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Keeping Pace: Teaching Circles as the Cornerstone of Pace’s ePortfolio Project, our Professional Development Story

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 Summary

Our professional development program is centered on semester-long teaching circles that involve participation in 3 meetings with hands-on work included. Participating faculty are offered stipends in recognition of the time the they spend on readings, developing their own ePortfolio, and changing their syllabi in preparation for the next semester when they use ePortfolios in at least one course. ePortfolios have also been implemented for the Tenure and Promotion process. Workshops have been instituted to support the faculty in creating their Academic Portfolio. All the workshops  focus on reflection, building assignments with ePortfolios, and assessment for teaching, learning and professional development.

Authors

Beth Gordon, Linda Anstendig

Overview of ePortfolio-related Professional Development on our Campus

Part I: Our Professional Development Story

Our approach to ePortfolio faculty development has evolved through the years. For many years, we were switching platforms and testing new approaches, so much of our faculty development consisted of 1-time workshops – mainly focused on the technology.  Once we arrived at an institutional decision to support 1 platform, we were able to move beyond stand alone sessions to a more substantial and thoughtful approach and to a faculty development model that included a focus on pedagogy, built-in student eTern support, and ongoing follow up.

Currently, our professional development is centered on semester-long teaching circles that involve participation in 3 meetings with hands-on work included.  Thanks to the support of the provost’s office, we have been able to offer stipends in recognition of the time the faculty are spending during the semester on readings, developing their own ePortfolio, and changing their syllabi in preparation for the next semester when they agree to use ePortfolios in at least one course. Our meetings focus on reflection, building assignments with ePortfolios, and assessment. Our biggest challenge is getting faculty to make substantial changes in their teaching rather than just tacking on ePortfolios. For some, this is a huge leap to make, and we are looking for ways to incorporate more ongoing support into the second semester and beyond to help with this leap. We have served a wide range of faculty from all disciplines, including graduate and undergraduate and full time and adjunct.

Part II: Professional Development Philosophy and Conceptual Framework

Our approach to faculty development is a practical one. We take the position of giving the faculty the chance to be the “student” using ePortfolios, so we begin by asking each faculty member to create and develop his/her own ePortfolio and also ask that each faculty member maintain a journal in his/her ePortfolio with reflections.  Through this process of creating and developing one’s own ePortfolio, we aim to foster the guiding principles of inquiry, reflection, and integration though we recognize that we are not always successful in this.  We provide ample student eTern support and are very proud to have our teaching circles now led by two teaching circle alums.  We feel that it is critical for the growth of our ePortfolio project to have faculty hear from different voices – with a variety of ideas about and approaches to ePortfolios. [Insert quotes from Michelle and Hillary here]

We have followed this model successfully for over three years, but realize that we need to adapt to take our campus project to the next level. For the future, we plan to focus on integration of ePortfolios, to encourage faculty to make significant changes to their curriculum, and to help them deepen their use of ePortfolios.  One way we hope to do this is by working with whole departments rather than just scattered faculty.  Through departmental work, we hope we can foster more significant changes that will help ePortfolio adoption really stick.

There is a strong philosophical underpinning that faculty integrate ePortfolios into both their pedagogy for a more active teaching and learning and into their professional development when it comes to their career successes achieved at Pace.  

Part III: Professional Development for Scaling Up

The professional development currently underway at Pace University has extended the conversation about the importance of ePortfolio. The conversation is happening among different constituencies throughout the University. There are five schools/colleges at Pace and the ePortfolio Professional Development team reached out to all of the schools/colleges and successfully recruited faculty willing to learn about the power of ePortfolios in their pedagogy. Many of these faculty have taken part in the Teaching Circles allowing for an interdisciplinary dialogue about effectively incorporating ePortfolios.  Over 100 faculty have participated to date. Students have also started integrating ePortfolios holistically into their academic and professional experiences. Not only are students using ePortfolios for course outcomes assessment, but we are also hearing from more students on the power of ePortfolios for Career Planning and Recruitment.

Deans of each school are also conversing about ePortfolios both as an instructional tool and as a dynamic means of assessment. In a true test of the academic community working together a mandate was issued to move from a paper based Academic Portfolio to an electronic one. The ePortfolio argued that the  ePortfolios platform be used for the Academic Portfolio used in annual Tenure and Promotion (TAP) process. The Council of Deans and Faculty (including the Provost and Associate Provost) work together on the ePortfolio platform to deliberate and make final decisions on the TAP candidates. One of our best examples of faculty collaborating across schools/colleges is with the creation and organization of their academic portfolio. This starts the year after they are hired and continues through the final stage of full professor.

On the student side, there has been a broad conversation across schools/colleges and administrative departments to look at incorporating ePortfolios in to the student advisement process. Ideally, the ePortfolios would become a mandatory multi-purpose tool for students as they journey through their years at Pace.

Evidence

Teaching Circle Breakdown by School, Fall 2012: Teaching-Circle-Breakdown-By-School-Fall2012

Teaching Circle Follow-Up Meeting Notes, October 2012: Oct12_TC-follow-up-notes

Teaching Circle Alumni Survey, Fall 2012: Fall 2012 Teaching Circle Alumni Survey Results

Pedagogy

Our TC meetings focus on reflection, building assignments with ePortfolios, and assessment. Our biggest challenge is getting faculty to make substantial changes in their teaching rather than just tacking on ePortfolios. For some, this is a huge leap to make, and we are looking for ways to incorporate more ongoing support into the second semester and beyond to help with this leap.`a

Outcomes Assessment

The third meeting of the Teaching Circles focuses on assessment. Representatives from the University’s institutional research office and the Library come to the meeting and speak with the participants about how ePortfolios can be used for assessment. Rubrics are shared and discussed with the group. The TC participants are introduced to the “ePortfolio Assessment Pilot” program that runs every spring semester (in which a team of faculty and staff reviewers evaluate student work via ePortfolios looking for evidence of skills in Written Communication, Analysis, and Information Literacy) and are invited to participate. There is a connection between the TC and the assessment activities at Pace, but we would not say it is a strong connection.

Do you use ePortfolios in your course(s)_ How do you evaluate student ePortfolio work_ How do you grade students' ePortfolio work_ How have you incorporated ePortfolios in your course(s)_ In what course(s) are you using ePortfolio_ To what extent did you incorporate ePortfolios_ To what extent do students reflect on their learning in ePortfolio_ Using ePortfolios in my course(s) has become easier each semester. What was the main reason you did not incorporate ePortfolios_ What would you need to incorporate ePortfolios in your course(s)_

 

Technology

Adopting  ePortfolios to Pace’s faculty development initiative especially in the tenure and promotion (TAP) process has created some interesting dilemmas and challenges that still need to be worked out.  For TAP a faculty member must develop an Academic Portfolio (AP) illustrating success in the areas of teaching, research/scholarship and community/professional service. When we first used e-Portfolios for the AP (moving away from a paper portfolio) a template was developed to use within the Mahara platform. The purpose of the template was to have consistency with how the reviewers from the different schools/colleges and disciplines saw each of the portfolios. As some faculty going up for TAP have become more savvy with their ePortfolio there is a need to be more flexible with the template. This is especially true with the Fine Arts. Pace is currently trying to find a balance but as is with all elements of TAP a process must be followed.

The other balancing act that is occurring is with faculty and students who are using e-portfolios in their class. There is some challenge with assessing ePortfolios because of the skill set of the students creating e-portfolio. Some students are able to produce multimedia portfolios while others are more stagnant. Also the more sophisticated portfolios challenge the faculty to learn more about how they can improve their e-portfolios.

Attachments and Supporting Documents

 

Dr. Andrew Wier’s use of ePortfolios is our polished practice in Social Pedagogy. He is an alum of the Teaching Circle program.

Conclusion

We are proud of our hands-on Teaching Circle program, and are very proud to have our teaching circles now led by two teaching circle alums. We feel that it is critical for the growth of our ePortfolio project to have faculty hear from different voices – with a variety of ideas about and approaches to ePortfolios. The support we provide to TC alums through the services of our eTerns and other follow up activities are essential elements of the program. Challenges we face include guaranteed funding for future teaching circles, as well as succeeding with faculty making substantial changes in their teaching through the incorporation of ePortfolios.

In addition, Pace is proud that it was one of the few institutions three years ago  to use ePortfolios for the Tenure and Promotion process. The TAP initiative along with the Teaching Circles assures faculty that they can integrate the ePortfolio tool into both their pedagogy and their professional development.