Wednesday, March 17, 2010

5.3.3: The Electronic Portfolio Student Perspective Instrument

Article: Ritzhaupt, A.D., Singh, O., & Seyferth, T. (2008). Development of the Electronic Portfolio Student Perspective Instrument: An ePortfolio integration initiative. Journal of Computing in Higher Education 19(2), 47-71.

Ritzhaupt et al (2008) describe the development of an instrument designed to measure student perceptions of ePortfolios. The Electronic Portfolio Student Perspective Instrument (EPSPI) was tested on a sample (n=204) college of education students. Based on the ESPSI, three subscales were found to determine student perspectives toward ePortfolios: learning, assessment, and visibility.

Some points of interest to me:
  1. Ritzhaupt et al (2008) cite Meeus et al (2006) as suggesting two reasons for the popularity of ePortfolios in education: the contemporary bias toward constructivist pedagogy, and gains made in the accessibility and usability of ICT.
  2. Respondents to the survey (and therefore the agents of its validation) were students using the ChalkandWire eportfolio system (at a cost of "less than" $US50, with renewal options at half the cost per annum...!)
  3. The student perspective should be the basis of ePortfolio implementation (or at least an important consideration). Ritzhaupt et al (2008, p.52) remark that "no standardized instruments have been developed to capture this critical information".
The EPSPI was based on an extensive literature review, which identified four domains (learning, assessment, employment, visibility) and four primary stakeholders (students, administrators, faculty, employers). It's goal "was to capture critical information related to student perspectives and intended uses of ePortfolios to aid faculty and administrators in the decision-making process" (2008, p.54).

The inital instrument had 40 items, and underwent expert review and field testing (n=22). Each item also underwent testing through a 'cognitive interview' with three representatives of the population of interest, to ensure clarity. Eventually 34 items were decided on, and the resulting survey was made available as a Web form. Two hundred and four college of education students responded (no population number is provided).

While the survey certainly helped to validate the ESPSI, the actual impressions from students toward ePortfolios were less than impressive:
  • Results indicate "that respondents from the sample may not perceive their ePortfolios as a meaningful learning device" (2008, p.56)
  • "Only 19% of the respondents believed their ePortfolios would be beneficial to securing employment" (p.59)
  • "Fifty-three percent of the sample indicated they would not use an ePortfolio to aid the employment process if they were the employer" (p.59)
  • "More than half of the respondents suggested that they would not showcase their ePortfolios to friends (61%) or family (60%)" (p.59).
  • In open ended responses, "More than 25% of the respondents [n=92 who gave open-ended feedback] mentioned that faculty did not offer help with using ChalkandWire(c) and did not appear to understand the program themselves".
  • Other qualitative feedback included "negative comments about personal investment in time and money, comments indicating predominantly negative attitudes toward use of technology, and feelings of lack of choice and control" (p.64).
Phew. Not flattering - but, then again, not necessarily an inherent problem with ePortfolios as a concept. It may well be that the poor responses here were to do with implementation - and here is where the ESPSI may let itself down. It seems to measure student perceptions without a consideration of the implementation context. The authors identify this themselves (2008, p.66):
The purpose of the ePortfolio initiative appears to be a key issue for successful integration. For the administration,the system was implemented as an assessment management tool. This raises the question of student versus organizational control... the authors believe that that the low subscale means are representative of user resistance to system change and poor system integration.
The ESPSI instrument is available here. Personally, I see it as a positive step; I am in favour of standardised instruments as they enable comparative studies and can provide insight into good practice. What concerns me about the ESPSI is that it is a measure of student perspective rather than the effectiveness of implementation. It is here that the work of Joyce et al (see previous post) is particularly useful... there is scope, I believe, for an instrument based on their five roles.

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