Yancey's (2009) brief article is, in some ways, disappointing - it does not draw deeply from the vast literature on ePortfolios, instead opting to treat the book Electronic Portfolios 2.0 as its major source. Now, I have only read the first book the author was involved with, called Electronic portfolios, so I cannot comment on the worth of the 2.0 version. But this article does not fully deliver what it's title promises, and it is disappointing not to see some of the very valuable UK-based research directly cited (this despite the author's own admission that "our knowledge-base is both wide and culturally complex", p.32). Anyway, there is still ample value in the article!
Among Yancey's (2009) what we know's:
- Student engagement is a critical aspect of ePortoflio development
- Student engagement is, in part, a result of students having control over their ePortfolios and not having to work too much in a prescripted environment
- Students using ePortfolios tend to perform better than those who do not (though the possibility that this is because only more successful students would tend to use them is not acknowledged)
- The choice of ePortfolio platform is important; "the ways the technology is programmatically formative" (p.29) should be considered.
- Reflection across courses - 'meta-reflection' is a good (my) term for it - is proving highly valuable. Typically assignments require students to reflect on what they have learned within each course; ePortfolios broaden the scope of reflection, enabling "a shift from discrete courses to a larger frame of reference" (2009, p.30).
- A Skills Matrix (like a table that students populate with artefacts to demonstrate their attainment of various skills) can help to guide meta-reflection.
- Reflection is a valuable exercise encouraged by the effective use of ePortfolios; the process is more important than the outcome. Yancey (p.32) notes that "Many colleges and universities... found that helping students develop a 'capability to reflect' is a critical educational outcome, in and of itself".
- The influence on ePortfolio tools to student outcome.
- The nature of reflection in the development of ePortfolios.