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Diachronic identity and development: A threshold concept for e-portfolio learning? Neil Currant, Academic Development Advisor,  University of Salford (previously University of Bradford) [email_address]
Diachronic identity Identity across time Psychological connectedness and continuity  (Parfitt 1984)
Why this notion? Interviewer: Did you ever have anything where you had an experience and you didn’t record it and then you wish you had a sort of record of it at that point in time? Interviewee: Err no. When I was born I, I had this thing in my mind put in that’s called memory [laughing].
A journey through time Diachronicity :  When events are understood by the way they relate over time. Narrative diachronicity : “...a mental model whose defining property is its unique pattern of events over time.” Bruner (1991:6)
E-portfolio process Hartnell-Young et al (2007) describe a set of e-portfolio processes that support learning. Cambridge (2008) talks about a ‘living document’ stage of e-portfolio use.  Both imply an important time component of using e-portfolios to record / reflect.
Context - five modules using e-portfolio assessment. Course Module Year Length Midwifery Lifelong learning 1 1 2 semesters Psychology Psychology of learning and study 1 2 semesters Combined studies Communicating in an Information age 1 1 semester Midwifery Lifelong learning 3 3 2 semesters Geography Global Environmental Management 3 1 semester
Methodology In depth student interviews post e-portfolio use (n=18) Tutor interviews (n=4) Analysis of e-portfolio 'product' (n=49) (over 100,000 words from transcripts and portfolios)
Our research Students can start on the journey: Already aware of the importance of recording over time as part of the learning processes  OR Unaware
Afterwards we found 4 general attitudes: 1) Did not develop sense of diachronicity (and did not really understand the value of recording over time) 2) Developed this sense of diachronicity as a result of portfolio engagement 3) Were aware of this sense of diachronicity but did not develop it whilst using the e-portfolio 4) Were aware of this sense of diachronicity and demonstrated this in their e-portfolios (and may have developed this sense to a stronger degree)
Start Outcome Has D No D D developed D not developed
Examples 1) No D “ I didn't really see the point... I didn't really understand why we have to use that (e-portfolio)” Student did not engage over time in recording with the e-portfolio.
Examples 2) Develops D (unaware at start) “ I didn't realise how much you've actually learnt...You don't appreciate until you look back” Student was recording overtime because directed to but didn't really 'get it' until her final reflective statement.
Examples 3) Some D (but not developed further) “ I didn't do it so much this time...I wish I had done now...in the 1 st  year I found it quite useful to look back on and it was quite a detailed thing” 3 rd  year student who had previously used the e-portfolio
Examples 4) Has D and demonstrates it. “ I was the only one who actually did the diary which made me actually... write down what I did, which is often a process which is in my head...a little bit more stays in your brain when you have to write it formally.” Student started recording at the beginning of the module.
Common themes for those developing D? Looking back:  ‘I found it quite useful looking back to the year’ & ‘you don’t appreciate (what you’ve learnt) until you actually look back’ Importance of emotions:  ‘I was so nervous’  &  ‘Just reading stuff from February and how it stirred up the emotions’
Common Themes Achievement:  ‘definite sense of achievement’  &  ‘reflect back on how far you’ve come’ Reflective writing:  ‘is often a process which is in my head but I don’t write it down’ & ‘I found the process hard to get to grips with, reflection is an everyday occurrence and not something I really analyse’
Common themes for non-development of D  Lack of clarity of task:  ‘I were never completely clear of what was wanted from it’  &  ‘I didn’t really understand why’ Seen as extra work:  ‘it just became a bind’  &  ‘it took me a good 6 months...to get over the fact that its actually there for my benefit rather than just another thing to do.’  &  ‘more time consuming’
In other words If you don’t ‘get it’ (the concept of recording over time) the e-portfolio is a burden.
Conclusions To make students aware of the time element and that they change overtime and there is value in looking back at records and reflections from the past,  i.e. recording something today may be valuable in the future. Build in formative activities that encourage longitudinal engagement with e-portfolio processes.  (They can’t look back at stuff that wasn’t recorded in the first place!)
Conclusions 2 Make it personal; emotions etc. “ At its heart is a theory of  learning  that suggests that all data is stored according to complex contextual cues which are  predominantly emotional in nature  – without these  emotional ‘markers’  information merely passes through our system.” Shackleton-Jones & Samarawikrema (2010)  “ use it in your own life...record things personally, it will probably work better...record important events...when you draw back on it, it means something. An action plan about an essay means nothing.”  Student who didn’t engage with e-portfolio
Lessons   learnt Formative:  To support engagement over time formative activity needs to be part of the portfolio building process to encourage longer term engagement rather than a summative exercise done at the end. Some students may not understand why they are using an e-portfolio at the start and learning will be difficult if they have nothing to reflect on later. Encourage and be explicit about the processes of PDP, lifelong learning and portfolio building. This form of learning and assessment is not common in the school system and students may not see the value of it.  Personal: Encourage personal involvement and ownership of the portfolio. This may be through personalisation options, creative use of the portfolio, emotional engagement and so on.  Portfolios are often about the first person and therefore need emotional involvement. They are often by their nature personal and therefore that has to be part of the process. Assessment criteria and other messages given to students have to align with this personal and emotional view.
Lessons learnt Assessment:  Student behaviour is often driven by assessment. Learning outcomes and assessment criteria need to align with the core values of e-portfolios, PDP & lifelong learning.  Include a summative review or reflective statement as part of the portfolio work.  Lifelong:  Use of the e-portfolio needs to be part of a whole course to really give students a chance to understand the processes and benefits and to develop as lifelong learners.
Is diachronicity one of the threshold concepts for successful development and learning with e-portfolios? “ Even our own homely accounts of happenings in  our own lives are eventually converted into more or less coherent autobiographies centred round a Self acting more or less purposefully in a social world.” Bruner (1991:18)
References Bruner, J.(1991) The Narrative Construction of Reality,  Critical Inquiry  18:1 pp. 1-21.  Cambridge, D. (2008) Audience, integrity, and the living document,  Computers & Education  51:3 pp.1227-1246 Hartnell-Young, E. et al (2007) Impact study of e-portfolios on learning, Becta [online]  http://partners.becta.org.uk/index.php?section=rh&catcode=_re_rp_02&rid=14007   Meyer J.H.F. & Land R. (2003) Threshold Concepts and Troublesome Knowledge (1) – Linkages to Ways of Thinking and Practising in Rust, C (ed),  Improving Student Learning – Ten Years On . OCSLD, Oxford Parfit, D. (1984)  Reasons and Persons , Oxford University Press, Oxford Shackleton-Jones, N. & Samarawikrema, S. (2010) BBC Learning design toolkit, [online]  http://www.aconventional.com/2010/03/bbc-learning-design-toolkit.html

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e-portfolios and diachronic identity

  • 1. Diachronic identity and development: A threshold concept for e-portfolio learning? Neil Currant, Academic Development Advisor, University of Salford (previously University of Bradford) [email_address]
  • 2. Diachronic identity Identity across time Psychological connectedness and continuity (Parfitt 1984)
  • 3. Why this notion? Interviewer: Did you ever have anything where you had an experience and you didn’t record it and then you wish you had a sort of record of it at that point in time? Interviewee: Err no. When I was born I, I had this thing in my mind put in that’s called memory [laughing].
  • 4. A journey through time Diachronicity : When events are understood by the way they relate over time. Narrative diachronicity : “...a mental model whose defining property is its unique pattern of events over time.” Bruner (1991:6)
  • 5. E-portfolio process Hartnell-Young et al (2007) describe a set of e-portfolio processes that support learning. Cambridge (2008) talks about a ‘living document’ stage of e-portfolio use. Both imply an important time component of using e-portfolios to record / reflect.
  • 6. Context - five modules using e-portfolio assessment. Course Module Year Length Midwifery Lifelong learning 1 1 2 semesters Psychology Psychology of learning and study 1 2 semesters Combined studies Communicating in an Information age 1 1 semester Midwifery Lifelong learning 3 3 2 semesters Geography Global Environmental Management 3 1 semester
  • 7. Methodology In depth student interviews post e-portfolio use (n=18) Tutor interviews (n=4) Analysis of e-portfolio 'product' (n=49) (over 100,000 words from transcripts and portfolios)
  • 8. Our research Students can start on the journey: Already aware of the importance of recording over time as part of the learning processes OR Unaware
  • 9. Afterwards we found 4 general attitudes: 1) Did not develop sense of diachronicity (and did not really understand the value of recording over time) 2) Developed this sense of diachronicity as a result of portfolio engagement 3) Were aware of this sense of diachronicity but did not develop it whilst using the e-portfolio 4) Were aware of this sense of diachronicity and demonstrated this in their e-portfolios (and may have developed this sense to a stronger degree)
  • 10. Start Outcome Has D No D D developed D not developed
  • 11. Examples 1) No D “ I didn't really see the point... I didn't really understand why we have to use that (e-portfolio)” Student did not engage over time in recording with the e-portfolio.
  • 12. Examples 2) Develops D (unaware at start) “ I didn't realise how much you've actually learnt...You don't appreciate until you look back” Student was recording overtime because directed to but didn't really 'get it' until her final reflective statement.
  • 13. Examples 3) Some D (but not developed further) “ I didn't do it so much this time...I wish I had done now...in the 1 st year I found it quite useful to look back on and it was quite a detailed thing” 3 rd year student who had previously used the e-portfolio
  • 14. Examples 4) Has D and demonstrates it. “ I was the only one who actually did the diary which made me actually... write down what I did, which is often a process which is in my head...a little bit more stays in your brain when you have to write it formally.” Student started recording at the beginning of the module.
  • 15. Common themes for those developing D? Looking back: ‘I found it quite useful looking back to the year’ & ‘you don’t appreciate (what you’ve learnt) until you actually look back’ Importance of emotions: ‘I was so nervous’ & ‘Just reading stuff from February and how it stirred up the emotions’
  • 16. Common Themes Achievement: ‘definite sense of achievement’ & ‘reflect back on how far you’ve come’ Reflective writing: ‘is often a process which is in my head but I don’t write it down’ & ‘I found the process hard to get to grips with, reflection is an everyday occurrence and not something I really analyse’
  • 17. Common themes for non-development of D Lack of clarity of task: ‘I were never completely clear of what was wanted from it’ & ‘I didn’t really understand why’ Seen as extra work: ‘it just became a bind’ & ‘it took me a good 6 months...to get over the fact that its actually there for my benefit rather than just another thing to do.’ & ‘more time consuming’
  • 18. In other words If you don’t ‘get it’ (the concept of recording over time) the e-portfolio is a burden.
  • 19. Conclusions To make students aware of the time element and that they change overtime and there is value in looking back at records and reflections from the past, i.e. recording something today may be valuable in the future. Build in formative activities that encourage longitudinal engagement with e-portfolio processes. (They can’t look back at stuff that wasn’t recorded in the first place!)
  • 20. Conclusions 2 Make it personal; emotions etc. “ At its heart is a theory of learning that suggests that all data is stored according to complex contextual cues which are predominantly emotional in nature – without these emotional ‘markers’ information merely passes through our system.” Shackleton-Jones & Samarawikrema (2010) “ use it in your own life...record things personally, it will probably work better...record important events...when you draw back on it, it means something. An action plan about an essay means nothing.” Student who didn’t engage with e-portfolio
  • 21. Lessons learnt Formative: To support engagement over time formative activity needs to be part of the portfolio building process to encourage longer term engagement rather than a summative exercise done at the end. Some students may not understand why they are using an e-portfolio at the start and learning will be difficult if they have nothing to reflect on later. Encourage and be explicit about the processes of PDP, lifelong learning and portfolio building. This form of learning and assessment is not common in the school system and students may not see the value of it.  Personal: Encourage personal involvement and ownership of the portfolio. This may be through personalisation options, creative use of the portfolio, emotional engagement and so on.  Portfolios are often about the first person and therefore need emotional involvement. They are often by their nature personal and therefore that has to be part of the process. Assessment criteria and other messages given to students have to align with this personal and emotional view.
  • 22. Lessons learnt Assessment: Student behaviour is often driven by assessment. Learning outcomes and assessment criteria need to align with the core values of e-portfolios, PDP & lifelong learning.  Include a summative review or reflective statement as part of the portfolio work.  Lifelong: Use of the e-portfolio needs to be part of a whole course to really give students a chance to understand the processes and benefits and to develop as lifelong learners.
  • 23. Is diachronicity one of the threshold concepts for successful development and learning with e-portfolios? “ Even our own homely accounts of happenings in our own lives are eventually converted into more or less coherent autobiographies centred round a Self acting more or less purposefully in a social world.” Bruner (1991:18)
  • 24. References Bruner, J.(1991) The Narrative Construction of Reality, Critical Inquiry 18:1 pp. 1-21. Cambridge, D. (2008) Audience, integrity, and the living document, Computers & Education 51:3 pp.1227-1246 Hartnell-Young, E. et al (2007) Impact study of e-portfolios on learning, Becta [online] http://partners.becta.org.uk/index.php?section=rh&catcode=_re_rp_02&rid=14007 Meyer J.H.F. & Land R. (2003) Threshold Concepts and Troublesome Knowledge (1) – Linkages to Ways of Thinking and Practising in Rust, C (ed), Improving Student Learning – Ten Years On . OCSLD, Oxford Parfit, D. (1984) Reasons and Persons , Oxford University Press, Oxford Shackleton-Jones, N. & Samarawikrema, S. (2010) BBC Learning design toolkit, [online] http://www.aconventional.com/2010/03/bbc-learning-design-toolkit.html

Editor's Notes

  1. Define and then say but identity is too broad and difficult to get at in such a research project so it it more about diachronicity.
  2. Reflective writing: even though both students found it hard, they both benefited from the reflective writing.