Stefani, Robin Mason, and Chris Pegler. The
Educational Potential of E-Portfolios: Supporting Personal Development
and Reflective Learning.
Reviewed By Brittany B. Cottrill
This book comes at a time
when assessment and accountability in higher education is being brought
to the nation's attention after the Spellings Commission Report.
While the book does not speak directly to this report, the
nature of the topic makes it relevant and timely. Even
though the authors create a current and extensive examination of
e-portfolios, they begin by addressing the limitations of their book
because of other works with concurrent publication dates, specifically
Jafari and Kaufman's (2006) Handbook of Research on
Group Publishing). Stefanie,
Mason, and Pegler's book considers scholars both in and outside of
writing studies, but the continuous theme of life long learning through
writing indirectly speaks to writing across the discipline scholarship
as well as traditional writing studies.
This book begins by defining e-portfolios. The authors first explore how the term has been defined and used in the past as well as what role e-portfolios play in assessment, presentation, learning, personal development, collaboration, and students' futures (pp. 13-14). While never truly defining e-portfolios in one way, the first chapter sets up the context for the following nine chapters to view e-portfolios broadly and as applicable to various settings that are not limitted to only the writing classroom.
Much of the book focuses on this ideas of how e-portfolios can be used as tools for learning, the contrast between the traditional, paper-based portfolio and the electronic counterpart, and the flexibility, connectivity, and portability of e-portfolios (pp. 17-18). The second chapter addresses the five elements of portfolio development: collection, selection, reflection, projection, and presentation (p. 19). The connections between these components and lifelong learning are supported bthroughout the book with brief case studies that examine specific programmatic uses of e-portfolios to create realistic expectations of transitioning to and sustaining e-portfolios.
In addition to creating a broad picture of electronic portfolios, the book explores issues of course design and assessment. Specifically, chapters four and five extend many of the issues and cases for e-portfolios including how to motivate students and instructors to see the value in portfolio keeping (pp. 58; 85), how to incorporate portfolios into established classrooms (p. 59), how to see portfolios as more than a repository for information (p. 67), and creating authentic assessment through e-portfolios (p. 74). Additionally, the eighth chapter includes a discussion of the four types of softwares used for e-portfolios including, commercial software, proprietary systems, open source software, and open source common tools (pp. 118-121). The authors critique each type with a pro and con list and include institutions that currently use the different types of softwares. These discussions help to provide an overview for the implimentation of and uses for e-portfolios.
The book concludes by bringing the topic of e-portfolios
not only to the forefront of current educational scholarship, but also
by exploring the role of e-portfolios in the future. Focusing first on
the short term and later on long term goals, these chapters assess
opportunities for small changes, such as using blogs or wikis as
e-portfolios, to more significant changes, such as the fictional
scenario of "Moira", an elderly woman creating an "e-portfolio
documenting the major events and thoughts of [her] life" to be left for
future generations (p. 163).
Because specific programs are not discussed at length in text, the true flexibility of e-portfolios comes through. The focus on what the portfolios can do to enhance classroom practice and assessment is especially useful for those that do not currently use traditional portfolios or that are considering transitioning to electronic versions. Furthermore, the discussion of the impact on various groups, including students, instructors, program and institutional administrators, proves useful for preparing the reader who may be bringing about such a change.
The book's focus on both real and fictional scenarios of
how e-portfolios are being used and may be used in the future helps
illustrate the authors' overall argument for the possibilities of
e-portfolios. While at times their hope for life-long
learning seems idealistic, the book itself focus on issues of
practicality to support this expectations. The important
point that guides the last two chapters, and indeed the entire book, is
the possibility that e-portfolios have to offer students, educators,
and even those outside the university. The use of
examples and analysis of e-portfolios currently in use makes the book a