Academic journal article Peer Review

Reflective E-Portfolios: One HIP to Rule Them All?

Academic journal article Peer Review

Reflective E-Portfolios: One HIP to Rule Them All?

Article excerpt

As colleges and universities embrace high-impact practices (HIPs), we can envision a future-as yet a fantasy world-where they become more common, anchored in curricular pathways and designed to improve the retention and graduation rates of new majority students. At the same time, we see the accelerating adoption trajectory of electronic portfolios (e-portfolios), which suggests that they might also become commonplace in our higher education system. What would the educational landscape look like in this future where HIPs and e-portfolios took prominent places in the lives of students at colleges and universities?

We're speculating in this article about a fantasy world where HIPs predominate in higher education, so we might profit from using one of the most widely recognized metaphors from fantasy literature-that of the One Ring that rules all other rings of power in J. R. R. Tolkien's The Hohhit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy. The One Ring in Tolkien's universe is the physical means through which Sauron seeks to exert power in Middle Earth. The rings of power are bound together and were created by Sauron to corrupt and control men, elves, and dwarves. The metaphor can only be extended so far into higher education, but we are intrigued by the idea that the e-portfolio could be considered something akin to the One Ring-the high-impact practice that unites and connects all other HIPs. What is the current status of e-portfolios and HIPs in higher education? How will that status change in the near future? Are e-portfolios another HIP ? If students experience multiple HIPs in the course of their studies, would they benefit from also showcasing and reflecting upon them in an e-portfolio ? What roles do HIPs and e-portfolios play in assessing essential learning outcomes?


Research supports George Kuh's contention that the following teaching practices are notably beneficial to college students: firstyear seminars and experiences, common intellectual experiences, learning communities, writing-intensive courses, collaborative assignments and projects, undergraduate research, diversity/global learning, service learning/community-based learning, internships, and capstone courses or projects. In addition, research suggests that participation in HIPs may also have compensatory effects for underprepared and historically underserved students (Kuh 2008; Brownell and Swaner 2010; Finley and McNair 2013).

When done well-and we should never forget that any highimpact practice can be designed or implemented poorly-HIPs share a set of characteristics that are the ultimate sources of benefit for students. They engage students as active rather than passive learners. To take one example, students engaged in undergraduate research can be actively (re)discovering discipline knowledge instead of passively receiving that knowledge in a lecture. HIPs engage students in relationships with faculty and other students that center on substantive and relevant material. For example, students working on a collaborative project can be asked to negotiate educationally relevant content at the same time that they are negotiating the dynamics of group work. A related feature of HIPs is that students are more likely to work with a diverse set of other people. HIPs also ask students to devote extended time and effort on tasks that are intentionally designed to result in tangible and specific-but unscripted-outcomes. Because of the way they are structured, HIPs frequently provide students with feedback on how well they are understanding concepts or learning new skills. Finally, HIPs tend to ask students to integrate, apply, and synthe- size knowledge in meaningful contexts. Think about the demands for integration, application, and synthesis inherent in service-learning courses, internships, and capstone experiences.


While evidence grows that effective e-portfolio use correlates with student success and deep learning (see Eynon, Gambino, and Török 2014), they have high impact for a few underappreciated reasons as well. …

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