Looking Back on our Campus Project
When the Connect to Learning project began, in January 2011, we had just completed pilot-testing an electronic version of the Personal Development Plan developed by all undergraduate students in their First-Year Seminars. We envisioned that students would continue to engage in adding new material and reflecting integratively about their learning throughout their undergraduate experience at IUPUI, and we intended that C2L participation would help us test some ways for academic and co-curricular programs to foster such continued use of the ePDP.
Over the past three years, in addition to gaining crucial momentum for the ePDP in the First-Year Seminar, our IUPUI team has learned a great deal from our related research and evaluation efforts, made progress with expanding the ePDP past the FYS into degree programs and high-impact practices, and, perhaps most significantly, developed a conceptual model to guide implementation and assessment of ePDPs across the entire undergraduate experience. Specific achievements include:
- Full integration of the ePDP into the Life-Health Sciences Internship program, including use of peers to guide the reflective process.
- Expansion of the use of ePDP within the psychology curriculum from a First-Year Seminar trial to use in a mid-level career planning course and a senior capstone pilot.
- Completion of a qualitative research project to determine the level of evidence in student ePDPs for five learning outcomes established for the First-Year Seminar.
- Creation of a conceptual model grounded in interdisciplinary literature to guide further development of the ePDP.
Three of our Practices (Reflection in the First Year, Peer Reflective Feedback in First-Year Service Learning, and A Committee Bears Unexpected Fruit), along with the Evidence and Implications pages of this section of our web site, describe this progress in greater detail.
Of the five sectors of the Catalyst Framework, we were initially most focused on Pedagogy, though Technology was also important; we felt at the time that we had a good handle on Professional Development and Outcomes Assessment. Our readings and interactions with C2L colleagues, however, helped us see a larger spectrum of possibilities in all these areas. We view the progress we have made to date as foundational, and we are now ready to bring full attention to the Scaling Up dimension of the project.
What We Learned
Participation in the C2L project deepened our understanding of the power of ePortfolios to support teaching, learning, and assessment. We were sometimes overwhelmed by the complexity of elements, practices, benefits, and challenges we discovered. As the project continued, we became more comfortable with the complexity, especially as the Catalyst Framework emerged. The result was a stronger appreciation for ePortfolios across multiple intersecting purposes and for the inter-related factors that comprise successful planning, implementation, and continuing improvement. Perhaps ironically, the complexity that seemed so overwhelming initially came to serve as a beacon to widen and deepen our thinking about the potential of both the ePDP and ePortfolios at IUPUI.
We learned to understand and appreciate the strength of professional development that occurs when participants are immersed in a project. Our own reflection helped us see opportunities to entwine practice with purposeful professional development. Hearing about other institutions’ varied and creative approaches to faculty/professional development also helped us imagine new approaches to try at IUPUI.
Our understanding of reflection is now much broader and deeper than it was in January 2011. We have observed the power of how engaging students in deep reflection about their college journey permits more fruitful conversations between faculty and advisors and their students based on such reflective groundwork. We saw how carefully constructed prompts can guide students to revise and reformulate their sense of identity from a very personal and in-the-moment baseline to showcase their emerging academic and professional identities. We have a better-grounded understanding of the value of social pedagogy and the shapes it can take in practice. And as IU moved last year to explore new options for a technology platform, C2L provided an extremely useful forum to hear about strengths and limitations of other platforms from those using them every day.
Our work with C2L has also helped us recognize the important role that our corps of peer mentors plays and the need to ensure that mentors are well-prepared. In the future, University College plans to incorporate the ePDP into the required peer mentor training program so that mentors have a firm understanding of the uses of and rationale for the ePDP as well as familiarity with the underlying technology. In 2013-14, the ePDP is being used in a non-credit course for student mentors working in the campus learning support center to build the foundation for an ePDP “help lab” that uses a scaled-up classroom for workshops and help sessions for ePDP faculty and students.
Probably the single most important lesson from our engagement with C2L was that ePortfolios give rise to powerful pedagogy. As we thought more robustly about our teaching and learning, we could see ePortfolios become a living embodiment of learning rather than a repository of student reflections. Indeed, this change in thinking required us to revisit ourselves as educators in ways that reach beyond the implementation of an ePortfolio project.
Our Work Together with Connect to Learning
Our readings and interactions with C2L colleagues helped us see a larger spectrum of possibilities in several Catalyst sectors, while confirming our paths in others. For us, the Summer Institutes were invaluable, as they offered extended opportunities for our rather large campus team to listen, discuss, learn, and plan together. As one member put it, “It was useful for me to have the space to talk through implementation details and get ideas for prompts from other people working with co-curricular programs. I will create an intentional and effective framework for students to connect their experience with their coursework and other co-curricular experiences.” Another commented: “This is a rare opportunity to work together for an extended period of time and indeed is instrumental in the success of our project.”
The monthly Jams were beneficial for those who were able to participate regularly, and the common readings helped us all. In Jams and Institutes, the opportunities to hear from others engaged in similar practices and to get feedback about our own work were quite valuable. Since each team member came with a different academic and professional background and varying levels of familiarity with ePortfolios, our individual learning emphasized different sectors of the Catalyst.
Being part of the Connect to Learning project allowed us to recognize and harness the power of a community of practice. Expanding our work to be part of a national conversation enabled us to expand our thinking, put theory into practice, and craft a strong sense of direction and efficacy. Taken together, our interactions with the larger C2L project influenced our campus-wide ePortfolio initiative and greatly accelerated our progress on the ePDP project. It would have taken several more years for the ePDP to reach its current phase had we not participated in C2L.
We believe we will make the greatest gains by working on areas of intersection between the C2L Catalyst Framework and our conceptual model. The Catalyst Framework will serve as both an information resource and a foundational tool in advancing our work with the ePDP. As we move our conceptual model into practice, the C2L Framework will help us align the student outcomes we have established with best practices/thinking in ePortfolio pedagogy. The Framework sections on Pedagogy and Professional Development will guide our implementation of a faculty development program that will help us achieve the outcomes reflected in our conceptual model.
As we expand use of the ePDP to different types of first-year seminars and past the first year, the Scaling Up section will help us ensure that we are addressing institutional context in ways that will facilitate success of the ePDP initiative. The individual pilot programs such as Psychology and the Life-Health Sciences Internship program anticipate using the Catalyst site to identify practices at other institutions relevant to academic program adoptions and supervisor/mentor guidance of ePortfolios; the Diversity Enrichment and Achievement Program also expects to tap the social pedagogy practices for insight about how ePortfolios can foster interpersonal connections in support of student success.
By June 2014, we expect to have in place a new faculty development program grounded in our ePDP conceptual model and informed by practices in the Catalyst Professional Development stories and practices. We plan to use the design principles of Inquiry, Reflection, and Integration to help move us from our former piecemeal approach that focused on rubrics and assessment measures for single sections or aspects of the ePDP to a more holistic approach that encompasses larger outcomes such as critical thinking, integrative learning, and student development. We also anticipate that IU’s University Information Technology Services will have reached decisions on adoption of new LMS and ePortfolio platforms so that we can plan accordingly.
By June 2015, we anticipate having several academic and co-curricular programs involved with the ePDP (beyond those represented on the C2L Team). We will be able to apply data from 2013-14 and preliminary data from 2014-15 outcomes assessment to identify results of our improved faculty development and program adoption strategies. For example, we expect that LHSI students’ reflective narratives will demonstrate increasing perceptiveness about their internship and research learning experiences and their emerging professional identities. As DEAP and some departments include ePDP in the early Summer Bridge experiences, we expect to see student reflections that express an integrated perspective on the transition to college.