Academic journal article The Journal of Research in Business Education

Using Eportfolios to Encourage Reflection and Competency Development

Academic journal article The Journal of Research in Business Education

Using Eportfolios to Encourage Reflection and Competency Development

Article excerpt

Introduction

Reflection and self-reflective learning are important aspects of professional development (Schön, 1983). To encourage reflection, self-reflection, and competency development, the use of an ePortfolio (ePF) provides a valuable contribution. However, the implementation process of an ePF for pre-service teachers remains a critical issue (Oakley, Pegrum, & Johnston, 2014). The aim of this research was to investigate the impact and sustainability of an ePF implementation regarding students' competency development and reflection skills within a master's program for Business Education and Development.

In 2009 the Department of Business Education and Development at the University of Graz implemented an ePF initiative for the five-semester master's program in Business Education and Development (BED). To avoid inhibiting factors for successful portfolio work, the ePF was closely embedded within the curriculum of the master's program (Breault, 2004; Paulson, Paulson, & Meyer, 1991). Students participated in three designated courses, each consisting of presence and online sessions, during their first, third, and fifth semesters. In each of these courses students developed and expanded their ePF following the principle: collect - select - reflect - connect (Barrett, 2005). Supported by a professional coach, students collected aspects regarding their competency development, selected those most relevant to them, reflected about their competencies and learning, and connected the findings to gain insights into their potential as professionals. A combination of a reflection portfolio and a development portfolio was the result of this process (Baumgartner, 2009). The customized software used by each student provided the possibility to transfer the ePF into a presentation portfolio to be used for job applications.

Purpose of the Study

To enhance insight into the reflection process of students in the master's program of BED and to enable adequate adaptations of the content and structure of this ePF-initiative, an accompanying study (targeting present students) and an alumni study (targeting graduates) were conducted. The following research questions were pursued:

** What is the impact of the ePF regarding students' reflection, selfreflection, and competency development?

** Is the instrument of ePF accepted and sustainably used by the students and graduates?

Literature Review

This section addresses three questions: How are competencies defined? What is reflection upon those competencies? How can portfolios be used as an instrument to encourage the reflection process?

Concept of "Handlungskompetenz"

This study closely follows the competency definition of Weinert (1999), which defines competencies as learnable cognitive skills, including not only the ability, but also the (motivational, social, volitional) readiness to solve specific problems. Using this definition, competencies are more than mere knowledge, since they also comprise the skills and volition to perform a certain action (Feindt, 2010). Therefore, competencies cannot be taught, although they can be developed through learning by each individual (Erpenbeck, 2014).

A main goal of education is to form individuals who possess a so-called Handlungskompetenz-defined as "learning empowerment" (Stock & Winkelbauer, 2012, p. 50) or the "competency of action taking . . . or capability to act" (Brockmann, Clarke, & Winch, 2008, p. 557). This competency of action taking "is a holistic notion, which comprises particular knowledge, skills and competencies" (Brockmann et al., 2008, p. 557). To achieve the holistic competency of action taking, an individual must possess competencies in four different competency dimensions: (1) professional competence, (2) methodological competence, (3) social competence, and (4) self-competence. Only the intersection of all four competence dimensions enables an individual to take action (Peterssen, 2009). …

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