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IUPUI Professional Development: Learning Planned and Unexpected

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Summary

Professional development for ePortfolio use at IUPUI has adapted to evolution of the campus ePortfolio Initiative itself, including changes in our thinking about the pedagogical and organizational implications of ePortfolio. During the earliest phase of IUPUI’s ePortfolio Initiative, roughly 2003-2007, professional development largely took the form of individual consultations between instructors and staff members in the IUPUI Center for Teaching and Learning. Such consultations continue today on a larger scale, with additional support for individuals and groups coming from University Information Technology Services, Indiana University’s central IT unit. Since 2007, professional development has also been identified with focused workshops co-sponsored by the ePortfolio Initiative and the IUPUI Center for Teaching and Learning. Beginning in 2009, several larger ePortfolio projects on campus have offered their own workshops, usually with some support from the ePortfolio Initiative. And these projects, as well as the campus initiative as a whole, have convened various groups charged with developing strategies or implementing the use of ePortfolio in the curriculum and co-curriculum. Such groups themselves have often served as powerful forums for professional development.

Authors

Susan Scott, ePortfolio Coordinator and Assistant Director, Office of Institutional Effectiveness

Susan Kahn, ePortfolio Director and Director, Office of Institutional Effectiveness

Overview

Our Professional Development Story

The original roll-out of ePortfolio at IUPUI emphasized development for individual instructors, and perhaps too little at that (see our Scaling Up Story for detailed background). The reorganized campus ePortfolio initiative shifted focus in 2005-06 to academic departments and programs. The initiative provided modest funding for ePortfolio planning and implementation and consulted closely with grantees as their projects developed. These Integrative Department Grants (IDGs) emerged from needs identified by specific programs, rather than needs or opportunities identified by campus ePortfolio leaders. Because Indiana University was conducting much of the software development of our open source ePortfolio platform, we solicited detailed feedback from these early adopters about the capabilities they wanted in the ePortfolio environment. The IU ePortfolio software today has thus been highly customized to the needs of IUPUI students, instructors, and staff.

By 2007, the programmatic focus of the grants had garnered a large enough user base for us to begin offering several half-day workshops and symposia. These workshops were targeted to and attended primarily by our grant recipients, and we thought of these sessions as our faculty development program. Gradually, however, we came to realize that our whole approach to the grants was itself a form of professional development.

Wordle graphic from evaluationsBetween 2005 and 2011, the two- or three-year grants directly involved some 57 faculty and academic support staff. In almost every case, the projects began with expectation of learning how to use a technology tool to accomplish whatever was their goal. Our work, through consultations, symposia, and funds for travel to present at inter/national conferences, was to foster their movement beyond the technology to curriculum, instructional design, pedagogy, and assessment principles. Much of this work also took place at department meetings or within intradepartmental committees and task forces. We also encouraged grantees to present their work in disciplinary and general conferences and to publish in relevant scholarly journals. What we learned from these grantees was fed back, not only into improving the platform, but into developing new topics for workshops attended by broader audiences, including sessions on curriculum mapping, rubric development and use, and reflection. The attached Workshop Table illustrates the growth in number of workshops as well as the gradual shift in topics addressed. Regardless of content, our continuing approach has been to engage experienced faculty and staff as workshop co-presenters and discussion facilitators, building a cadre of peer expertise across the campus.

Over the past few years, ePortfolio adoption on campus has accelerated and expanded well beyond the projects supported by ePortfolio Initiative funds. Following a review of the grant program in 2011, we re-purposed those funds to support broader campus participation in national and international conferences to deepen our collective understanding of this increasingly extensive, global field of practice. The Connect to Learning grant provided funds that the ePortfolio Initiative and University College matched to send a team of eight to the 2011 C2L Summer Institute and AAEEBL conference; in 2012, nine attended the C2L Summer Institute and 18 the AAEEBL conference (including three students). Those who traveled in 2012 formed the nucleus of an informal discussion group that met monthly in 2012-13 to share ideas about common challenges and insights about successes. One attendee in 2012 pointed out: “Attending re-ignited my passion for making a difference and has given me a little boost . . . to publish on the topic.” In 2013, six attended the C2L Summer Institute and 24 the AAEEBL conference, including three students and 16 first-time participants. Based on post-conference reflections from 2012 and 2013 (see attached selection), we have added new workshops on ePortfolio teaching and learning and ePortfolio assessment. We continue to conduct custom workshops for faculty and staff of individual units and multidisciplinary groups along with individual consultations.

Probably our single largest challenge is limited time: not only the time of ePortfolio team members to plan and conduct professional development activities but, even more, that of prospective participants. Attendance at Center for Teaching and Learning events has been declining gradually over the past few years, and the trend holds for ePortfolio workshops as well. We have identified several possible topics for communities of practice or year-long seminar approaches, but increasing workloads mean people are reluctant to commit to extended work without a specific task to accomplish, even if a stipend is offered. On the other hand, we know that a great deal of informal professional development is taking place within academic and co-curricular units as they convene to define needs and implementation strategies and to consider findings from assessment of ePortfolios. We also expect that the new campus strategic plan may suggest new ways ePortfolio can support high-priority campus goals, one of which is to strengthen faculty and staff professional development.

Our Professional Development Philosophy and Conceptual Framework

The range and variety of ePortfolio adoption at IUPUI have militated against a single framework for ePortfolio-related professional development. Our consistent philosophy has been to avoid judging the “rightness” of departmental goals for ePortfolio use (we have yet to come across one that was wholly inappropriate), but rather to work with people from the point where they begin, according to their own needs and definition of “success” for their project. In other words, we do not teach one “right” reason for using ePortfolios or one “right” way to do so; we help faculty and staff learn about promising practices and envision how they might adapt those practices to their purposes. At the same time, we try to help people recognize ePortfolio as a pedagogical and/or assessment practice rather than a technology device by exposing them to new ideas through interaction with experienced ePortfolio leaders and instructors. Integrative learning, for instance, is pervasively embraced at IUPUI, and the ePortfolio team has sought to help faculty and staff across campus perceive ePortfolio as a means of expanding and deepening integration of learning, of various high-impact practices, and of learning outcomes (curricular, co-curricular, and extra-curricular).

The program-level focus of our Integrative Department Grants program guided faculty toward unit-level reflection and communication. We find that, even without the incentive of funds, new projects generally begin at the program or department level, perhaps because of the number of such exemplars on the campus. Several new academic programs have built ePortfolio into their curriculum and/or assessment planning from the outset or are doing so now. Increasingly, projects strongly committed to ePortfolio, such as the ePDP and the Center for Service and Learning, have invested in program-specific professional development. These have usually begun with participation in campus ePortfolio professional development (and, more recently, attendance at AAEEBL) and moved to internal projects.

For example, the Doctor of Nursing Practice program included faculty development funding to strengthen its ePortfolio work in a successful proposal for a large HRSA grant. The success of the DNP project encouraged other School of Nursing programs to adopt ePortfolio, and several of the school’s instructional design and technology support personnel have leveraged their participation in ePortfolio Initiative professional development to support nursing faculty. University College worked with the ePortfolio Initiative on its first week-long Summer Institute for faculty preparing to pilot the Electronic Personal Development Plan (ePDP) and has since offered its own professional development, ranging from half-day workshops to varied training videos for instructors and students. A University College task force has developed and continues to polish a conceptual model for the ePDP that will help to guide future faculty development offerings, as well as pedagogical and assessment practices around the ePDP. (More on this in our Polished Practice.)

workshop presenters photoAlthough we had not used the Catalyst terminology of Inquiry-Reflection-Integration, our general approach to professional development has indeed been first to listen to what early (and subsequent) adopters ask for, notice where they stumble, and ask them through formal evaluations what is most helpful and where gaps exist. Then the ePortfolio leadership team reflects together on how we can best address needs identified, what resources we can bring to bear most effectively, and where we can partner with others to accomplish our goals, campus goals, and user goals. As we then replace some former activities and integrate new approaches or events, we begin the cycle again by seeking fresh feedback. Most of our successful program-level ePortfolio projects have also followed a process that fits the framework very well—beginning with participation in short professional development experiences and with study and discussion of relevant literature, following up with discussion of specific application to the program context, and then moving to integration of ePortfolio into curriculum, pedagogy, and assessment. (And less successful projects have tended not to fit the framework.) In our most longstanding projects, the process is ongoing, with the cycle repeating as faculty and staff gain experience and expertise with ePortfolio practice. The ePDP conceptual-model practice we describe elsewhere exemplifies the framework.

Professional Development for Scaling Up

Professional development is key to scaling up adoption of ePortfolio at IUPUI. From the outset, we have aligned ePortfolio practice with essential learning outcomes (our Principles of Undergraduate Learning and Principles of Graduate and Professional Learning); with widely used high-impact educational practices strategically important to the campus mission, vision, and Academic Plan (first-year seminars and experiences, learning communities, undergraduate research, international study, service learning, internships, other experiential learning, capstone courses and projects); and with assessment of campus and program learning outcomes. The Integrative Department Grant program was a central approach to expand implementation and proved a powerful professional development approach as well. Repeated offering and increasing numbers of focused workshops have allowed individuals and departments to monitor developments until they were ready to try using ePortfolio, several times in partnership with an earlier adopter. Supporting travel by faculty and academic support staff beyond their own disciplinary conferences not only served to increase exposure to ePortfolio uses at other institutions but also to what might be learned from uses in other disciplines, and to share their new insights with colleagues at home.

IUPUI is known for extensive interdisciplinary curricula, research, and civic engagement (our self-study report prepared for reaffirmation of our regional accreditation in 2012 is dense with examples). Thus, ePortfolio is seldom needed to overcome barriers or break down silos. While the most purposefully integrative uses of ePortfolio today exist within, rather than between, academic units, we see considerable potential for broader connections developing across the various ePortfolio projects at IUPUI. Our Connect to Learning project constitutes one of our major efforts to advance connections between departments and divisions at the undergraduate level, with academic and co-curricular programs creating models for continued development of the ePDP beyond the first-year seminar. Since we began working with C2L, several additional programs not included in the formal grant project itself have begun planning and/or piloting implementations of the ePDP in partnership with University College. A revised General Education program to be implemented in the 2013-2014 academic year includes the ePDP, although detailed planning has yet to be undertaken. Campus-wide units responsible for such cross-disciplinary high-impact practices as undergraduate research, service learning, and study abroad are using or planning pilots of ePortfolio with the idea of connecting these uses to the ePDP as it scales up. Our continued transition of professional development emphases from technology to pedagogy and assessment is partly intended to support these connections.

Evidence

word cloud graphic from facultyBecause our professional development workshops are offered in cooperation with IUPUI’s Center for Teaching and Learning, we ask participants in each to complete a standard evaluation that addresses perceived improvement in knowledge as a result of the workshop, satisfaction with the presentation, and ideas for future topics. The ePortfolio Initiative leadership team immediately scans all forms for a quick grasp of impact, satisfaction, and suggestions, noting areas for further reflection and planning. The CTL then enters survey results into its master database and reports in aggregate in its annual report each year. The ePortfolio events always track well as a subset of CTL offerings.

As noted previously, we occasionally polled our grant recipients informally for professional development suggestions and fed those ideas into our planning. In 2010-11, when we evaluated the grant program itself, the associated professional development—consultations and workshops—proved, somewhat to our surprise, to have been the single most highly valued component of the program. (See attached summary report.) Grant directors’ survey responses provided the basis for the Wordle graphic included in Part I above. Note the relative emphasis on words associated with assessment: outcomes, PULs, program, curriculum, rubrics, students, and—of course—assessment. This reflects that assessment was the primary purpose for which most grantees chose to adopt ePortfolio. Contrast that with key words from the more recent word cloud in this section: learning, thinking, doing, and yes—still—program and students. The word cloud is based on summary quotes from reflections completed by IUPUI participants in the 2012 and 2013 AAEEBL conferences (see attached highlights). Though the methodologies are different enough to make comparison safe only in the most general way, placing the two together at least suggest some success from our professional development shift from technology and assessment as an activity necessary for accreditation to pedagogy and assessment to improve student learning.

Connections to Other Sectors of the Catalyst

Pedagogy

Since 2009, we have gradually redirected our professional development focus to emphasize benefits for student learning (including, but not limited to assessing learning). From the outset, we had stressed the unique usefulness of ePortfolios in supporting integrative learning and in fostering student reflection. It was only through our participation in Connect to Learning and in Cohort 6 of the Inter/National Coalition for Electronic Portfolio that we examined reflection more globally and gave serious attention to social pedagogies. Our Pedagogy practices represent early approaches to reflective and social pedagogies in the context of ePortfolio, and those practice leaders have supported our professional development workshops as peer presenters. The attached summary table illustrates the shift over time in workshop topics.

Scaling Up

workshop presentation photoSince the ePortfolio Initiative was reconfigured following the initial roll-out, it has been funded through Academic Affairs, with the Division of Planning and Institutional Effectiveness contributing half of the ePortfolio director’s time and associated facilities for the initiative. The campus-level ePortfolio Coordinating Committee includes representation from the Center for Teaching and Learning as well as from University Information Technology Services (UITS). As the ePDP initiative, housed in University College, becomes increasingly prominent as a primary ePortfolio for undergraduate learning, reporting lines are being restructured to include the Associate Vice Chancellor for Undergraduate Education, who is also Dean of University College. This team is the hub of a growing network of ePortfolio users, and the team jointly plans professional development approaches and events as a core method of expanding ePortfolio adoption across campus. Including a representative of the IUPUI Faculty Council, the team also plans strategic directions for the initiative and presents an annual report to Academic Affairs, PAII, and UITS leadership.

Such a network of connections at the core is not uncommon at IUPUI, and that collaborative structure helps enormously in assuring that we remain in touch with important campus directions and the resources to support them (see our Scaling Up Story for further information). In a secondary way, the professional development activities we provide augment the many other campus connection points as faculty and staff come together from units across the campus to explore ePortfolio pedagogies and practices together. Professional development activities also function as a communication strategy to open discussions and to encourage more faculty and programs to consider how ePortfolios might advance their goals. We estimate that approximately one-third of current ePortfolio use can be attributed to our earlier grant program (including first- and second-generation projects), another one-third (rapidly expanding) to the ePDP initiative, and a final one-third to professional development workshops, webinars, and presentations at other campus conferences by team members and current ePortfolio colleagues.

Outcomes Assessment

As our Outcomes Assessment Story explains, IUPUI has worked for decades to build a culture of evidence and improvement. Our Principles of Undergraduate Learning were among the earliest statements of campus-wide expectations for the learning outcomes of an undergraduate education, predating AAC&U’s LEAP outcomes. The Catalyst model that aligns the design principles of Inquiry-Reflection-Integration with a basic assessment cycle looks very similar to the IUPUI model for a Culture of Evidence attached there. The ePortfolio Director and Coordinator are also Director and Assistant Director of the Office of Institutional Effectiveness. Through their membership in the campus Program Review and Assessment Committee, they report regularly and arrange reports by ePortfolio users at PRAC meetings, providing some informal professional development for a wider audience. Built into the IUPUI annual budget and planning cycle is the expectation for regular evaluation of programs and services and periodic program review by peers. Thus, our approach to continuous improvement of professional development activities is the custom.

Because so many of our faculty and programs have adopted ePortfolio for assessment of student learning, often in the context of specialized accreditation, our professional development activity has emphasized ways to approach such assessment. In addition, as the entire campus focused on strengthening learning assessment across schools in preparation for our decennial reaccreditation, we added workshops on curriculum mapping and rubrics, serving numerous faculty beyond the ePortfolio community. With expanded ePortfolio adoption, we look forward to fostering more nuanced discussions of alternative methods for assessing ePortfolios themselves.

Technology

Technology plays two roles with respect to our professional development: as subject and as platform. As described above and in our Technology Story, our early technology experiences were grim and required that most of our earliest professional development focus on how to use the platform. Even after substantial improvement, the addition of new capabilities such as reporting and presentation functionality necessitated both explanation and hands-on demonstration and coaching. The downside of a feature-rich and flexible platform is that its sheer complexity can be daunting. On the other hand, as features have stabilized and usage increased, it has become easier to offload what had formerly required hands-on workshops to various training methods from online webinars recorded for later viewing and short video tutorials available on demand. That shift has allowed us to focus more on pedagogy and fine points of assessment in more recent professional development, consistent with our strategy of emphasizing practice over platform.

Our preference for face-to-face professional development formats has also been influenced by both the need for hands-on practice and our desire to engage participants in group discussion activities. On the other hand, the challenge of time constraints has generated several requests that we offer workshops in webinar format that can be recorded for asynchronous viewing. These requests have been increasing as other Indiana University campuses begin to be interested in ePortfolios and faculty there would like to participate in our workshops but cannot drive to Indianapolis. In 2012-13 we partnered with university learning technologies staff to offer four presentation-style webinars with synchronous chat interaction. Participation beyond IUPUI was small, and subsequent use of the recordings has been very low, so we continue to wrestle with how best to accommodate changing demands for making professional development available. We have identified several promising ideas from our Connect to Learning colleagues.

Attachments and Supporting Documents

IDG Evaluation Summary Report

Professional Development Testimonials

IUPUI Professional Dev Table

Conclusion

Professional development for ePortfolio use at IUPUI is never as much as we would like but, in retrospect, we have often accomplished more than we realized because we didn’t think of an activity as professional development. We have used varying combinations of personal consultations, group workshops, information discussion groups, and online webinars (in addition to more direct print and online training materials) to help our faculty and staff learn about ePortfolios in general, our ePortfolio software environment in particular, and the numerous ways in which ePortfolio use might strengthen, deepen, and/or facilitate what they do or would like to do. As usage and interest both grow, we are increasingly challenged to find effective methods of helping people engage these subjects, especially with one another, and of encouraging more faculty to pursue scholarship of teaching and learning in the context of their ePortfolio use. We anticipate that our professional development approaches will continue to evolve as the ePortfolio initiative itself changes, including working with others on campus and at other institutions to broaden and deepen the value for ePortfolio practice. Our experience convinces us that three approaches are of key importance: careful listening to past, present, and prospective partners; evaluation for continuous improvement; and flexibility in trying new approaches.