Context: Pedagogy and Policy [first draft]


“The portfolio is a powerful tool for learning and assessment. Introducing the electronic into the mix increases its power, especially the electronic portfolio‘s key features of interactive hyperlinks and continuous reflection on and updating of learning.”

Barbara Cambridge, Electronic Portfolios

1. Authentic, experiential, passion-based learning

“If the student is passionately engaged in acquiring the practice, then time seems to disappear. Passion is the key.” (Brown, 2008)

The idea of learning to be rather than learning about (Brown,2008) is the foundation of socio-constructivist and constructionist approaches and you only have to look at the myriad of online niche communities to see the effectiveness of this contextualized, peer-based learning. E-portfolios have the potential to harness the passion we see in other personalised spaces and to exploit pedagogical attributes (active, experiential learning) we know contribute to a higher level of autonomy and deeper level of learning (e.g. Analysis, Synthesis and Evaluation, (Bloom, 1956)).  Personalisation is an important part of this learnscape and has been identified by the JISC as key driver in e-portfolio adoption.

Brown & Adler (2008)

2. Social, collaborative, community-based learning

“knowledge is the result of social interaction and language usage, and   thus is a shared, rather than an individual, experience.”        (Prawat & Floden, 1994)

Any process which requires interaction and creates a community sits well with current trends in social constructivism.  Social learning theory, developed in the seventies by Bandura and then Vygotsky and more influentially and recently Etienne Wenger, is based on the fundamental idea that learning is not solely acquiring knowledge but a process of social participation (echoes from Chickering & Gamson (1987) “learning is not a spectator sport”).

As well as facilitating collaboration an e-portfolio can also be used to collate evidence acquired in other collaborative environments (blogs, wikis, social networking, email, chat).

“The pool of common knowledge only grows more various and valuable the larger that social network grows.” (Oblinger & Lombardi, 2008)

Henry Jenkins describes this as “collective intelligence”, often when referring to Wikipedia and the process of accumulating knowledge which results in something greater than the sum of its parts.

3. Lifelong, autodidactic, self-directed learning

An e-portfolio has the potential to be used throughout our lives from childhood through school and higher education, throughout our professional lives and retirement. It has the potential to help us achieve personal as well as professional goals and to record our life stories.

This user-centric information in the form of an e-portfolio (utilising Web 2.0 tools) is creating ‘open participatory learning ecosystems that support active, passion-based learning: Learning 2.0. This new form of learning begins with the knowledge and practices acquired in school but is equally suited for continuous, lifelong learning that extends beyond formal schooling.’ (Brown and Adler, 2008)

“As knowledge continues to grow and evolve, access to what is needed is more important than what the learner currently possesses” (Siemens, 2004)

The top ten in demand jobs of 2010 didn’t exist in 2004. Technology is progressing at such a rate we have to prepare students for jobs that don’t exist using technologies that haven’t been invented yet (Fisch, 2008), and the only way to do that is teach ‘information navigation’ (described as ‘the new literacy, beyond text and image’ (Brown, 2000)) or how to ‘access what is needed’.

The U.S. dept of Labor predicts today’s learner will have 10-14 jobs by the age of 38 (Fisch, 2008). E-portfolios could be a great asset in this future; they facilitate career planning and change by allowing the job-seeker and employer to store and access a wealth of evidence, not just relating to skills and experience but also attitude and personality. A key attribute of that employee will be the ability to learn, to develop themselves and keep up with the latest trends in their field and an excellent way to evidence that is in an e-portfolio.

We are also seeing the adoption of life portfolios as a strategy to achieve personal goals (Corbett, 2006; Robbins, 2009) and we are already seeing e-portfolios and digital storytelling implemented in schools with a view to being life-long, with specific strategies employed to develop reflective skills (Barrett, 2005).

4. Reflective learning

“a great advantage of possession of the habit of reflective activity is that failure is not mere failure. It is instructive” (Dewey, 1933)

Based on Kolb (1984)

Reflection is a key element in a number of learning cycles (Kolb, 1984; Honey & Mumford, 1982) and a widely acknowledged strategy to foster deep learning (e.g. Dewey, 1933; Donovan, 1999; Ewell, 1997; Schön, 1983).

“The portfolio is a laboratory where students construct meaning from their accumulated experience.” (Paulson & Paulson, 1991, p.5)

An e-portfolio has the potential to facilitate reflective learning in a number of ways: planning, doing, recording/reviewing/selecting and constructing meaning. Even the simple action of creating a hyperlink or selecting a photo is a learning event in itself.

“ If we want to improve our chances of remembering an incident or learning a fact, we need to make sure that we carry out elaborative encoding by reflecting on the information and relating it to other things we already know.” (Schacter, 1996, p.45)

In order to place new content in an e-portfolio we are forced to relate it to other things we know. The whole process of selection and presentation are deeply powerful learning events: constructing meaning out of diverse and seemingly unconnected material.

To reflect is to look back over what has been done so as to extract the net meanings which are the capital stock for intelligent dealing with further experiences. It is the heart of intellectual organization and of the disciplined mind. (Dewey, 1938, p.110)


1. Public Sector ( Social Work) Scotland

The vision of the Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC) is of a competent, confident workforce capable of delivering services in a changing environment and committed to developing a culture of learning.

Continuing Professional Development for the Social Service Workforce October 2004

Relevant objectives:

  • To improve the effectiveness, quality and relevance of learning
  • To encourage employers to utilise a range of learning and development approaches (includes promote the use of new technology and distance learning – with a specific recommendation promoting the use of e-learning, including e-portfolios and e-support for groups and individuals for CPD.)

Scottish Social Services Council, 2004

2. Learning and Teaching Scotland

Key features of education authority policies on ICT in education supported by e-portfolio adoption:

  • development of learners’ and teachers’ ICT skills
  • recording and monitoring of pupil progress
  • e-learning
  • ICT equipment and software acquisition

HMIE, 2007

3. UK eStrategy: a system-wide approach to the application of ICT in education, skills and children’s services to achieve a more personalised approach.

The e-strategy identifies four key objectives, which are to:

  • transform teaching and learning
  • engage hard-to-reach learners
  • build an open, accessible system
  • achieve greater efficiency and effectiveness

DfES, 2005

4. EU i2010: ICT is a key driver for more jobs and growth in Europe.

The i2010 strategy has three aims:

  • to create a Single European Information Space, which promotes an open and competitive internal market for information society and media services
  • to strengthen investment and innovation in ICT research
  • to support inclusion, better public services and quality of life through the use of ICT

European Commission, 2005


Barrett, H. (2005). Storytelling in Higher Education:Supporting Reflection on Practice to Support

Deep Learning, [Online]. Available: [16/11/09]

Bloom, B.S. (ed.) (1956). Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, the classification of educational goals – Handbook I: Cognitive Domain. New York: McKay

BrownJ. S., (2000). Growing Up Digital: How the Web Changes Work, Education and the Ways People Learn Change, Vol. 32, No. 2, pp. 10-2, [Online]. Available: [7/1/10]

Brown, J.S., Adler, R. (2008). Minds on Fire: Open Education, the Long Tail, and Learning 2.0. EDUCAUSE Review, vol. 43, no. 1 (January/February 2008): 16–32, [Online]. Available: [7/1/2010]

Brown, J.S. (2008). How to Connect Technology and Passion in the Service of Learning, [Online]. Available: [7/1/10]

Cambridge, B. (2001). Electronic Portfolios: Emerging Practices in Student, Faculty, and Institutional Learning. American Association for Higher Education, back cover.

Chickering, A. W. & Gamson, Z. F. (1987). Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education, [Online]. Available: [7/1/10]

Dewey, J. (1933) How We Think: A Restatement of the Relation of Reflective Thinking to the Educative Process. Boston: D.C. Heath and Company. Cited in Anthony, J. J. (2008) Reflection And Electronic Portfolios [Online]. Available: [7/1/10]

Dewey, J. (1938). Experience and Education. New York: Macmillan, p.110. Cited in Anthony, J. J. (2008) [7/1/10] Reflection And Electronic Portfolios [Online]. Available:

Donovan, S., Bransford, J., & Pellegrino, J. (Eds). (1999). How people learn: Bridging research and practice. National Academy of Sciences, [Online]. Available: [7/1/10]

Ewell,  P.  T.  (1997).  Organizing for learning: A point of entry. Draft prepared for discussion at the 1997 AAHE Summer Academy at Snowbird.  National Center for Higher Education Management Systems (NCHEMS). [Online]. Available: [7/1/10]

Fisch, K. (2008). Did You Know? 3.0, [Video]. Available: [7/1/10].

Oblinger, D.G., Lombardi,M.M. (2008). Common knowledge: Openness in higher education [Online]. Available: [7/1/10]

Paulson, F.L. and Paulson, P. (1991) What makes a portfolio a portfolio. Cited in Barrett, H. (2004) Electronic Portfolios as Digital Stories of Deep Learning, [Online].

Available: [7/1/10]

Prawat, R. S., & Floden, R. E. (1994). Philosophical perspectives on constructivist views of learning. Educational Psychology, 29 (1), 37-48. Cited in Doolittle, P. (1999). Constructivism and Online Education, [Online]. Available:;jsessionid=7B74C5AEE1BD21D5570E6C9EC009C96B?doi= [7/1/10]

Robbins, A. (2009). Wealth Mastery, [Workshop]. Online brochure available: [16/11/09]

Schacter, D.L. (1996). Searching for Memory: The Brain, the Mind, and the Past. New York: BasicBooks, p45. Cited in Anthony, J. J. (2008) Reflection And Electronic Portfolios [Online]. Available: [7/1/10]

Schön, D. (1983) The Reflective Practitioner. How professionals think in action, London: Temple Smith


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