Category Archives: Teaching

ePortfolio Musings and Strategies

I initially developed the following material for a guest visit to an undergraduate Honors course at Elon University.

As George Kuh writes in the foreword to High-Impact ePortfolio Practice: A Catalyst for Student, Faculty, and Institutional Learning by Bret Eynon and Laura M. Gambino, the ePortfolio:

“serves as a portable, expandable, and updatable vehicle for accumulating and presenting evidence of authentic student accomplishment including the curation of specific proficiencies and dispositions at given points in time… The ePortfolio is much more than a just-in-time twenty-first-century electronic record keeping system. It is an intentionally designed instructional approach that, among other advantages, prompts students to periodically reflect on and deepen what they are learning and helps them connect and make sense of their various experiences inside and outside the classroom that – taken together – add up to more than the sum of their parts.” (2017, p. ix) 

Beyond the pedagogical value of ePortfolios, they also offer a venue for professionals to develop an online identity, showcasing their expertise with concrete examples.

An ePortfolio is more than a website… As Eynon and Gambino write, “ePortfolio practice done well supports reflection, integration, and deep learning” (2017, p. 9). ePortfolios also prompt inquiry about our current identities – “Who am I? Who am I becoming?” – and our future dreams – “Who do I dare to be?” (Eynon & Gambino, 2017, p. 11).

Room for Play in ePortfolios?

While their print ancestors can accommodate some multimedia (e.g., photos, drawings, etc.), ePortfolios can showcase a broader array of media (e.g., audio, video, hypertext, etc.). How might you use multimedia components in your portfolio? Here are a few questions to spark your brainstorming:

  • What do key aspects of my identity look like? Sound like?
  • What might my future look like? How would I visualize it?
  • What curricular, co-curricular, or extra-curricular projects have I composed or contributed to that I could showcase in a portfolio as examples of my developing identity?
  • How might an audio clip enable me to talk through my reflection on a project or my integration of lessons learned from multiple projects?
  • What could a video clip show readers/viewers that they might miss in a text-based version of the same project or idea?
  • How might I play with organization/arrangement to either guide readers/viewers through my story or offer them a choose-your-own-adventure representation of me?

Web Platforms

My students routinely use WordPress, Wix, or Weebly; Google Sites and Digication are additional options. I encourage you to select a web platform that you already are comfortable composing within or that you wish to learn for other professional development goals.

Many professionals maintain both private working portfolios and public portfolios. Working portfolios are collections of documents/projects that might be included in the public portfolio in the future (or have been in the past). If you anticipate expanding and maintaining your public ePortfolio, establish an organizational strategy for also maintaining a private working portfolio; Google Drive, Dropbox, or an external USB drive are helpful tools for organizing and archiving materials that – at some point – might be included in your public portfolio.

Digication examples:

WordPress examples:

WIX example:

Questions about ePortfolios? Have strategies for ePortfolio development? Please share them in the comments. Thank you!

bELONg rainbow

Transgender Inclusion in the Classroom

Stacy Jane Grover has a helpful post on Inside Higher Ed today about “Fostering Trans Inclusion in the Classroom.” One tip that’s easy to implement: Add gender pronouns to your email signature to help normalize the practice. I’ve started including a question about them on the student information cards I ask students to submit at the start of each semester, and I state mine (she/her) when I introduce myself to students on the first day of class.

A second tip Grover offers that’s as – if not more – important but perhaps harder to implement: Correct yourself when you make a mistake. The Q Center has an important post by Nash Jones, highlighting that when you misgender someone, you should focus on the needs of the person you misgendered, avoid being defensive, and acknowledge the mistake and move on.

Collie Fulford (North Carolina Central University) and I recently offered a workshop on Affirming LGBTQIA Campus Members. Collie created a resource document that has several helpful links to other recent essays, relevant policies, and campus strategies.

Classroom Pedagogies and Prep Time

In a recent conversation, a friend/colleague made a passing comment about Reacting to the Past appealing to me because the class sessions are somewhat scripted. Indeed, I do like to map things out and anticipate future steps, when possible. Reflecting on his comment, though, I realize that the pedagogy may be deceptive to teachers who haven’t used it before; at it’s core, Reacting might be described as role play of past events, so it’s easy to understand why colleagues might think that Reacting teachers can predict how the lessons will unfold.

In reality, when I teach with Reacting pedagogy, the games never take the same path from semester to semester. Students’ unique dispositions lead them to research different cultural-historical factors, in turn changing how they prepare for specific sessions. One semester a metic might take an active – and unchallenged – role in shaping Athen’s government; another semester, the metic may be too apprehensive about pushing boundaries or more hesitant about public speaking – or may be challenged about the legitimacy of his participation.  One semester the labor faction might quickly establish its centrality in Greenwich Village, while in another semester, the suffragists might organize more quickly to sway the indeterminate villagers.

As a result, Reacting is the most time-intensive pedagogy I use in the classroom. Students email to ask about implementing new strategies that aren’t covered in game books and role sheets; they stop by office hours to request feedback on speeches and writing assignments; and they often extend the game beyond class spaces and hours. As a result, my teaching prep time also expands, sometimes exponentially.

My students’ learning outcomes make the time and energy investment worthwhile, but I do limit myself to only one or two reacting games a semester in order to balance teaching activities with other career responsibilities. My colleague’s comment reminds me, though, that as academic developers work with faculty to identify appropriate pedagogies to support desired learning outcomes, we must be transparent and upfront about the hidden time commitments of high-impact pedagogies. Helping faculty anticipate the “costs” associated with using these teaching techniques may lead to implementing them in more sustainable ways.