePortfolio-based learning environment that was used to enhance reflection in pre-service teachers as they completed an action research project. The research was guided by the overarching research question of: How effective is an ePortfolio environment in providing the scaffolding required to enhance reflective thinking in pre-service teachers?

The scaffolding process was initiated within the PebblePad ePortfolio platform. In this context, scaffolding supported the learning process that was tailored to the needs of the students with the aim of helping them achieve their learning goals (Sawyer, 2006). PebblePad was chosen as the ePortfolio platform for this research because: it allowed students to share resources through the Blog function; it used privacy settings so that students' assets remained private until they chose to share them; and it offered options for sharing and collaboration of assets. …

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