Fostering Collaboration b/n Departments and Students in Developing a Social Justice e-Portfolio


Lightening Round: 11.15.17 / The Social Justice e-Portfolio

Thanks to Serena for generously recommended this Lightening Round reading!


Dr. Laura M. Gambino’s piece, “Putting e-Portfolios at the Center of Our Learning” is an exploration of how Guttman Community College has used the e-portfolio to support student learning, student-centered pedagogy, and comprehensive skills based academic and professional development. The e-portfolio becomes the site through which the main components of higher education, which Gambino identifies, as “multiple high-impact practices…first year experience, learning communities and experiential learning”. Additionally e-portfolio advocates assert that this platform addresses “student engagement, success, retention and graduation rates.” In this way, a successful e-portfolio model combines both process and product, a binary that is explored in composition rhetoric fields. Gambino of course, is writing to an audience of academics in an academic publication. What happens when this discussion begins to encompass student collaboration?  In this part of of my proposal, I am looking at two major actors in my discussion: the academic department, and student cohorts with whom I work, and challenges around developing a “social justice” e-portfolio that serves our program.


Gambino points out that the usefulness and success of the e-portfolio model in this context depends on its “centerpiecing”. Curricula, teaching, and student services must co-build and collaboratively incorporate “high-impact practices” and connect to the e-portfolio. In other words, these departments must agree to collaborate meaningfully with this platform. It could be argued that on one hand, this requires processes of curriculum evaluation which itself is an onerous process. Yet, such ongoing evaluation is a part of a well-functioning structure. More significantly, will liberal arts and social science departments like my own, consider this kind of restructuring of coursework? What are the challenges? (to be continued)


It’s also important to collaborate with students to build e-portfolio platforms that serve interests and goals that they identify as meaningful. Otherwise, Gambino writes, the experience can feel “fragmented” and intimidating. It seems that making students equal partners in pedagogy, evaluation and decision making around the components of this platform is part of its appeal as a “technology. Gambino rightly reminds her academic readership that the Guttman project was revisited and revised to be more responsive to the learning needs of students. I build on this and suggest that more processes of student collaboration can be built into this platform, so that the e-portfolio in process holistically represents the choices that a cohort would make in using these platforms to develop their work.


Similarly, it would seem useful to have this platform connect to other competencies that students carry with them beyond their degree. These would include components that allow them to record, edit and release their production. In example, I am working with students on a mobile podcast, in which students record their talk while walking through a particular neighborhood toward the “object” of their research, which may be an “occupied” park, a street that represents gentrification, or an interview with subjects. Once this capability is supported, students will be able to develop and share their work. Finally, this platform must be “owned” by the student, who has the discretion to share/make private components of her work. The work here would be to support students in training around these competencies.

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